What does it mean to be a Change Agent?

Topic: YMCA-General

Date: 12 March 2023

What does it mean to be a Change Agent?

Four young leaders from previous cohorts share how the programme shaped their lives

With cohort 5.0 set to begin late this spring, Change Agents from previous years have been reflecting on their experiences.

All agreed the Change Agent programme transformed their lives.

“It helped me discover more of myself, my skills, and my interests”, said Ivory Manio of the YMCA of Manila, who was in cohort four. “It showed me the YMCA is more than just a building, but rather it builds relationships”.

Echoed Marie Jeanne Diouf from YMCA Senegal, who was in the third cohort, “I strongly believe that what I have become is thanks to this programme. If I could reengage, I would do it without hesitation”.

The World YMCA has operated Change Agents since 2013. Open to YMCA leaders worldwide ages 18-30, four cohorts have graduated 800 leaders. Currently, six World YMCA Executive Committee members are programme alumni, and many more serve in the local, national and regional YMCAs around the world.

Applications are being accepted now through 15 March, and the fifth cohort should be announced next month. Click here to learn more and here to apply.

Said World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee, “The Change Agents programme is an investment in our leaders of tomorrow”.

The programme provides participants with practical, hands-on tools, skills, models and case studies to create change. The goal is to “uplift young people and emerging leaders across the YMCA Movement to collectively lead change, create local solutions to the challenges they face, and deliver impact on YMCA Vision 2030 in their YMCAs, communities and the world”.

Marlon Solis of YMCA Canada, who was in cohort four, said the programme accomplished all that – and more.

“It meant breaking past the cultural borders I was used to and meeting other people from around the world”, he said. “It also means relating to others in ways that foster connection, new ideas and strong relationships”.

Marie Jeanne Diouf, or Mijoe initially joined the YMCA as a volunteer to serve her community. “It was very difficult”, she said, “because I had no experience at all. Being selected was an honour, and I realized I had a new mission to be the change and to influence this change with young

What does it mean to be a Change Agent?

Marie Jeanne Diouf said, “We are called to be references and leaders for future generations”.


Monika Autio of YMCA Finland said the programme has been one of the highlights of her life so far.

Skills for life

Regardless of the career path they choose, the Change Agents say their experience prepared them to take the next step.

Some like Ivory, for instance, have remained with the YMCA. She balances many responsibilities as the Director for College Work | Staff, Program Department at the YMCA of Manila.

Monika Autio of YMCA Finland, who was in the third cohort, serves on her local (YMCA Helsinki) and national (YMCA Finland) boards. In addition, she volunteers through YMCA Finland’s Peacemakers network.

“It was meaningful to me because of the opportunities it gave me. I was able to learn more about the YMCA and gain useful skills and knowledge. They helped me with my future endeavours within the Y and my personal life”, she said. “The programme is one of the highlights of my life thus far”!

Marlon and Mijoe remain focused on empowering young people and their communities through other organisations. Marlon currently works at a community centre in Nova Scotia, Canada, handling social media and graphic design for community and family events. Along with serving as operations director of a company managing rural boreholes, she has set up her own network. Femmes-Environment provides a platform for women in rural areas to take climate action.

“We are called to be references and leaders for future generations”, Mijoe said. “And participating allows you to be accomplished as an advisor and also to be part of a large network of leaders and future leaders”.