This Year Changed the World and These 7 Changemakers Did, Too

In 2020, our global network of +SocialGood changemakers was busier than ever.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented an all-encompassing challenge to champions for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) everywhere. Logistically, it’s prevented in-person work and convenings, and on a more fundamental level, threatened and, in some cases, reversed gains made on goals from poverty to hunger to gender equality. Despite these hurdles, the +SocialGood community has leveraged technology and the world’s new digital reality to continue advocating for the SDGs. They’ve translated the importance of the goals in their local contexts and communities. Their hard work has not gone unnoticed, with their achievements receiving attention and recognition from the media, national governments, and even global organizations.

We’ve highlighted seven of these changemakers and their work to drive progress and awareness around the SDGs.

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Alejandra Acosta, Spain

This year, global communications firm LLYC named Alejandra Acosta as one of its 10 future leaders in Spain. She was also featured in Vogue Spain as one of six young women who are making waves in their communities. Acosta is a social worker and founder of Break the Silence, a non-profit that raises awareness about human trafficking and modern slavery in Spain. She has also had the opportunity to discuss her work with Parliament as well as with the King and Queen of Spain.

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Ruben Cantu, USA

Rubén Cantú was nominated in the Youth and Education category of the 2020 Austin 40 Under 40 Awards, an annual event that celebrates the leadership of young professionals in the city. Cantú was also recognized by Austin magazine TRIBEZA as one of 2020’s People of the Year for his work empowering youth and women of color through entrepreneurship and leadership training.

He is an Austin, Texas-based social entrepreneur who is passionate about how media and entrepreneurship can allow society to reflect on its condition and spur progressive change.

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David Connor, United Kingdom

David Connor is the founder of 2030hub — the world’s first recognized United Nations Local2030 Hub, and one of only seven around the world — which aims to make the SDGs relevant and applicable at the local level in Liverpool. As a result of 2030hub’s efforts, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson committed the city to the SDGs and commissioned the organization to create a roadmap to meet the Goals. Per 2030hub’s recommendations, Liverpool also signed up to a Voluntary Local Review to track and share its progress on the SDGs with the UN. Amid an already busy year, 2030hub also launched its first class of “2030pioneers,” a bold generation of young, emerging voices who will receive training and support on how to lead the charge to achieve the SDGs.

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James Da Costa, United Kingdom

This year, James Da Costa received the Diana Award, which was established in the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, and recognizes young leaders who are helping change the world. Da Costa is a social entrepreneur and co-founder of the Mandala Group, a social enterprise that builds mobile applications for low-income and rural communities in Africa and Asia. He started his work after realizing the significant disparity in education between his home of the UK and communities in rural India. Since then, his mobile applications have reached over 100,000 people.

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Philip Ogola, Kenya

Philip Ogola received the Presidential Order of Service Uzalendo Award from Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to recognize his exemplary service and civic duty during the pandemic. Ogola is a mental health advocate and founder of the Digital Humanitarian, which uses social media and digital strategies to provide front-line disaster response. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he supported Kenya’s Ministry of Health with communications to reduce stigma around the virus, and responded to cases of suicidal patients. He also organized zumba for nurses to demonstrate the importance of mental health for front-line workers.

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Maria Ressa, Philippines

In 2020, Maria Ressa was named “Most Resilient Journalist” by Free Press Unlimited and “Journalist of the Year” by the Foreign Press Association in London; and received the National Press Club’s international press freedom award and “Truth to Power” award from the International Documentary Association. Ressa is a former +SocialGood advisor, prominent journalist and founder of Rappler, a Manila-based online news platform. In 2018, she was one of the journalists named as TIME’s person of the year for her work combating misinformation and advocating for press freedom.

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Ruth Aine Tindyebwa, Uganda

Ruth Aine Tindyebwa was recognized as a “media powerhouse” by Zimbabwe-based SHANA magazine. She spoke to the publication about her career journey, her achievements, and the power of social media in helping connect youth across Africa as well as the world. Tindyebwa is a +SocialGood advisor, and digital communications and media specialist who is interested in youth development, politics, governance, and democracy.

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A global community of changemakers united around a shared vision for a better world in 2030. A project of the UN Foundation in support of the United Nations.

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