Experimenting with the uncertain – interview with the new Finnish Changemakers of the Year

Updated: Mar 2

Ashoka is committed to supporting the development of empathy in all young people.

We believe that this is the key to understand people and complex problems and in

motivating and driving change. Almost half of our Ashoka Fellows started their

changemaker journeys before the age of 21. To support leadership by young people,

we have worked directly with almost 500,000 young people through our Youth

Venture program and built vital partnerships with aligned and impactful stakeholders

to ensure that young people around the world learn to lead young and to recognize

their power to be changemakers.

Today, we are proud to announce the first Finnish changemakers of the year !

Changemaker of the Year is an award to community improving initiatives led by

young Changemakers. This year, our jury members in Finland chose Rens original

and You Tell Me Collective.

Rens Original team

The core business of Rens is to manufacture fashionable sneakers for the young

generation using sustainable and upcycled materials. Every pair of Rens recycled 20

cups of coffee waste and 6 plastic bottles. The greater mission of Rens is to reverse

the negative, guilty perception of the young generation about sustainability, showcasing it as an inspiring, fun, and amazing path to a better future.

You Tell Me Collective, evening school

You Tell Me is a collective of architecture students working for a paradigm change in

the field of built environment. There are great challenges facing our time, climate

change, exhaustion of resources and biodiversity crisis. There is a need for a great

change in thinking and You Tell Me Collective feels that taking on these challenges

is easier in a group rather than as an individual.

We interviewed them both and asked, how they have paved their own changemaking path.

Son Chu, Co-Founder, CMO and CTO of Rens Original

What support has been important for you in your Changemaking journey?

I couldn't build Rens alone. My co-founder, Jesse Tran, was a big part of that, along

with the current investors, Helsinki startup community and our early-on employees.

We were all very passionate about the coffee sneaker business and everyone works

so hard towards it.

Share your top 3 tips for other young people who want to create change!

1. Invest all-in in your passion and your strengths. Those will be the pillars of your

future, your changemaking process and your influence on the world.

2. Don't do it alone. Find somebody who shares your vision and compensates for

your lacking skills. Your business will go faster and stronger.

3. This is a people game. Your business will be as strong as your relationship with

the people you work with. If you want your business/idea to prosper, invest in their

passion and interest, communicate with them and align their mission with yours.

Why must the voice of young people be allowed to take place in our society?

There are more and more young people taking roles in social issues than ever for the

last 5 years. With the advancement in technology and the quick access to mass

knowledge from the Internet, young people are coming up with innovative ideas that

are changing the world for the better.

What impact do you hope to see in the next 3 years and how do you want to measure it?

As a "shoemaker", I'd hope a lot more people would wear Rens shoes. But on the

macro level, I'd like to see a much more percentage of young people take

sustainability into their consideration in their consumption choices. This can be done statistically through mass surveys.

Why is it important for everyone to be a Changemaker?

A Changemaker isn't necessarily someone whose priority is doing something

different than everybody else. It could be someone who's passionate enough and

invests all-in into their passion, whether it's shoes or an environmental problem. With

the help of the Internet, social media and many communities, I truly believe it's easy

to get help nowadays and as long as you invest time in your project, you will find

innovative ways to advance it. And if everyone does that, they will find their true

happiness and, deep down I just want everybody to be happy.

You Tell Me Collective

What support has been important for you in your Changemaking journey?

The greatest support in our journey has been that we do not have to do this alone.

By acting as a collective we can support and champion each other onward. Our

events have gained interest since the very first symposium, and it has been

encouraging to see that people are willing to participate and discuss difficult topics.

Share your tips for other young people who want to create change!

You don't have to ask for permission to take action or wait for a badge of status to

dare to say something. It is neither necessary to have a perfect action plan when you

first want to arrange something. Starting something can be intimidating and spark

feelings of uncertainty, but enduring the discomfort can lead to rapid learning,

increased self-confidence and a sense of meaning.

We consider it’s necessary to find allies and like-minded people since change is

easier in a group than alone and the people by your side bring you joy in all the

activism. For us casual meetings have proven a good way to organize. Just gather

your team in a bar, café or someone's kitchen and start to talk about things that


You Tell Me Collective Symposium

Why must the voice of young people be allowed to take place in our society?

Young people have fresh perspectives and new knowledge to share, and they have

updated information about what’s going on in their field. Their ways of working and

organizing are not yet set in stone and while experimenting with the uncertain they can come up with unexpected but brilliant solutions.

Our generation is going to stay with the troubles of the current era, so from the viewpoint of climate justice, there should be a way to impact our future. However it is the people in places of power that can make the biggest impact, so the responsibility of creating a livable future should not be only on young people.

What impact do you hope to see in the next 3 years and how do you want to measure it?

We hope to see climate literacy integrated into the curriculum of architecture schools

and as part of the evaluation criteria. Universities need to equip the students with the best tools possible to tackle the impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, etc.

Outside of architecture education, we hope to see a development in the public

discussion that includes the issues of sustainability and systemic change. We hope

that the environmental impact of construction is recognized by the public and that the

discourse would broaden from carbon dioxide and energy efficiency towards issues

of land use and biodiversity loss.

Why is it important for everyone to be a Changemaker?

For us, changemaking is about creating a space for ourselves and others where we

can examine the questions that feel most relevant to us and our time. Constantly

working against your own values is exhausting and can even lead to burnout. Being

an agent of change and studying a better way to practice your occupation can help

to relieve this value conflict. Everyone needs to be part of making the change because of the scope of the challenges we are facing today. There are enough questions to solve for everyone to be part of world-making. The change is easier collectively rather than alone.

Ashoka Young Changemakers are at the heart of the "Everyone a Changemaker"

movement. They are a carefully selected network of young people who have found

their power to create change for the good of all, and who are engaging their peers

and the entire society in realizing a world where "everyone is a changemaker". If you or someone you know fits this description, contact us and join our community of leaders!