Fortunately for our planet, many people are filled with optimism. “I am going to change the world” is a phrase I often hear from advocates on every issue. It is a great sentiment, and one I wholeheartedly support. But it must be paired with a realistic understanding of the challenges facing our planet. I am inspired by people who have this special blend of optimism and a clear view of what it means to face adversity and poverty and champion opportunity worldwide.

People who say they are going to “change the world” most often, and deservedly so, get the question: “How?” In communities across the globe, change makers, entrepreneurs, and social good innovators are creating change in their local communities and have learned valuable lessons (good and bad) to share with the world.

As the international community begins to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, a comprehensive agenda to end poverty and improve lives around the world, we will need the incredible ideas and work of committed individuals to achieve the goals. The UN is working hard to address these challenges. What excites me is this new, growing constituency of people around the world, in every time zone on our planet, who believe that optimism and action, paired with purpose and accountability, can create a better world.

Here are some interesting people and organizations to watch – leaders in their communities and in their sectors – who can teach us a lot about the complexities and opportunities in every time zone around the world.

A quick editor’s note: We have organized this list by time zone – an experiment for us as we spotlight people from around the globe. This is not a comprehensive list, and certain time zones offered a unique challenge as we prepared this post. We welcome ideas of other global change makers who are supporting the #globalgoals or whose efforts can teach our community some lessons about these issues.


Susan White

Okay, so UTC-12 has no inhabitants according to official sources. But Susan White, head of the Pacific Reefs National Wildlife Refuge, is one of the leading advocates for protection of biodiversity and life below water in this region. She knows that the inhabitants of this time zone are indeed important, even if they are not human beings.  As the steward of Wake Atoll, Johnston Atoll, Howland and Baker Islands, Jarvis Island, and Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, and all of the reefs that reside in the region, she has a platform to fight climate change and advocate for responsible consumerism from within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Dr. Josie Montena Tamate

This past November, with the help of a grant from Oceans 5 – an international funding collaborative comprised by members including Leonardo DiCaprio and Bloomberg Philanthropies – and support of the local government of Niue, Dr. Josie Montena Tamate lauched the Niue Ocean Wide (NOW) project to conserve and sustainably manage Niue’s waters. By creating tightly-managed resource use zones and a world-class marine reserve, Tamate believes that Niue could become a global model for eco-tourism that will strengthen ocean conservation.


Michael Edward “Eddie” Walsh

Michael Edward “Eddie” Walsh founded the Islands Society with the mission of inspiring and empowering islanders to participate in international affairs to affect positive changes in their local communities. Through innovative policy planning and thought leadership, Walsh and his team are helping to advance the conversation on issues such as good governance and climate change – issues at the core of the global goals and the Paris climate summit. A former Senior Foreign Correspondent covering diplomacy, defense, trade, and cultural issues in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, Walsh is intimately familiar with the issues that island nations face.


Cécile Gaspar

Cécile Gaspar is the Founder and President of Te mana o te moana, a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 that strives to protect the marine environment of French Polynesia, to educate the public about the local natural heritage and its fragile balance, and to promote research on the Polynesian marine flora and fauna. A veterinarian, Dr. Gaspar is also co-manager of the Moorea Dolphin Center, a senior director at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Tetiaroa Society, a nonprofit which supports a sustainable relationship between mankind and nature in French Polynesia.


Caitlyn Fox

Tapped by Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan to lead their namesake LLC, Caitlyn Fox has the responsibility of helping to distribute the 99 percent of Facebook shares they pledged to give over their lifetimes. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a part of the philanthrocapitalism movement, a trend of billionaire donors making major financial contributions to charitable causes. Fox and CZI are important names in the development space with their long-term focus on personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people, and building strong communities.


Davis Smith

As founder and CEO, Davis Smith embedded social purpose into Cotopaxi, an outdoor gear and active lifestyle brand, which became the first company to incorporate as a Benefit Corporation from the start. A passionate social entrepreneur and adventurer, Smith has been an angel investor to many innovative projects and businesses that have social missions. Following on his entrepreneurial successes of,, and, the United Nations Foundation is proud to have him on our new Global Entrepreneurs Council.


Alex Gourlay

Alexander Gourlay is the Executive Vice President of the Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc and President of Walgreens. Gourley has played an integral role in establishing a partnership between Shot@Life and Walgreens to create the Get a Shot. Give a Shot.® campaign, which helps provide a child with a lifesaving vaccine for every immunization received. Because of Gourlay’s tireless work, more kids are now able to say “when I grow up,” instead of “if I grow up.”

Ruben Cantu

Entrepreneur Ruben Cantu has a burning passion for using media for social good. Leader of Austin +SocialGood, Cantu is connecting community leaders and professionals who donate their time for the betterment of the local Austin community. Through social innovators fast pitches and a social innovators fund, Cantu and Austin +SocialGood are providing educational and entrepreneurial opportunities locally.


Gabo Arora

Recognizing the effectiveness of virtual reality as a communications tool, UN Senior Advisor and Filmmaker Gabo Arora is using VR technology to spread the word about the UN’s work worldwide. Working alongside Chris Milk, his seminal film “Clouds Over Sidra” won awards for its powerful storytelling of a young girl’s experience in the Syrian Crisis and life in a Jordanian refugee camp. Arora’s name is certainly one to follow, as his VR films will continue to be impactful as the technology is adopted more broadly.

Noa Gafni

It is difficult to choose any one social good project to describe Noa Gafni, simply because she is involved in so many! As a +SocialGood Connector, Gafni is an exponent in the social impact community. In fact, she is taking social impact to the next level as the CEO of Impact Squared. Beyond this, Gafni is a Global Shaper for the World Economic Forum and she has advised multiple startups.

Anastasia Dellaccio

Anastasia Dellaccio is more than just my former colleague here at the UN Foundation, she is a powerhouse in communications. As Director of Marketing and Communications for Sister Cities International, Dellaccio is responsible for helping to mobilize support and awareness to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation one community at a time. It is only appropriate that she is a +SocialGood Connector with her role.

Michelle Arevalo-Carpenter

Michelle Arevalo-Carpenter is a human rights lawyer who is an exemplar of a social entrepreneur being the change she wants to see in the world. As Co-Founder and CEO of IMPAQTO, Arevalo-Carpenter has created a pipeline for entrepreneurs to get the support and incubation they need to succeed across diverse markets. She is planting seeds of change with each new entrepreneur she assists, and helping support business in Ecuador at the same time!


Alex Bustamante

Alex Bustamante is the National Director of Sustainable Bolivia, a nonprofit community of 36 partner organizations that seeks to procure the volunteer base and financial resources for nonprofits. With a focus on providing international students and professionals access to global educational opportunities, Bustamante is a true connector. The nonprofits that Sustainable Bolivia supports span issues from sexual and domestic violence to youth performing arts, from combatting HIV/AIDS and dabetes to environmental conservation.


Tomás de Lara

Joining the many social innovators on this list, Tomás de Lara is a passionate social entrepreneur focused on sustainable economies and technology in Brazil. Co-leader of Sistema B, de Lara is encouraging businesses in Brazil to embrace the B Corp movement, where they add socially minded second bottom line, whether that be on civic engagement, the environment, justice, or another cause. de Lara lives up to his title as +SocialGood Connector, weaving together business networks and causes.

Carolina Andrade

Carolina De Andrade is the Executive Director of Social Good Brazil. A +SocialGood Advisor herself, Andrade is passionate about creativity, innovation, and positive social impact. In her role, Andrade manages international partner relations to augment the success of Social Good Brazil.


Octavio Llinás

As the Director of the Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands (PLOCAN), Octavio Llinás directs one of the world’s most important scientific research initiatives. As the leading coordinator of the multi-stakeholder nonprofit consortium, Llinás manages the many networks of researchers and projects devoted to ocean observation. From real-time monitoring of ocean acidification, water-column and deep-sea ecosystem, ocean biogeochemistry, and geophysics, to the testing of new underwater vehicles, underwater electrical grids, and other R&D projects, Llinás and PLOCAN embody the 14th Global Goal: Life Below Water.


Talina Pereira

Founded under the name Instituto da Condição Feminina over 90 years ago when the government felt the need for an institutional mechanism that engaged public policy related to women, the Cape Verdean Institute for Gender Equality and Equity (ICIEG) has a long, rich history as a leading women’s organization in Cape Verde. Talina Pereira, the current President of ICIEG, has continued her organization’s stalwart work promoting gender equality and inclusionary development projects. Under her leadership, Cape Verde is working alongside UN Women to promote global gender equality, reduce discrimination against women, and design policies that promote and monitor equity between men and women.


Adnane Addioui

Adnane Addioui wears many hats. On top of his role as a +SocialGood Connector, Addioui is the Co-Founder of the Maghreb Social Innovation Retreat, an inviting network of North African leading innovators. Addioui has committed his life to work in the MENA region, particularly in Morocco, to enable creative thinking, entrepreneurship, and innovation for the common good. The other hat Addioui wears is as the Enactus Country Leader for Morocco.

Mac-Jordan Degadjor

Mac-Jordan Degadjor is an IT professional by day and +SocialGood Connector by night, planning Social Good Ghana’s annual summit as its founder. An award-winning Ghanian blogger and TEDx Organizer, Degadjor’s passion for social change is part of all that he does. Founder of Africa New Media, Degadjor promotes the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship throughout Africa with a particular focus on startups and women entrepreneurs.


Corinne Woods

Corinne Woods is helping communicate about, and inovle the world in, the most important stories of our time. She currently serves as the Director of Communications for the World Food Programme. Prior to that, she helped coordinate and strategize communications around the historic launch of the Sustainable Development Goals. Woods has directed the UN Millennium Campaign, served as Senior Advisor for UNICEF’s Global Campaign on HIV/AIDS, led UNICEF’s Advocacy and Communications team, and led communications for Save the Children in the United Kingdom. I’ve been fortunate to work with and learn from Woods as a mentor and colleague and am glad that one of the toughest communications challenges has one of the best communicators in the world on the job!

Sebastian Lindstrom

Filmmaker Sebastian Lindstrom uses the power of visual media to keenly knit together stories to connect communities around the world. +SocialGood Connector and Leader of the What Took You So Long? guerrilla filmmaking project, Lindstrom takes audiences to remote areas of the world in search of untold stories and unsung heroes. Some of his most recent work has involved Somalia, South Sudan, and, believe it or not, camel milk. He is as passionate about his stories as he is about the future they can change.

Ismaël Le Mouël

My good friend Ismaël Le Mouël is an originator. He is the founding president of HelloAsso, a crowdfunding site devoted to community involvement that does not charge its campaigns for funds raised. Ismaël founded SocialGoodWeek in France and is a self-described “#SocialGood addict,” which makes it no surprise that he is a +SocialGood Advisor. If you want to maximize your social impact, connect with Ismaël.

Esther Agbarakwe

Esther Agbarakwe is the founder of Social Good Nigeria and a +SocialGood Advisor. She has represented Nigeria and Africa at over 10 high-level global governance meetings on sustainable development and has served as the African coordinator of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) Youth and Children Major Group. She serves in serveral important capacities in her home country.  Beyond this, she is an activist and founder of the Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition, the largest youth climate movement in Nigeria. I can pile on my praises about Esther for hours, but I will just say this: Esther is one of the most passionate and industrious climate change and women empowerment activists that I know, and if you work in either of these spaces you need to know her name.


Ruba Al-Zu’bi

Like many on this list, Ruba Al-Zu’bi wears many hats. Al-Zu’bi is a lecturer at AMIDEAST on green and social innovation, Senior Advisor for the Federation of Environmental NGOs, and Environmental Policy Consultant for the Global Environment Facility, Al-Zu’bi is one of the most connected individuals in her field that I know, which is probably why she is also a +SocialGood Connector. She has contributed to the successful implementation of key reform and development projects in the green economy and sustainable development arena. She also served also the first female Director and first Policy Director at the Ministry of Environment in Jordan.


Ruth Aine

Ruth Aine is more than your average journalis; she is a storyteller. A blogger for Foresight For Development, Aine has a focus on international development. A +SocialGood Connector, Aine covers issues related to governance, youth issues, and entrepreneurship. Like me, Aine has a passion for communications, viewing it both as an art and as a tool for social change.


Ashish J. Thakkar

An entrepreneur from age 15, when he borrowed a small loan to set up an IT company in Uganda, Ashish J. Thakkar is currently the head of the Mara Group, the burgeoning and dynamic pan-African investment group operating in the banking, real estate, infrastructure, and technologies sectors. Ashish has taken his business acumen into the social good space as the head of the UN Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, which aims to bring together high-profile entrepreneurs and thought leaders to find innovative solutions to global problems. If you are interested in the world of entrepreneurship and social bottom lines, Thakkar is a leader you should be listening to…because he sees a future that is exciting and involves us all.

Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi

His Excellency Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi is the Director of Energy & Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is one of the reasons why the conversation on climate change has grown in the MENA region. As the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency, he is the focal point for the UAE on energy issues. His focus includes integrating clean energy and sustainability into the development of both domestic and international policy.


Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

Ever ask yourself what you would say to the world while accepting your first Academy Award? Well, after winning this year’s Oscar for best documentary short, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy used the opportunity to talk about the topic of her film A Girl In The River: The Price of Forgiveness. The difficult topic was about honor killings, a common practice in Pakistan where men kill female family members for “dishonoring” the family. Since gaining international attention, Obaid-Chinoy’s film has pressured the government to change laws to end the practice.


Sartaj Anand

+SocialGood Advisor Sartaj Anand is a parallel entrepreneur with, in his words, “an unreasonable dream to positively impact 1 billion human lives within his lifetime.” In many ways, Anand is a sewer of seeds of change. By working to provide individuals and organizations with social and economic opportunity, Anand is causing waves of change. Founder of Egomonk, a boutique consulting firm, Anand boasts that he can help client nonprofits and business grow reach 100x growth – and he has the results to prove it. Sartaj understands that you can only have an impact if you can stand by what you are doing with confidence.  I am grateful for this lesson from him and his work.


Chime P. Wangdi

As the Secretary General of the Tarayana Foundation, Chime Wangdi leads the organization in its efforts to engage rural populations and lift vulnerable populations up from poverty. By promoting the arts, capacity building, education, and developmental skills, the Tarayana Foundation is helping the disadvantaged Bhutanese populations take a larger part in both their government and in their communities. Wangdi is a compassionate supporter of microfinancing as a means of uplifting communities.


Tanti Liesman

Tani Liesman is the Pulse Lab Jakarta Partnership Coordinator, part of the UN Global Pulse Innovation Labs. Established in 2012, Pulse Lab Jakarta brings together UN agencies, the Indonesian government, NGOs, the private sector, and researchers to find and adopt new approaches to digital data for social development. Among the Lab’s data priorities are food and fuel prices as well as employment and urban poverty numbers, which help Indonesia shape its post-2015 agenda. Capitalizing on the use of mobile technology, the work of Liesman’s team is having major impacts on public policy, evidence of the power that big data can have on development.


Maria Ressa

Maria A. Ressa is the founder and CEO of, a social news network where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fueled actions for social change. Rappler comes from the root words “rap” (to discuss) + “ripple” (to make waves) – and Ressa is doing both. An experienced journalist from the Philippines, Ressa believes harnessing social networks in the country to build institutions from the bottom up. Ressa is a visionary in the media space, which is why she is also a +SocialGood Advisor.  Maria is changing the landscape around communications…that includes all of us!

Lanzhou Huaneng

Lanzhou Huaneng is the CEO of Lanzhou Huaneng Eco-Energy Development Co., Ltd. Founded in 1996 to support the UN Industrial Development Organization’s international solar energy technology efforts in China, Huaneng is a major power player in the solar market. Developing enterprising high efficiency solar cookers, heating devices, water heaters, street lights, and public sanitation equipment, Eco-Energy is trying to find clean energy solutions to help those in developing rural communities. In a partnership with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Eco-Energy is developing stoves suitable for rural women across Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, and the Pacific where cooking over open flames and gathering firewood pose great health risks.


Hiroyasu “Ichi” Ichikawa

Hiroyasu “Ichi” Ichikawa is the founder of Tokyo-based SocialCompany Inc., a software development shop turned office workflow platform company that continues to develop tailored apps for client needs. As a consultant, Ichikawa helps governments, corporations, and NGOs utilize the capacity of social media to empower entrepreneurship for good through research, writing and public speaking. Ichikawa also organizes +SocialGood events in Tokyo as a Connector as well as other entrepreneurial-focused events as a Community Manager for Meetup Japan.


Holly Ransom

Named one of the “100 Most Influential Australian Women” by the Australian Financial Review and Westpac in 2012, Holly Ransom, based in Sydney, is renowned for her dedication to driving innovative change within the corporate and non-profit arenas. The CEO of Emergent, a company specializing in the development of high performing intergenerational leadership, Ransom operates in a multi-stakeholder space where she is constantly put to the test. Co-Chair of the UN’s Global coalition of Young Women Entrepreneurs, Ransom is actively supporting the economic empowerment and participation of young women.


Christian Nielsen

With over 25 years of experience working in Indonesia, Fiji, the Soloman Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati, New Caledonia, and many others, Nielsen is an expert on the international aid and development sector and small island issues in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. As the Founder and Executive Director of Live & Learn International, Nielsen works with 11 countries across the Asia/Pacific region towards an equitable and sustainable world free of poverty.


Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

“Iep jeltok ajiri ne” – You are fortunate to have a girl child. This is Marshallese poet, writer, performance artist, and journalist Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s favorite phrase, and I have to say, the world was fortunate to have her recite her powerful poem “Tell Them” at the UN’s 2014 Climate Summit. A powerful ode to a country slowly sinking beneath the waves, Jetnil-Kijiner’s poem is just one example of her creative leadership in the fight against climate change. Art can change the world, and Kathy is proving that.

Who do you know, in your time zone or around the world, that is working to support these important goals? Share with us!