Applications are now open for the 2024 Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award. Find out more and apply here.

Never underestimate the youth. Young people have proved time and time again that they are the influential, resilient, determined spirits the world needs in the mission to end extreme poverty NOW.

They’ve shown up in numbers to call for climate policy change, they’ve defended their communities against destructive inequalities, they’ve opened society’s eyes to what matters most, and have helped highlight what needs to be done to end extreme poverty. 

Actress and Unicef ambassador Millie Bobby Brown hit the nail on the head when she said: “Young people don’t want to be talked about. We want to do the talking.” They are the leaders of the future and as such, they need to be listened to and supported. 

The Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award, launched by Cisco and Global Citizen in 2018, was established to recognize and lift up a young person who is positively impacting the world, and as a way to demonstrate the significance that young people have in achieving the United Nations’ Global Goals. 

Whether they are helping schoolchildren in Kenya get healthy meals, ensuring children in India get the health care access they need, providing communities across Rwanda and neighboring regions with clean water, or creating technologies to empower women in agriculture and help reduce food waste in India, previous Cisco Youth Leadership Award winners have proven that innovation and dedication can lead to dramatic change for a better future.

We’re thrilled to announce that applications for the 2024 Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award are now open, with the application period running from Nov. 2, 2023, to Dec. 15, at 5 p.m.PT. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the Cisco Youth Leadership Award and how you can apply.

What Is the Cisco Youth Leadership Award?

The Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award is an annual award, presented for the first time in 2018, which honors a young change-maker helping to create a better world for all.

It is awarded in partnership with the technology company Cisco, a global partner of Global Citizen, and recognizes an individual between the ages of 18 and 30 who has taken an innovative approach to solving problems, and who has made a meaningful difference towards the goal of ending poverty in their community.

The prize includes a $250,000 award paid to the organization to which the individual contributes.

How Is the Winner Selected? 

Although the prize money is paid to the organization to which the winner contributes, applicants must apply as an individual.

The winner of the 2024 Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award will be someone who can demonstrate measurable impact of their work over the last three to five years, and who has advanced one or more of the UN’s Global Goals. Applicants are judged holistically by their application materials and supporting documents against five equally weighted criteria:

  • Impact: Demonstrated track-record of measurable impact at scale over the last 3-5 years advancing one or more of the Global Goals.
  • Vision: Compelling vision and concrete plans for how to extend this work in the next 3-5 years, including how the prize will advance efforts.
  • Catalyst: Inspires other young people to have an impact on achieving one or more of the Global Goals.
  • Global Citizenship: Demonstrates the values and embodies the spirit of a Global Citizen and global problem solver.
  • Technical Innovation: Innovates with technology or internet-based communications to improve efficiency, reach, and magnify impact. 

Who Has Won in the Past?

In 2023, Nkosana Butholenkosi Masuku received the Cisco Youth Leadership Award for his work creating Sciency Learning — a platform that offers low-cost applied and practical STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education to pupils across Zimbabwe. He launched the platform after seeing, during his time as a STEM teacher, the shortage of teaching resources for STEM subjects in rural schools. 

In 2022, chemical engineer Nidhi Pant received the award for her innovative work in the agriculture sector in India. She founded S4S Technologies, a platform that uses solar technology to help smallholder farmers decrease their produce loss (otherwise known as food waste) and improve their profits. Through S4S she also empowers women farmers to become micro-entrepreneurs by equipping them with the right combination of technology, finance, and market access.

In 2020, Rwanda’s Christelle Kwizera received the award for her innovation and leadership in founding Water Access Rwanda, a social enterprise that works to eliminate water scarcity and provide communities in Africa with safe and easily accessible water. By reinventing how low-income communities can access water, her organization helps provide the natural resource to over 70,000 people across Rwanda and in surrounding regions daily. 

In 2019, then 28-year-old health entrepreneur Priya Prakash, was awarded the prize in recognition of her work launching HealthSetGo, an organization that works to improve access to health information, which has impacted the lives of 200,000 children in schools in India. HealthSetGo empowers doctors, parents, schools, and governments to make data-driven decisions about children’s health care, improving early detection and treatment rates. 

In 2018, the inaugural Cisco Youth Leadership Award went to Wawira Njiru, the then 28-year-old founder and executive director of Food for Education, an organization that provides nutrient-rich lunches to underprivileged primary school children in Kenya to combat widespread hunger in the region. 

What Else Should You Know?

Applications open for submissions on Nov. 1, 2023, and close on Dec. 15, 2023 at 5 p.m. PT. You can apply for the Cisco Youth Leadership Award here.

What’s Needed for the Application?

There are four parts to the application: 

  • An “About You” section containing basic personal and organizational information; 
  • Your pitch on why you should be awarded the prize in a 1-2 minute video, including how you are working towards achieving one or more Global Goals; 
  • An outline of how your work aligns with the judging criteria — impact, vision, catalyst, global citizenship, and technology innovation — through answering short questions about your work;
  • Additional information about your organization, including proof of its registration.

You don’t have to be a founder or CEO of an organization to apply. The Cisco Youth Leadership Award can go to anyone who has had an impact; it is all about showing leadership, dedication, and innovation.

More details on exactly how the application process works and the judging criteria can be found on the application page here. You can also read more about previous winners and their work, including Nkosana Butholenkosi Masuku hereNidhi Pant here, Christelle Kwizera here, Priya Prakash here, and Wawira Njiru here; as well as their answers to Global Citizens’ biggest questions about the Cisco Youth Leadership Award here

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Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award — What You Need to Know & How to Apply

By Helen Lock  and  Khanyi Mlaba