What’s next for Restless Development?

As we look to the decade to come, we’re as Restless as ever.

Hi, I’m Perry Maddox, CEO for Restless Development. Ten years ago we became Restless Development, and I’ll always remember that day. I was by the banks of the River Nile in Jinja, Uganda with our team there as we launched our new name and our new identity. 

But it wasn’t really new, what we shared that day. What we were doing was tapping into the deep history of powerful, excellent work that young people have always led with us since 1985, seeking to keep that same spirit and that same energy that we’d always had as SPW by putting the restless commitment of young people to create change at the heart of everything we do, and by maintaining our focus on impact, on real development, on outcomes and on results that young people had always driven with us. And putting those together, we celebrated the passion of young leaders and the professional impact that they’d always created with us, that day that we became Restless Development ten years ago.

But it was more than just a name change. We also entered a bold new strategic era then, asking ourselves different questions like how we could build on the work we did in communities serving hundreds of thousands of people, to reach the billions of young people out in the world. How we could not just deliver impact in person in communities like we always had, but also create change in the way governments, decision makers and power holders around the world understood and worked for and with young people. 

The result of those questions in this new era was our most exciting decade to date. Building our core ethos, our core values and our youth-powered, “can do” approach, to achieve things like raising our hand when it mattered most. 

We raised our hands and said yes, we will go fight Ebola when others were too afraid to in Sierra Leone, rallying our networks of ex-volunteers to go back out, to stop everything they were doing and head to the frontlines of the scariest and worst outbreak of Ebola in history, leading the way to zero cases in Sierra Leone.

A year later we did the same thing in Nepal, responding to the terrible earthquakes that levelled the Kathmandu valley. Young people were reacting, responding and mobilising their communities when it mattered most.

But it wasn’t just emergency response, we also supported young leaders to set up ten thousand youth led businesses around the world, and we partnered with global businesses to rethink what Corporate Social Responsibility looks like. The result was a seven time award winning partnership with KPMG for best CSR in the UK, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

We kept working to bring youth voices together with powerful youth-led research, evidence and youth-led insight to reshape the way that governments and all the way up to the United Nations, understood and worked with youth.

I was called about a year ago by a senior person in the UN, and she said “Perry, if it hadn’t been for Restless Development, young people wouldn’t be represented in the Global Goals the way they are.” 

But we’ve not stopped doing what we’ve always done. We’ve continued to grow the volunteer approach that we’ve been known for, radically increasing the scale of our work to see over 8000 volunteers in a given year leading change in rural communities, but also testing, trialling and innovating new ways of young people leading change. We’ve been delivering all of our bread and butter, but also trying new ways of organising, of mobilising, of empowering communities to shift the power and in so doing to develop sector-leading models that make Restless Development a global go-to when it comes to youth for governments, donors and partners alike.

Over the last decade we’ve gone from working through young volunteers and peer educators, to working through young volunteers, peer educators, researchers, mobilisers, reporters, monitors, data collectors, influencers, advocates, communicators, experts.  Young people who create change in communities, young people who collaborate and organise together in youth-led groups, movements and organisations around the world. Young people who shape the way government works and hold them accountable for their commitments and their budgets to support young people in communities. Young people who make it happen every day, because for as much as we’ve changed, one thing never will: our commitment to supporting young leaders to rise to the biggest challenges of the day, whether that’s global climate change or community savings groups.

Restless Development is about one thing: young leaders.

We don’t do “charity”, we do change, and as we look to the decade to come, we’re as Restless as ever. We’re going to begin where we always have. We will support tens of thousands of young people to become leaders, not tomorrow, today. Our world needs young people today. Young people are not the leaders of tomorrow, that’s patronising, they are ready to lead change and they are already doing it now.

Young people mobilising communities, young people multiplying leaders in their peers, in their schools, in their friends, in their families, in their governments. Diverse, dynamic leaders ready to create jobs, to protect communities from disaster, to partner with governments to make things work better for all of us because young people have been really clear: this isn’t youth for youth. This is youth for communities and this is youth for the world. They want to rise to the challenges that we all face, they want to help us to all seize the opportunities. And who better than youth? The biggest youth generation in history?

To do that we’re going to begin where we always have. In communities around the world, in schools, in farmers’ fields, in youth resource centres and in health centres, making a difference where it’s needed most, but not just making a difference, gathering the evidence, the proof, the stories, the cutting edge insights so that we can build the models to scale to create change far bigger than the 500,000 we’ll reach every week, to create change for the 3.8 billion people under 30 out there.

So how do we do that? We take these proven models and we share them with governments and donors around the world, but increasingly, excitingly, through other youth-led organisations. Did you know that Restless Development partners with over 1,000 youth-led organisations in 74 countries last year? We’re working with them to share what we’ve learned, to share our best practice so that they can take up our proven models, but also so that we can learn with them, so we can learn and grow together to improve our impact, our strength and our voice and create a bigger change in this world. Coming together as young leaders, as governments, as supporters, as a community to create change when it matters most. 

All powered by young people, just like it always has been.

Thank you for being part of our journey here and for joining us on the journey to come. We couldn’t do it without you, thank you.