So far, the year 2020 has been marked by many unforeseen events, including civil unrest in response to social injustice and a pandemic which required the whole world make adjustments to its “normal” way of operating.

For young people especially, there have been numerous challenges. Physical meet ups such as marches, youth conferences, peer collaboration sessions, and face-to-face trainings that in the past have helped keep youth movements alive are no longer possible.

On the other hand, the COVID-19 crisis has also become an incubator for innovation–especially for young people. To keep up with their mandates, many youth-led and youth-focused organizations have started using virtual platforms such as WhatsApp, Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook. U.N. Women—the United Nations organizations focused on gender equity—is collaborating virtually to devise strategies to end violence against women in Zimbabwe, while the Ignite Youth Organization is also leveraging technology to continue building the capacity of young people through online classes and mentorship.

As online engagement has become the golden option, virtual summits and online conferences have also taken center stage in sustaining development conversations among stakeholders across the world.

In fact, there are some real benefits to the virtual format. For example, there is now a greater possibility to convene young people of diverse backgrounds, across borders and time zones, which was not easy to do—or even possible—with the conventional physical setups. Young people are now able to lead conversations and build their capacities through affordable technological options that also leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

This year, the International Youth Foundation through its Youth Advisory Committee—of which I am a member—organized a virtual summit called Our Future, Our Voices. It’s for young people and by young people.

The summit is organized along three tracks, People, Planet and Prosperity. Its thrust is to get young people conversing and acting on issues that affect them in these three areas. The summit will be fun-packed with a good balance of storytelling, strategy, networking, as well as skillbuilding sessions. During this summit, young people, leaders, and policy makers will get an opportunity to interact under one virtual roof as they share best practices and tools for tackling developmental challenges across various contexts.

The goal is to inspire a wave of change among attendees and the organizations which they represent. Because online interactions can happen despite physical distance, this is an opportunity for establishing a vibrant community of change makers whose engagements can span beyond the summit.

With young people involved in leading conversations, it’s going to be an exciting week of connecting and learning new things. Virtual events like Our Future, Our Voices are an important part of making sure that policy makers, development practitioners, and leaders from across sectors do not leave the voice of young people unaccounted for in the process of reimagining the future.

I hope you’ll join us!

Explore the full agenda and then register!

Sibusisiwe "Sibu" Muperere from Zimbabwe is a member of IYF's Youth Advisory Committee.