Cultivate and connect imaginative leaders

ACTIVATE! Change Drivers

ACTIVATE! is a network of young people, connected to each other and committed to innovating for the public good. Unlike many other youth leadership programmes, participants become Activators-for-life, with access to platforms and programmes designed to support their growth, collaboration and expand the influence of the network.

Activate! hosts workshops in communities to recruit people to the network.

The disconnect

This explains why the project exists

South Africa has high unemployment and limited economic opportunities for its citizens, especially young people. Yet, South African youth are determined, creative, resilient and uniquely positioned to bring about the structural shifts needed in our country. A new economic force is needed in our country – one that counters narrow forms of financial empowerment and is primed for innovation.


The majority of South Africans are stuck in an inequality trap with wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. Most are stuck in intergenerational loops of exclusion with few chances to escape. Breaking this cycle requires a fundamental change in life trajectories, starting in the womb.

Think of a Möbius strip – just one twist in the circle allows you to trace a completely different pattern. Instead of being stuck on the inside of a loop, you emerge on the outside. In the same way, escaping the inequality trap requires a fundamental twist to set South Africa on a new path.

The twist in thinking

This explains how the project approaches problems

ACTIVATE! is based on the premise that a large enough network of young people, connected to each other and committed to innovating for the public good, can radically shift the structure of South African society.

Unlike many other youth leadership programmes, participants do not “complete” the ACTIVATE! programme; rather they become Activators-for-life, with access to platforms designed to support their continued growth, collaboration and expand the impact and influence of the network.

We saw an opportunity to create a network where these young people could gather in their diversity and meet each other. To inspire and motivate one another through a community in the hope that they would become a collective force to promote and advance their individual and collective drives towards building better lives and livelihoods for themselves and their communities.

WATCH: ‘Meet Sam’ is a video explainer showing what the ACD journey involves

WATCH: A new network of highly motivated young people is driving positive change across the country.

WATCH: Meet the Amplifiers alumni of the network who are leading the recently launched National recruitment of young people to join the network. Read more here

The trajectory change

This explains what the project is doing to make a difference

When ACTIVATE! launched in 2012, it had a small cohort of 200 young people. Since then, the network has grown to more than 4 300 Activators, spread across the country. They have gone on to create centres in their communities that are answerable to the direct needs of those communities. Some have been featured on international platforms as policy advocates and emerge on national lists of influence as leaders in their respective industries.

To date, these young people continue to create platforms that seek to ensure redress and the empowerment of young people across the country. Visit the ACTIVATE! 10 year anniversary website to see highlights and the legacy of this network.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, ACTIVATE! had to reflect on its role as an organisation. The core focus and task going forward is to listen carefully to the voices of youth that have emerged within the network.

Considerations for the organisation’s strategic direction for 2023 and beyond are still deeply embedded in the following four pillars; expanding reach, building social solidarity, activating change and deepening impact.

Visit the Activate website to learn more:

Trying to change life trajectories is ambitious and profound. It requires us to radically influence the lives of individuals and to be part of changing the circumstances in which they live.

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