Game Changer: Cassia Moraes (Brazil)

In Game Changers 16 by Mary Kurek

Cassia is the Founder and CEO of Youth Climate Leaders, a social enterprise that trains and connects young people with networks and opportunities to start their careers as climate leaders. She has experience working on sustainable development and international cooperation in the public, private, and third sectors. Previously, she has served as Deputy Executive Coordinator at the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change and worked as a consultant at CIVICUS, UN Development Program, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). Cassia holds an MPA in Development Practice degree from Columbia University.

Youth Climate Leaders

Q & A with Cassia:

Q:  What prompted you to develop Youth Climate Leaders (YCL) and what specific impact do you hope to create in the coming year?
A:  YCL is motivated from an intimate understanding of the ways in which our generation continues to face impediments in attaining meaningful and rewarding work that positions us to shape climate solutions. I had experienced this very struggle in my own career development. Even though I have been researching climate issues since undergrad, it took me more than 5 years to land a job in the field. When I got there, I decided to make the pathway easier for those coming after me, humbled by so many conversations with young leaders avid for opportunities to give their contribution as well.

Most programs and initiatives currently supporting youth engagement in climate change are focused on activism–school mobilization, petitioning, voting, public policy campaigning–or preliminary education–building awareness of the many causes and effects of the climate crisis. These solutions, while vital aspects to the ecosystem needed to drive macro cultural shifts, do not go far enough to provide channels for youth to apply their energies in sustained, long-term, tangible settings. They do not directly address the work gap, and therein the demand for adaptive leaders to fuel the new climate economy that those very campaigns are ushering.

After they are aware of the climate crisis and get the right skills to act, young people still lack funding, networks, and legitimacy to have a tangible contribution within current structures. As organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the climate crisis, those at the forefront are struggling to hire the young talent that will bring the fresh perspectives and resources needed to boost their climate projects. Therefore, YCL was created to bridge this gap and support youth to find jobs and opportunities aligned with their purpose, and organizations to hire young talents who are willing to dedicate their lives to finding solutions to the climate crisis.

We have developed a Scaling Strategy for the coming year with the support of Accelerate 2030  a joint program from Impact Hub and the United Nations Development Program.  Our plan combines investments in institutional development, increase in our portfolio of services and expanding YCL activities worldwide through YCL Hubs. The goal is to lay the foundations needed to empower 1 million young people to lead climate projects as part of a global network by 2030. At the same time, we are looking for sponsors to create new content and free courses available on our website,  increasing our media outreach from more than 1 million people to at least 5 million next year.

Q:  If changing or engaging the mindsets of youth is critical to your work, how do you reach them in order to teach them?

A:  We reach our audience through our website, social media, partner organizations and through referrals from members of our network. We launched it officially in January 2018, our website was ready in February, we opened applications to our first learning journey from March to end of April and, in two months, we received 500 applications from 95 countries – a great debut which showed that there is a huge and global demand for our services. In one year and a half of existence, we have already trained 120 young people from 20 countries and 4 continents, reaching more than 1 million people through our social media only in the first semester of 2019.

Q:  As young leaders emerge from your efforts, where do you see them working in order to produce positive change?

A:  We want to shift the image of young people as “leaders of the future” to the leaders of today. Our main goal is to empower a diverse group of young leaders from all over the world with leadership and entrepreneurial skills to be used right now to address climate change. Young people today are more concerned about sustainability and climate change issues than their previous generations, but that does not mean that their behaviors and way of life are in accordance with the beliefs they hold on those topics. At the YCL Network, we work with those concerned young people, which still have not had the opportunity to see how they can act in practice to tackle climate change. By engaging them in YCL’s learning journey, we expect to raise their awareness and help them to go from theory to action, to “walk the talk.”  We are empowering the ones who will soon be leading companies, governments, universities, and social-environmental organizations towards the future that needs to emerge. Through our network, they will be able to join forces and leverage their impact in the following years, ensuring that their local efforts be part of a larger global movement.

Q:  Is there a specific project or direction that you feel will boost your impact potential?

A:  For next year, we want to both expand our online engagement (website, social media, online courses, resources, etc.) and offline engagement (courses, events, campus ambassadors, and YCL Hubs). I believe scaling through local YCL Hubs will help us to boost courses, opportunities, and action through a larger scale. They are like our local anchor for a global network, helping YCL Fellows to cooperate with local partners as part of a global movement, learning from peers from other countries. Hubs are innovation-driven spaces backed by resources from the Global YCL Network where YCL alumni can learn with and from one another and other local youth and community changemakers to foster and multiply local climate actions. YCL Hub activities will include regular meetings, lectures, and educational courses organized by YCL Fellows and dedicated staff appointed as Hub Curators and serving as the focal point for YCL in their region. YCL Hubs will be hosted in partnership with key partners, who will offer their space to better facilitate resource exchange and long-term engagement.

Priority countries and cities for YCL Hubs are:

·   Brazil: Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Florianopolis, Porto Alegre, Manaus, Minas Gerais, Bahia

·   International: Bologna, Milan, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Berlin, USA, France, Argentina, Fiji, Australia, and more!

Cassia’s Networking Interests:
  • Donors and investors interested in supporting our scaling plan
  • Organizations looking for hiring young talents for climate-related projects
  • Mentors for us and for our members