If you've never heard the term "Cohort 2030," you're not alone. It's a relatively new term referring to young adults born after 1980 and emphasizes the fact that their maturation will intersect with the 2030 target date for achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Recently, Ashok Regmi—IYF’s Global Director of Social Innovation and Citizenship—discussed the substance behind Cohort 2030, the role young people can play in reaching and carrying forward the SDGs, and a new initiative designed to help youth make an impact.

What's the connection between Cohort 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals?

By and large, Cohort 2030—a term coined by Ambassador Sarah Mendelson—embody a set of values and attributes such as inclusivity, gender equity, social justice, speaking against corruption, and being at the forefront of technology. These all align closely with the value system underpinning the Sustainable Development Goals, created to eradicate poverty, protect and preserve the environment, and make the world a more equitable place for everyone. Moreover, young women and men from Cohort 2030 have amazing energy and vision—in fact, as activists, social entrepreneurs, and leaders many of them are already driving change to deliver on the promise of the SDGs in their own communities. There are more young people alive on the planet today than at any other time. Imagine, if we could capitalize and leverage all that human potential—the world could be a different place.

What is the Cohort 2030 initiative?

The International Youth Foundation, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University and Ambassador Mendelson, are creating the Cohort 2030 initiative to leverage the creativity and potential of young people as they work to deliver and demand the global goals. The initiative will be a collaborative platform to unlock the power of young people in advancing the goals. Intended to have multiple works streams in the future, the initiative will focus on three key pillars supporting the larger platform:

  • Enhancing youth agency. Though a variety of means, this work will involve elevating the voices of Cohort 2030 and equipping them with the skill sets, opportunities, and resources to push the SDGs forward.
  • Unlocking universities. We need a strategy to build a robust talent pipeline to deliver the Global Goals. Universities can play an important role in addressing this challenge. Formally, it will involve integrating SDGs into existing university offerings. Informally, it will also involve helping youth understand the goals in a hands-on way by providing opportunities for them to engage with their communities through project-based learning.
  • Engaging cities. Action advancing the SDGs is taking place in cities around the world. Through strategic communications campaigns in cities, drawing on data regarding young people's passions, we hope to motivate and support youth advancing the Global Goals.

How will young people shape the Cohort 2030 initiative?

In Bellagio, Italy, the New Faces Convening—made possible by a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation—will bring together 20 young women and men who are driving change in their communities tied to the SDGs. They were nominated for their work in a variety of areas including education, hunger, human rights, employment, and selected from a larger group of over 100 candidates. Through presentations and discussions about the work they do, we hope to learn about the challenges they face, explore how they can use the Cohort 2030 initiative to further their impact, and gain feedback and insight so the initiative will be a success. The New Faces Convening is about taking stock of what’s there, and envisioning what it could be. It’s also about fostering the sense that these young people are part of a larger movement, one that the governments of their countries are rallying behind.

In the simplest terms, we should care about Cohort 2030 because it's in our best interest to do so. Today's youth will play a critical role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals; more than that, they will build upon the achieved outcome and continue to shape the world for decades to come. SDGs cannot remain as UN Goals. They must be our goals.