By Akshat Sinha, Founder and Teen Co-Ambassador of Racial Justice Hub

I’m delighted that the Co-Lab is engaging with this year’s Smithsonian Folk Life Festival which focuses on earth optimism and this year features the United Arab Emirates or UAE.  My co-Ambassador of the Racial Justice Hub Emma Casini was able to fly in from Colorado to participate and was featured in the final event with youth from the UAE, per the photo above.  I am her Co Ambassador and I live in the UAE.      

Living in the UAE for the past 6 years has exposed me to a variety of cultures and identities which showed me the importance of global citizenship regardless of age. There has always been a certain emphasis on educating students about the Sustainable Development Goals at school in order to promote the notion of global action as well as individual responsibility. I believe that this emphasis is what allows more youth to become global changemakers. The initial outbreak of the pandemic led to a wave of lockdowns and isolation around the world. This caused me to look for a new project that I could put my time and energy into and contribute to virtually.

Around July 2020, I joined the Global Co Lab because I appreciated the idea of people from around the world coming together to engage in different SDG-related hubs and on several different issues. I founded the Racial Justice Hub with a specific focus on SDGs 8 and 16. The aim of the hub was to raise awareness, educate youth and work towards making changes at all levels of society to promote racial equity. It was great to work with other teenagers in the hub since they all had their own experiences and perspectives with this topic. It also gave me the opportunity to further explore some of my own personal interests in this field such as the prevalence of institutional discrimination in government systems around the world.

One of our key projects was the creation of the implicit bias workshop which specifically focused on institutional discrimination. The initial idea was to research and design a workshop on recognizing, understanding, and targeting implicit biases in youth in order to reduce the long-term effect of these malleable mental constructs. While there were many workshops designed for HR professionals, We decided to start from scratch to design an interactive and engaging workshop specifically for teenagers by incorporating virtual platforms in addition to having brief sections for different aspects of implicit bias in the workshop. The research for this project incorporated academic sources as well as discussions with professionals in the field to ensure that the material is effective and accurate.

Here is a link to view a condensed version of the workshop:  Implicit Bias Workshop

I am really excited that the Co Lab is participating in the Folklife Festival. I believe that one of the best ways to foster changemakers is to actually engage the youth in the issues that surround them so that they can play an active role as Global Citizens. Teens interested in engaging with global issues can also join the Global Co Lab Network by emailing info@globalcolab.net and take part in one of its twelve teen-led hubs focused on the SDGs.