The GYA partnered with Future Earth to elevate early-career researcher voices at the first Sustainability Research & Innovation Congress 2021 (SRI2021).

In a joint selection process, 11 excellent Early Career Champions were selected from among applicants around the world to contribute to the SRI2021 Closing Plenary on 15 June. Five of the Champions were appointed to present highlights from the SRI2021 themes, and speak alongside the Co-Chairs of the Independent Group of Scientists appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General, preparing the 2023 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR): Dr. Imme Scholz (Deputy Director of the German Development Institute), and Prof. John Agard (Director of the St. Augustine Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the University of the West Indies). Six more Early Career co-Champions attended sessions from the respective themes and worked with the Champions to prepare their reports and engage in discussion with the GSDR co-chairs during the session.

GYA and Future Earth also jointly colleceted applications and selected 100 early-career researchers, professionals and students from over 50 countries to benefit from an Early Career Fund, which covered event registration fees for those selected. The push to engage and involve young voices provided valuable networking opportunities and ensured that fresh perspectives, innovative ideas and disciplinary diversity were brought to the SRI2021.


Closing Plenary “To 2030 and beyond: Insights from the 2023 Global Sustainable Development Report and SRI2021 Early Career Champions”

In their talks, Early Career Champions deliberately put a focus on the way forward, research gaps, and specific challenges within the respective themes discussed. They stressed the importance of focusing more strongly on the impact of projects and criticised a lack of visibility of the SDGs within the research and industry projects. They also drew attention to the need to incorporate and empower underrepresented voices, such as those of indigenous peoples, and to acknowledge and incorporate diverse types of knowledge. Finally, they called for a stronger focus on climate justice, and pursuing more co-production of knowledge as opposed to mere consultation.

“As we commence the final decade of action to deliver the SDGs, and as the build back better agenda gains traction, the issue of “Sustainability for whom?” has become topical. Sustainability for whom addresses the fundamental challenges at the heart of any and all mobilisations towards a better world.”

Ritodhi Chakraborty, Early Career Champion

“Who defines what is desirable, and What is desirable? We want to re-emphasize that there is a need for co-design; for co-designing a shared vision of resilience. And there we have to ensure that there is a representation of the diversity of voices.”

Gaby Langendijk, Early Career Champion


GYA Member & Alumni contributions

Many thanks to GYA members and alumni Robert Lepenies, Anindita Bhadra, Aysha Fleming and Mari-Vaughn Johnson for their active support, advising and review of applications over the course of this partner project.