Celebrating Our Anniversary

June 26, 2022

Here we are: 10 years! Wow! Who would have thought it? 😊

As we celebrate our birthday we’re looking back at an extraordinarily eventful decade.

  • ChangemakerXchange went from a few small humble gatherings 10 years ago to become a community, a ‘home’ and safe space for 1000 changemakers globally. All of whom are tackling some of society’s most urgent challenges, together. Not stopping there our members have co-created a collective vision: A world where everyone is part of inclusive communities in which people connect deeply and co-create positive change. We couldn’t possibly be more excited to be in service of this vision. 
  • Well over 200 collaborative efforts emerged from the network, some even becoming their own global organisations like Recipes for Wellbeing, Climate Farmers, Public Planet Partnerships and many more. 
  • Co-Creation and collaboration is also at the heart of the several dozen partnerships with Foundations, Corporates and Non-Profits we've built (A special thank you goes to Robert Bosch Stiftung for being the first to support us in 2012 and to Ashoka for being our 'home' for the first 7 years).
  • CXC members organised countless meetups and capacity-building sessions for each other over the years. Just this week alone we’re seeing over 20 hangouts happen from Mexico City to Beijing in celebration of CXC’s birthday. 
  • Our extended team of more than 65 facilitators hosted dozens of summits in all regions of the world, connecting people across different backgrounds, countries and cultures. 
  • Building on our experiences of gathering groups, we also supported nearly 150 organisations with the facilitation skills needed to create collective impact in fun and funky ways, all while sharing what we learned even more widely through our growing library of open knowledge. 
  • With The Possibilists, we initiated an exciting global alliance and research effort for youth-driven social innovation, and just last month launched the beta version of a Directory of offers of support for young changemakers. 
  • Through the climate action programme launched this month, we aim to add hundreds of climate entrepreneurs and activists to the network in the coming two years to play an even more active role in addressing the climate and biodiversity crisis. 

The core team is graciously proud of what we have achieved over the years. But none of this would have been possible, or even worth doing, without the members of the community, our partners and friends.

Our motivation for starting CXC was a simple one: Countless young people dedicate their work and way of life to tackling the most pressing issues of our time.

But despite their positive impact on society the path they’ve chosen can feel very lonely and full of insecurities and never-ending obstacles to overcome. They lack support, and many sacrifice their financial health and wellbeing trying to change a system that often works against them. We’re not immune to it either: The constant struggle and feeling of responsibility that comes with the ambition to affect positive change can be overwhelming. 

We built this community to help changemakers everywhere see that they are not alone! There are millions out there with the same passion and energy for positive change. We just need to find and support each other. By connecting we become the unstoppable tide that will carry the world toward a collaborative, empathetic, sustainable future.  

It is a future we are very excited about.

The ChangemakerXchange Team

You got a bit more time? Please keep on reading. 😊 

It was Tuesday, 26th of June 2012 and cold water was in high demand that day on İstiklal Caddesi, Istanbul’s main pedestrian zone, as the megacity sizzled under the sun. After months of diligent planning, our team eagerly awaited the arrival of 40 young social entrepreneurs and activists from across Europe for a gathering named ChangemakerXchange.  

The slightly outdated hotel, near the city’s busy Taksim square, was instantly buzzing with excitement as the participants made contact, all visibly thrilled over meeting so many fellow changemakers at once. They were hugging to say hi. They laughed about the goofy T-Shirts we got them. They snapped group selfies, shared little gifts from their home countries, memorised each other’s names, and were eager to hear as much as possible about everyone’s work and personal life stories.  

Looking back, it was beautiful.
We just couldn’t see it, yet. 

This was a “conference” after all! There was no time for what we considered unproductive mixing & mingling. We had a study tour, pitching events, site visits, panel discussions, lectures, and workshops to get to. Chop, chop, from A to B to C, on the bus, off the bus, hurry up, let’s get things done! There we were, replicating the exact same principles of show and tell, heropreneurship and pressure to perform that are running young changemakers into the ground around the world: Nearly 60% of them have experienced burnout and 79% report being stretched thin by multiple simultaneous responsibilities. * (The Possibilists Report 2021)  

And so it didn’t take long for a group of them to approach us, and rightfully question why we brought so many of them together if we didn’t even give them proper space to breathe and connect. All they wanted (and in fact desperately needed) was to simply bond with other changemakers, learn from each other and not some external lecturer. They wanted to be vulnerable for once and put some well-deserved distance between them and their stressful day-to-day work and ventures. 

This honest feedback from our earliest members led to an epiphany. What if ChangemakerXchange wasn’t a conference, but instead a safe, judgement-free, fun, and supportive space? An opportunity to refill your cup, to just be yourself, a chance to remind yourself why you do what you do in the first place. An invitation to connect deeply with like-minded changemakers without the need for any specific outcome. And ever since, this has shaped the core of what CXC is all about.

Thanks to our supporter Robert Bosch Stiftung and their trust, as well as the immensely helpful feedback of the changemakers we got the chance to design the summit of our dreams. We put it right into action at the CXC Istanbul 2013 gathering. This time it was all about deliberately “creating a space”, centred around three key pillars: Human Connection, Peer-to-Peer Learning and Meaningful Collaboration.

Some testimonials from partners of ChangemakerXchange:

Over time we also realised the true extent of pressure and risk of burnout young changemakers face. Through a deeply integrated partnership with Recipes for Wellbeing, a collaborative effort that emerged from a CXC summit in 2015, we later added wellbeing as a fourth, cross-cutting element to all our summits. We in fact consider it a key role of ChangemakerXchange to shift the culture of changemaking to include a focus on wellbeing as the basis for any change in the world. 

And so in the winter of 2013 instead of in the heart of the city we stayed at an ecological lodge by the Black Sea, surrounded by forests, lakes, and green hills. (So tired and run down by the 24/7 hustle of being a changemaker, one member famously slept through the first day of his summit, and even that was ok! … He went on to become one of CXC’s most active contributors and now runs one of Europe’s highest-impact green-tech ventures).  

We took long walks by the beach or huddled in front of an open fire, and slowly but surely opened up to each other. We spoke about what brought us to this point in life and our dreams. We showed vulnerability and shared the fears we had over the success of our projects, the painful lack of funding, the passion and love we felt for making a positive change (and the pressure that comes with this sense of responsibility). And within no time the group of strangers became friends, supporters, and allies – which, in return, led to an unbelievable openness to share experiences, expertise and resources with each other, and ultimately the desire to collaborate.

Self-reflections from the ChangemakerXchange core team members:

By stripping things down to the very basics - the deep human connection - we seemed to have discovered a magic recipe. Eager to bring the experience to many more people before long we started hosting summits in North Africa, Asia and Africa, followed by bringing CXC to Latin America, the US and Canada in 2021.  

And whether we gathered by lake Elementita near Nairobi, in the rural town of Tsuwano in Japan, in Guiyang in mainland China, in Rwanda, the Philippines or in South Africa – the energy, learning and feeling of belonging was deeply humbling and inspiring every time. 

It was also during this time that ChangemakerXchange moved beyond individual meetups and evolved into a real, genuine global community. In our latest “Community Survey” among members 90% of the respondents said they connect with other members regularly and 65% of them told us they collaborated with others in the network. 

The years following the first summits were defining years for ChangemakerXchange. Looking back, it was four things that stuck out and that inform our work till today: 

  • Members hosting summits: In 2016 the first members of the community entertained the idea of facilitating and hosting their own CXC summits. A first completely member-hosted summit near the Dead Sea, gathering participants from Palestine and Israel, gave us all the confidence that our model could be replicated. And so we went from just two summits in 2015, to 5 in 2016, to 6 in 2017 and finally 12 in 2018 and 2019 respectively. All thanks to CXC’s members, who acted as hosts, organisers and facilitators 🤍 We still sometimes have nightmares from all the international money transfers and financial reports from these gatherings. But it was worth it! 😊
  • Toolkits: It was shortly after these first member-hosted gatherings that we started building what is maybe CXC’s most critical piece of infrastructure: Our hosting and facilitation toolkits. An ever-growing repository of checklists, templates, sessions, tips and tricks that allows our facilitators to copy our model, adapt it to their local context and run our formats anywhere in the world. All while maintaining a similar level of quality and care. 
  • Training-of-Trainers Summits: Another critical piece of the puzzle was our first Trainings-of-Trainers summits in the Philippines and Germany in 2018. Onboarding 30 at first the group’s grown to 65 people across the world. Both changemakers and skilled facilitators, they’re experts at creating deeper human connections, fostering wellbeing, and enabling peer-to-peer learning.
  • Co-Creation: With hundreds of members collaborating across the world, and many with active roles as hosts and facilitators, we felt it was time for everyone in the community to be involved in shaping the future of the network. And so ever since 2017 we host a yearly “Co-Creation Summit”, where we collectively define our vision, mission, future activities, principles, or policies. On top, a Strategy Group holds the core team accountable and provides us with input and guidance throughout the year.

Despite the global pandemic (we first heard about Coronavirus in a post from one of our members from China) there was no more stopping us: 

Becoming independent
In 2020 we became an independent charitable organisation, based in Berlin, and spun off from Ashoka (our ‘home’ for the first years). We owe everyone at the organisation a huge amount of gratitude for their trust and support and remain very close friends and partners. 

Online Summits
In 2021 we gathered changemakers from Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and the Caribbean online, and realised: It’s possible to bring the ‘magic’ to digital spaces. And we learned so much doing it that we’re now hosting experiential trainings on creating transformative experiences online. 

Inspired by the energy of our online summits we also launched the “KnowledgeXchange”, an online peer-to-peer learning programme and ‘library’ of capacity-building sessions. It enables CXC members with lived experience of leading a social change initiative to share their expertise, experience and insights with other changemakers, be that around successful fundraising strategies, leadership, finance, or any other topic of importance. 

The Possibilists
Another huge highlight and milestone for ChangemakerXchange in 2021 and 2022 was the launch of The Possibilists, an ecosystem alliance of 16 of the world’s largest youth social innovation networks. Collectively we work with hundreds of thousands of young changemakers and reach millions over social media. We think the initiative has huge potential to ensure the global support ecosystem is aligning around a data-driven understanding of the needs of young changemakers, and builds the conditions for them to truly thrive. 

Phew, well… there would in fact be 1000 + 1 more stories, activities, insights and anecdotes to share. 

But: How about you see for yourself? 

We can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring. 

Anouk, Greta, Matthias, Miriam, Nadya and Nick
Yours, the ChangemakerXchange Team