How to start a youth-based non-profit organization


Global Agents for Change – Vancouver, BC


Shawn Smith, 27
Sean Peters, 23
Christina Wu, 23
Bronwyn Cass, 21
Gabrielle Blackburn, 21
Ivy So, 23


Global Agents for Change (Global AFC) is a Vancouver-based charity seeking innovative solutions to global issues. Social change catalysts, we directly support sustainable approaches to global poverty while inspiring a generation of youth to create a better world. Founded in fall of 2006 by a dedicated group of students and young professionals, Global AFC has grown incredibly quickly and has made an impact locally and globally.

Our flagship project, Riding to Break the Cycle (RTBTC) is a 25 youth, 7 week, 3000 kilometre cycling tour from Vancouver to Tijuana, Mexico. This mobile leadership camp develops leadership skills and facilitates powerful connections between both the participants and the communities visited, while raising awareness and funds for microcredit initiatives in the developing world.

After a successful pilot in summer 2007 raised over $30,000, the trip has been held annually and additional RTBTC routes are being added in other regions. All funds raised are placed in an entirely youth managed microcredit fund and lent to developing world entrepreneurs around the world, helping them pull themselves and their families out of poverty.

Additional Global AFC programs include:

  • AFC-U: University chapters and social entrepreneurship competitions working to raise awareness and funds for student-led microcredit initiatives and global issues.
  • Young Agents: A global citizenship program recognizing young leaders (12-18) acting locally or globally with mentorship and financial support for their projects, as well as working with youth to inspire and empower further social change projects.
  • The Catalyst: A youth run magazine discussing issues of global development, featuring the work of young social change-makers across Canada and beyond, and showcasing opportunities for involvement.
  • Awareness and Fundraising Events: An annual gala and youth awards, as well as many other events to inspire others, create awareness and support our (and other) programs and microcredit lending fund.


We firmly believe that youth hold the power to forge a new reality for future generations, and that global poverty is at the root of many of the world's greatest problems.

As founding President, Shawn Smith has an educational background in finance and an passion for creating social change. A self-funded trip to the 2006 Global Microcredit Summit in Halifax cemented Shawn's belief in microcredit as a powerful tool to help those in the developing world pull themselves out of poverty.

Global Agents for Change began simply as a cycling trip to raise awareness and funds for microcredit initiatives among a small group of friends. We quickly realized the momentum and inspiration the project was generating and felt we must create an organization capable of containing and building upon this energy. Global AFC was born.


The first step in creating this movement was deciding to take action and talking to anyone and everyone that we could. Soon several friends had committed to helping with the initiative and the organization formally launched. With gathering momentum we realized the need to take more concrete steps to develop our plans - these are outlined in our guide to starting a youth based non-profit organization.

The Results

Global Agents for Change continues to grow at a rapid rate. The following represents some of the results to date (January, 2008):


  • Over $40,000 raised thus far for Global AFC youth-managed microcredit funds. This has been lent to well over 200 families across the developing world to assist them to climb out of poverty.
  • Over $20,000 to deliver our inaugural Riding to Break the Cycle tour and a further $10,000 in organizational sponsorship to cover basic costs and program development.

Awareness, Media and Recognition Highlights

  • Live in-studio feature on the Global Television Noon News in BC
  • Live 20 minute interview on Nightline BC (CKNW radio BC wide) and several  stories on News 1130 radio.
  • Over 20 print features including The Georgia Straight, Business In Vancouver, and papers in Bangladesh, the Czech Republic, California and many local community papers.
  • UN Works (United Nations) website feature (upcoming)
  • Keynote Speaker at United Nations symposium on Web 2.0 Philanthropy in Prague, Czech Republic
  • 45 youth between 2007 and 2008 on our Riding to Break the Cycle intensive leadership bike tour.
  • Global AFC spoke at schools, hosted 40 students at our fall Microcredit Challenge, and reached thousands of people during poverty and microcredit awareness events in Vancouver and along the Pacific Coast.