The New Age of Social Change

The start of a new decade is often marked by lofty New Year’s resolutions and elaborate 5-year-plans. You aspire to start the year off right, make a dent in the world, and be a force for good… 

But a jam-packed calendar can quickly become overwhelming. And a lengthy to-do list rarely gets done. When you’re setting out to change the world, where do you even begin?

These 20 young people from around the globe each spotted an injustice and set out to fix it. By creating change in their communities, they’re inspiring others to follow their lead. And each started with one simple first step: they started a petition.

Meet 20 changemakers under 20 who are inspiring us in 2020:

SYDNEY | age 16

Just your average girl next door? Think again. Sydney is 16 years old, lives in Maryland and loves animals. That’s why hearing stories of animal abuse horrified her. And learning there wasn’t a law on the books to protect animals from cruelty – that’s what drove her to take action.

Nine months and 800,000 signatures later, her petition pushed President Donald Trump to sign into law the first U.S. federal legislation to tackle animal cruelty and torture. The law is called the PACT Act, short for Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture” Act – and it’s proven that protecting animals is a non-partisan issue.

JEROME | age 17

Every December, TIME Magazine announces a winner of the Person of the Year award. Months ahead of the announcement, Jerome knew who was most deserving of the honor. He launched a petition asking TIME Magazine to give the award to Greta Thurnberg.

For Jerome, the issue was close to his 17-year-old-heart. Throughout 2019, he went on strike every single Friday in front of the United States White House to demand government action on climate change. In Jerome’s eyes, we need a global effort to save the planet – and Greta has brought people together from every corner of the world. On December 12th, Jerome’s petition won and he’ll continue the fight for the environment in 2020.

ISHA | age 16

Isha’s volunteer work at the Seattle Aquarium helped her understand just how much plastic ends up in the ocean. (It’s estimated at 8M metric tons every year. Yikes!) The plastic crisis made her re-evaluate her own priorities and the way she spends her money.

She no longer buys Panda Express takeout because of how much waste they create – and she’s petitioning the fast food chain to change its ways. Other companies like Subway and Trader Joe’s are committed to reducing their plastic packaging, and Isha wants Panda Express to do the same in 2020.


ISRAEL | age 18

Israel has had a whole lifetime of experience in his 18 years. As a young child, he grew up in severe poverty. He’s been homeless. He’s gone to bed hungry. He’s worked odd jobs to help his family survive. He’s also taken the tragedy of his youth and turned it into something positive:

This election year, he’s petitioning to make sure that every American presidential candidate is given a chance to share their plans to end child poverty on the national debate stage. A question about child poverty hasn’t been asked in a televised debate for 20 years! More than 80,000 people agree with Israel that it’s time this issue gets the airtime it deserves.

MARENA | age 16

Not every petition is asking for nationwide attention. In fact, sometimes it just takes 7,301 signatures from your local community to win. That’s what happened for Marena when she launched her petition asking her California high school to allow the marching band to practice on the field.

She made a strong argument for why the band deserved to have field-time, and it successfully convinced school officials. Her petition also reaffirmed how much the community appreciates music and the talented musicians in the band. We’ll be watching to see what change Marena will lead next.


CHIARA | age 19

Chiara is 19 and suffers from a rare disease. She lives in a small town in Italy and must travel long distances to visit her specialized doctor. Last year, she learned the government health program she relies on stops covering health-related travel costs when the patient turns 18 – even when they cannot work and need to travel for life-saving care.

Seeing the injustice first-hand, Chiara started a petition to remove the “expiration date” the government puts on patient’s health. With 179,000 supporters, her petition has made it to the desks of local officials. This year, we wait to see the introduction of a new law to protect patients like her.


BEN | age 19

Not many teenagers can say they’ve met with the Prime Minister of England to discuss public health solutions. That’s part of what makes Ben unique. He’s 19 and he’s campaigning to make mental health first aid training mandatory for all staff at his school.

The issue is personal for Ben because he lost a younger brother to suicide. With his petition, he’s turning the tragedy into something inspiring and he has the support of nearly 300,000 signers. We could all learn a lesson or two from watching Ben in 2020.


BELLA | age 16

Bella is 15 and lives in England. She loves animals of all shapes and sizes. Shocked by the cruelty she witnessed at the circus, she set out to protect wild animals from abuse under the bright lights and colorful tents.

Her petition was supported by more than 191,000 other animal lovers and successfully convinced Parliament to pass a law banning circuses from using wild animals for entertainment. With that victory already under her belt, Bella has her sights set on launching a new animal welfare petition in 2020.


ELLA & CAITLIN | ages 10 & 8

Burger King listened to Ella and Caitlin’s petition – will McDonald’s follow suit? That’s what more than a HALF MILLION petition signers from around the world want to know.

Ella is 10 years old, and Caitlin is 8. These young environmental activists are asking McDonalds to stop giving out plastic toys in their Happy Meals to help reduce plastic waste. Will 2020 be the year that McDonald’s decides a plastic-free meal is a happier meal?


ALEXANDER | age 19

Alexander is a student, a filmmaker, and a mental health advocate. He’s also successfully petitioned the Bavarian State Government in Germany to change school curriculum. No small feat.

His petition asked to expand mental health education and support services in schools – and it won. In 2020, we’ll start to see the impact of Alexander’s campaign in German classrooms. 


LISA | age 14

A school project about environmental impact took Lisa from ordinary student to extraordinary activist. She’s campaigning to reduce microplastics in common German consumer products – starting with makeup.

If her petition is successful, she’ll convince the German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Rights to implement an official stamp on all cosmetic products stating clearly if they contain microplastics. Already, she has the support of more than 60,000 signers. This type of regulation has the power to improve the cosmetics industry, make our water safer and our bodies healthier.


TERESA, SOFIA & ANDREA

Teresa, Sofia and Andrea understand that it’s the little things that add up to have enormous impact. It’s true for signatures on their petition and it’s true for all the apples and cucumbers in your shopping cart.

That’s why they’re petitioning a popular grocery store to drop the plastic packaging on all the fruits and vegetables they sell. Together, these three girls and their 151,000 supporters have the power to help reduce plastic waste in Spain.


PATRICIA | age 20

Patricia’s been waging her Change.org campaign for the past four years, but her story starts well before that. As a young child, Patricia lived in a state of fear as a witness to the domestic abuse that her mother endured.

As a young adult, she’s fighting back on behalf of all victims of gender-based violence. She is now 20 years old and has the support of nearly 213,000 people. She’s petitioning the Spanish government to improve the way the judicial handles cases like her mother’s.


CURTIS | age 18

Like thousands of his peers around the globe, Curtis suffers from severe anxiety. Through his own 18 years of life experience, he’s seen how the price of treatments add up. And as costs rise, so do suicide rates.

That’s why he’s working to convince the Australian government to provide free mental health services to all young people in his country. More than 108,000 people have signed his petition in support and he’s already gotten a response from at least one member of the Australian House of Representatives. In 2020, he hopes to gain even more support.


ELLENA | age 14

As the wildfires continue to ravage Australia, the whole world is desperate for solutions. Many believe that Ellena’s idea could help.

Three months ago, she launched a petition asking her local City Council to declare a climate emergency. In October Ellena addressed the City Council and helped inspire an official report and briefing on current council emission reduction and renewable policies. Throughout 2020, we are likely to see many other cities, townships and states tackle environmental policy.


GRETA | age 9

At just 9 years old, Greta is one of the youngest honorees this year. But don’t let her age fool you – she’s wise beyond her years. In her 4th grade classroom, she learned that some of the Indigenous communities in her region of Canada lacked access to clean water, adequate housing and safe schools. Greta penned a letter to her local Member of Parliament and arranged to meet in-person.

She also launched a petition that’s grown to more than 47,000 signatures. Her public pressure helped secure $4.5 billion of federal funding for Indigenous communities in Canada.


MAYA, EVE & BEN | ages 11-17

Maya (11), Eve (11) and Ben(17) are making billion dollar companies re-evaluate their product packaging. What started as a 6th grade science fair project evolved into a petition asking Starbucks to make their disposable cups fully recyclable.

That petition grew to 357,000 signatures from around the globe and helped convince the CEO of Starbucks to commit $10M to design a new, better cup. On the heels of that victory, they broadened their scope. They’re now leading a petition asking Tim Horton’s to also make a #BetterCup and more than 176,000 coffee lovers have joined the petition.


JUSTIN | age 18

There is a simple way to reduce hunger in Canada, according to Justin. He reasons that supermarkets themselves can help. In his petition, Justin is asking for a new federal law that would ban supermarkets from wasting unsold, edible food.

The law would require those grocery stores to give the food to food banks instead of trashing it. A similar law passed in France, and Justin wants Canada to be next. More than 269,000 people support his petition and it’s been endorsed by at least one Member of Parliament.


That wraps up Change.org’s list of twenty remarkable young people to watch in 2020. Okay, we know we cheated by including more than 20 individuals, but we’re willing to take the heat for it!

Extraordinary leadership like theirs proves that age is nothing but a number. They also show us what’s possible when people work together.