Young social innovators make their mark in South Africa

When Laine Daley returned to the UK in the mid-1980s, one of the first things she did was listen to airwaves broadcasting from South Africa.

Her story is all too familiar: Daley arrived in Britain alone, a pregnant teenager with no formal education, only to find herself uprooted and living amid deep poverty. It is a story we are all familiar with; one which shapes today’s most innovative and innovative youth leaders from across the world.

“We’re in such a rich time in the history of the planet where we’re innovating, creating and harvesting, but most importantly getting a grasp on where we’re going,” says Daley. The Cumbria-based political activist has assembled a diverse group of 15 inspiring young people from across the UK, bound together by a strong belief in their mission and a desire to use their bold, young voices to change the world.

Through their latest project, Green Youth Mission, they will travel to South Africa to test out some innovative ideas on a new generation of “social innovators”, developing communities through creative initiatives, and introducing them to the latest business and NGO projects in their bid to help them gain a basic knowledge of sustainable living.

Those taking part in the Green Youth Mission were selected from a pool of more than 600 nominations from across the UK. The diverse group includes students, young activists, local councillors, farmers, business owners, artists, and even people with tragic and complex experiences; testimonies to the bravery and conviction of these bright, passionate young people.

“I think the most noticeable thing about young people from this generation is that they are aware and have a drive, an open mind, determination, and a caring heart,” says Daley. “They are much more socially responsible, open to new ideas, and want to help people.”

Since making her bold step in 2006, Daley has used her new-found position as the youth director for Kids Company to create the foundation for her project – the Green Youth Mission – and last year established the organisation The Leader Line, providing resources and support for young people.

For 18-year-old Abi McNaughton, her time in South Africa will be personal; her mother, aunt and father all have worked for Amnesty International and organised some of the South African leg of its Walk for Human Rights campaign. Abi will be carrying her mum’s ashes on the trip.

“It will be a really good emotional thing to bring my mum’s ashes back to South Africa,” she says. “It will be a legacy for her to make sure that she achieves what she wanted to do.”

Like McNaughton, teenagers at Green Youth Mission will be carrying a lot with them. In South Africa, it is hoped that the initiative will show their peers how every continent offers so much to develop and ultimately form a new generation. It will also expose students to new ideas and most importantly inspire them.

“The key thing that we’re trying to do is get young people to be aware and entertained by sustainable ideas,” explains Abi. “They will be the future: they’re the future leaders of this country, and if they don’t look after the children who are here now, it’s going to be a very, very hard job to catch up with them when they’re older.”

• The Green Youth Mission: A Global Experiment in Change to Sustain their Women is showing at Soho Farmhouse,

Chichester, from 29 April until 13 May. For more information visit

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