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YALI Goes Green and Accepts the Earth Day Call to Action
May 10, 2016

(A YALI Network member participates in a #YALIGoesGreen event.  Photo courtesy of Abdinasir Gaylab, YALI Network face2face)
(A YALI Network member participates in a #YALIGoesGreen event.  Photo courtesy of Abdinasir Gaylab, YALI Network face2face)

Jeffrey Richardson is an AmeriCorps alumnus and advocate for service and volunteerism. As executive director of the Commission for National and Community Service in Washington, Jeffrey led national, state and local community engagement initiatives promoting service and volunteerism as a sustainable solution for meeting unmet community needs. Jeffrey is a writer, executive coach and management consultant advising senior executives in nonprofit groups, higher education, and state and local government.

In honor of Earth Day, the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) has gone green from April 22 through May 15 to promote climate-change awareness. As a growing network of more than 220,000 young African leaders, the YALI Network is well positioned to help lead on climate-change awareness and Network leaders across the continent are accepting the call to action. In April I had the honor of facilitating a YALI Network “Organizing for Action” course in preparation for Earth Day 2016 and discussed climate-change awareness and environmental education with YALI Network participants in Maputo, Mozambique.

With growing concerns over the impact of drought on agriculture and overall health, YALI Network members in Mozambique wanted to know what they could do to educate and inspire more people to take action on climate change. Joining the growing number of the world’s population who accept climate change’s impact, the recurring question was how and where to begin. As an individual, the complexity and broad impact of climate change can be seen as too complicated and too intimidating to take on. And that is precisely why YALI has “gone green.” As a network of young leaders, you have the collective knowledge, experience, tools and reach to increase awareness of climate change not only in Africa, but around the world.

YALI has compiled a catalog of resources and tools that you can use to educate yourself and others about climate change and its impact across the globe and specifically in Africa. Take the first step by visiting https://yali.state.gov/climate/ and completing one of the listed actions to earn your #YALIGoesGreen badge. If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to take the YALI Network “Understanding Climate Change” online course to increase your awareness and understanding.

Jeffrey Richardson (Courtesy of Jeffrey Richardson)
(Courtesy of Jeffrey Richardson)

Earning your #YALIGoesGreen badge is just the first step. Once you have accepted the call to action, your job is to educate and inspire others to join the movement. To get you going, here are four tips for framing your own call to action.

  • Begin with your personal story. You do not have to be a climate-change expert in order to educate and inspire others. Sharing your personal story of why climate change is important to you, and how it is affecting your family and community, can be just as strong as any scientific data — and for many people even more compelling.
  • Make the issue relatable. Connect the impact of climate change to your audience’s daily life. People are more likely to listen and follow up when they can understand a direct connection to their life, health and ability to provide for themselves and their loved ones.
  • Make an ask. Each and every time you have the opportunity to speak about the impact of climate change, ask people to take some level of action. It can be as simple as sharing information with family, friends and colleagues, or more involved such as organizing a community event.
  • Invite others to join the YALI Network. As network members you are positioned to expand the voices of young leaders fostering change in their communities and their countries. Share YALI’s virtual resources and connect other young African leaders with the tools and technology to promote leadership and manifest change.

The Young African Leaders Initiative has opened access to the tools, information and technology needed to educate, empower and inspire innovation, but this alone will not manifest change. It is your ideas, passion and vision that are the catalysts for action. Our future is up to us and you are a required piece of the puzzle. Go Forth, Go Green and Go Lead!