On the 25th of February the lights of Willicroft -a shop selling plant based cheese in Leidseplein- stayed lit until late in the evening. Willicroft hosted YOUth ACT’s first Pitch Night, where a handful of organizations working around the topic of food sustainability were invited to pitch their work to young people.
Among the seven invited organizations were Meet Jack, which uses unripe jackfruit to produce vegetarian alternatives of meat dishes such as gyros, burgers and bitterballen; Farmed Today, which connects consumers and local farmers with the aim of creating a more sustainable food system and Bumi, a small business producing vegetarian meat substitutes with tempeh. “These events can be very interesting for people who want to know what is out there, and also for individuals looking for work, since the organizations we invite have internship positions available,” explains Laura van der Wal, a volunteer at YOUth ACT.
But what exactly is YOUth ACT? Its mission is to empower aspiring social entrepreneurs and activists by helping them find their way into the ‘impact space’, namely those organizations, initiatives and projects which do social and environmental work. Entering the ‘impact space’ is far from easy, which is why YOUth ACT offers free workshops on a variety of practical toolkits. For example their Graphic Design + Social Change workshop on art as a mean for pursing social and environmental activism.
YOUth ACT is also working to build an online community, a free network which everybody has access to. On the YOUth ACT Community Facebook group, an opportunity thread is posted each month, through which people can share any vacant board positions, internships, jobs or online courses they may know of. YOUth ACT is furthermore launching its online Thursday Talks, the first edition of which was themed ‘Anti-racism: how can sustainable action lead to systematic change?’. Thursday Talks take place every two weeks and give participants the opportunity to share their views on different topics, engage in fruitful discussions, and meet new people in times of isolation.
Barbara Oliveira Soares, a second member of the team, describes the organization as “an initiative that seeks to provide opportunities for young people, which allows them to gain practical skills, knowledge, and join a community for social entrepreneurship and activism”.
“Amsterdam welcomes radical and fearless initiatives, and offers a rich diversity of intersectional movements to pick from,” thinks Barbara. Yet what seems to be missing is a community hub for young people, one which connects them to these movements and organizations, and helps turn their ideas into action and change.
“The problem with Amsterdam is also that cooperation across movements and groups remains limited,” explains Barbara. “For example, in education,” adds Laura, “you have the community of UvA and VU where so many interesting projects and initiatives arise, and the same happens within the HbO community, but these two environments don’t mix. There is no room for these students to work and brainstorm together”. Inclusivity and diversity are key values for the YOUth ACT team, as they wish for their community to become a place where different people with different experiences and skills come together, exchange and grow.