A message from our Board Chair
“2021 has been a year of challenge, learning, and development — not only for Fondation Botnar, but the entire world.”
Board Chair, Fondation Botnar
As the global pandemic has persisted into this year, countries, cities, and people around the world have been forced to adapt and come to terms with an uneasy reality — the reality of living in a world with COVID-19. But while this has been such a difficult period for so many, the pandemic has reinforced the importance of the work of our partners and grantees, and the people we’re here to support, and shown us how much potential there is for us to make a real impact.
People everywhere have seen the value of finding new ways to work together and support each other in a way we haven’t seen before — particularly when it comes to the health and wellbeing of young people. It has been a wakeup call for the importance of creating inclusive, sustainable systems that form the foundations of our cities, and highlighted the vast importance of the responsible use of technology to create those systems. This work has never been more relevant or more valuable than right now.
And, as the world has adapted and evolved, so have we. Over the last few months, we’ve continued to bring our strategy to life across the foundation and throughout our projects.
Our new governance structures have already begun to show us the value that strengthened collaboration can bring, letting committees and working groups across the organisation focus more closely on the topics that drive our work forward.
Working with each other and our partners, we’re continuing to learn, develop, and grow; to make new progress every day. Together, we can be confident that Fondation Botnar will help create a world where young people can thrive, no matter who or where they are. I want to thank each of you for engaging so positively in our mission and helping us to advance our work collectively.
“2021 has been a big year — and we couldn’t have done it without you.”
“We enable environments for young people to have a better future — and the important chance to bring their ideas to life through platforms created in their cities.”
Chief Program Officer, Fondation Botnar
Our cities are changing. Within the next few decades, more than two-thirds of people will live in urban areas, and millions more young people will be growing up in fast-changing environments that are full of challenges — but also opportunities for a better life. As we’ve developed and learned over the years, we’ve begun to scratch the surface of just how deep the relationship is between young people’s wellbeing and the many interconnected influences of the world around them that can have positive or negative effects on them.
Nowhere is this more important than in growing cities. The pandemic has shown us more clearly than ever that our cities, and the systems they’re built on, must be sustainable, liveable, and safe for those young people. It is vital that they have inclusive and enabling environments that can support their needs and set them up to succeed in the ways they deserve.
In 2021, we’ve taken that approach to heart, with increasing success. We’ve seen our existing programs go from strength to strength and expand into important new areas, as well as supporting the launch of exciting new collaborations, working directly with young people as key decision makers and contributors.
young people, together
for an equitable
“The incredible potential of digital technology could transform the health and wellbeing of young people across the world — but it must be responsible and equitable. Championing that equity is both our opportunity and our duty.”
AI/Digital Program Manager, Fondation Botnar
2021 has been big for technology. More than any other event in recent years, the disruption caused by the global pandemic has shown us how transformative the power of technology can be on the lives of us all.
Within the space of only a few months, COVID-19 has advanced global adoption of digital technologies at a rate none of us expected, as the world fought to stay connected — and at the very same time, served to remind us why our communities are so important to us in the first place. This has been particularly true for young people, with unprecedented millions switching to virtual means for their education and social interaction. Across sectors, technology has become a lifeline, and its potential is vast.
But that sudden shift has also shone a light on how vital it is that potential is brought to life in a way which keeps equity, human rights, and sustainability at its very core. Digital solutions must be safe and reliable, decision-making transparent, and algorithms and human interfaces fair to all.
This year, as we’ve continued to learn, we’ve evolved our approach to put equity and humanity even further at the centre of how we approach our work in this space and unlock the possibilities of AI and digital for good. Through projects like DYNAMIC, I-DAIR, Afya-Tek and Fit4Future, we’ve seen how AI and digital solutions, when used responsibly, can have a hugely positive impact on the lives of young people the world over, while Transform Health has established itself as a multi-partner advocacy coalition that calls for a rights-based digital transformation of global health.
Introducing Fit4Future: 14 new projects
Unveiling recommendations for a healthier digital environment for young people with Governing Health Futures 2030
Transform Health welcomes new partners and readies the Health Data Governance Principles
DYNAMIC uses AI to improve child health
I-DAIR creates a new global map of research and development for digital health and AI
Connecting digital dots with Afya-Tek
equitable AI and digital
“Engaging young people from the very beginning of a partnership with a city and its ecosystem is an exciting process, which provides a unique learning experience for all parties involved.”
Partnerships Coordinator, Fondation Botnar
By 2030, almost 40% of the global population will be below 25 years of age, according to UN estimates. And yet, despite being the largest generation of young people in history, too many youth voices around the world are being left out of the decision-making process, denied their basic right to participate — especially in growing cities and low- and middle-income nations.
This year, we’ve refocused on and expanded our work supporting and enabling platforms that keep young people and their needs at their centre, to give them the necessary space to contribute to work that affects them and be treated as equal partners at every stage of the process. We’ve brought their knowledge to the job market through opportunities, seen young experts lead by example, and, through our Young Professionals Program, brought their voices into the heart of Fondation Botnar itself.
We’ve seen that, when they’re included as equal partners, young people can take the lead as drivers of social, economic, and environmental change in the 21st century with their digital skills and unique flexibility.
centre of conversation
Because knowledge combined with lived experience of young people is our power. 2021 has provided the world with unique challenges that have shown us just how important it is to truly understand the complex needs of people and contexts with which we’re working.
We’ve seen learning must be a continuous process. To have the greatest impact, we need to be able to continually monitor and evaluate our input from the very beginning. Only then can we help support projects that are able to overcome issues long into the future, make deep and effective systemic changes, learn and preempt challenges, and avoid leaving anyone behind.
This year we’ve seen time and again proof that the most effective, most impactful projects are the ones where local communities, and young people in particular, have a direct stake in them. The importance of letting people feel seen and respected cannot be overstated — moreover, it is also a moral imperative.
From a strategic perspective, we’ve seen that local ownership and close collaboration is vital from day one for real success in our projects; we cannot truly help transform the world of wellbeing if the people we’re working with aren’t being embraced as part of it.
Thanks in no small part to the COVID-19 pandemic, technology adoption around the world is happening at a much faster rate than expected.
The success of events like Digital Health Week, and major publications like the Lancet & FT Commission are demonstrating to leaders everywhere the impact that digital health can have on young people’s health and wellbeing. As that progress continues and technology advances, we need to be ready to harness that increased awareness and sense of urgency to ensure that technology is being used responsibly.
A word from Stefan Germann, CEO of Fondation Botnar
“Young people building partnerships across generations and taking a leading role in their own future has never been more important than it is right now.”
The last twelve months have been a vital exercise in living the values that we’ve built our foundations on. As we go forward, we’ll continue to embrace and adopt our relational approach to young people’s wellbeing; proud to be shaping our work based on how young people truly experience and interact with their world — not just in our own strategy, but as champions for them in the design and delivery of everything we collaborate on.
This year has been important for the foundation — taking the next step in our journey.
For me, the act of working ever closer with young people than ever has been important and inspiring, especially now. Their strength in the face of vast, global events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis have shown us once again the resilience, innovation, and optimism that young people represent.
As we mark the passing of another year, I think moments like these are a valuable chance for us to stop, take a look back, and reflect on everything we’ve achieved together, before we set our sights back on the horizon and move forward into the future.
Thank you to all our new and existing partners and supporters for your innovation and collaboration in 2021 — we look forward to carrying on improving the wellbeing of young people around the world, together.
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