How a community helps teenagers achieve their full potential

Meet Erkki Kubber, the leader of the Changemakers Academy program.

He applies his expertise in social enterprise training to empower young people and prepare them for real-world challenges.

During the Changemakers Academy program, participants develop necessary soft skills – such as teamwork, complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and emotional intelligence – that make them notable candidates for future employment.

«We build self-belief by taking one little step at a time.»

Youth Engagement with Changemakers Estonia

Why did you decide to work in a youth organisation?

I didn’t just choose my job, I created it. Changemakers Academy is a youth program that helps young people to achieve their full potential through meaningful activities. As Confucius said: “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” That’s exactly what we are doing: changing the world by helping one youngster at a time.

Before my co-leaders and I became involved, it was simply an idea on paper. With our joined efforts it has expanded to one of the biggest Estonian youth programs: gathering 102 youngsters, 17 mentors and 11 enterprises. It is recognized by the Ministry of Education as the Act of the Year and by Civil Society as the Inspirer of the Year.

What do you like the most in your profession?

Every day we have an opportunity to see people getting better and overcoming challenges that hinder them. These moments are exactly why we do what we do. We help people achieve their full potential.

You need to have a lot of energy and passion for that job. You have to be persistent and never lose enthusiasm even during challenging times. You need to be an excellent communicator and listener. All in all, you have to be a great human being. That’s how you are able to get people closer to their dreams.

«Gamification takes the best from computer games and implements it in real life.»

What challenges do you encounter while working with young people?

The biggest challenge we face is self-belief. Our task every day, every week, every month, every year is to make young people believe in themselves. We have to show them that they are capable of absolutely everything. That they can change the world.

We have 14-19 years old students, who generate more than 87 000 euros for enterprises within two months. It is a huge amount, but it takes time and hard work to make them understand that they can really do it. Because they can, if they believe.

What are the best ways to motivate teenagers?

Practical examples of alike youngsters and their accomplishments help a lot. Gamification is also a good motivation tool, as it takes the best from computer games (progress, clear rules, awards) and implements it in real life.

We build self-belief by taking one little step at a time. Gamification helps to keep students engaged and working on those small but meaningful steps. In a longer perspective, it helps them reach bigger goals.

«We are changing the world by helping one youngster at a time.»

What would you advise yourself back when you were just starting as a coordinator?

Choose people wisely – it is the most important thing. We build people and those people build us. When we choose a person, we do it for their personality. Research shows that 85% of employees who quit their job within two years, do so because of their attitude. So it is important to choose people with the right mindset. Skills will follow.

How do you see youth organisations in 30 years? Go wild!

In our industry, communication and human relationship is the core. The struggle of establishing proper social contact, unfortunately, won’t be solved with some innovative technology. I want to see the future where people communicate, where technology helps us to expand our mind and allows to share our thoughts in the most effective way. I see technology as our friend and helper, not something else.

«Choose people for their mindset, skills will follow.»

How does Zelos help you during Changemakers Academy program?

We love to use gamification as a motivation tool. We started doing it one and a half years ago. Back then we had an Excel sheet with tasks and we gave points for task completion manually. As the Changemakers program expands every year, managing the Excel file with 17 teams would be quite a headache.

Using Zelos as a youth engagement app makes our lives easier. You create a task and it goes to all teams at once. It is a great time saver and it makes the gamification process enjoyable.