Come and join our global community of young community activists

QS World Merit volunteers campaigning in their own community about their own local issues as seen from a young person’s viewpoint

I am writing this blog on the train going down to London to chair a Board meeting of QS World Merit. This is an organisation which was founded in Liverpool, and which engages young people all over the globe in doing things within their own communities to help deliver the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

It is, of course, a truism to say that the future belongs to our young people. What isn’t true is the common view that young people are not interested in doing anything to help a wider society and seek only to further their own interests. Of course, that is true for many young people but it is also true for older people as well.

In my political life there has always been a cadre of young people who get involved in the political process but not always in the Party-Political process. I joined what was then the Liberal Party in 1967 and have stayed an activist member ever since. Even when I lived in Turkey for 3 years I helped set up the Turkish Liberal Party although in all truth it didn’t last very long.

But for every young person who enters the elected political field there are dozens who engage inside their community in a whole host of different ways. They care for their neighbours, undertake clean ups of their area, help disadvantaged people with practical solutions and act as carers for those who cannot help themselves. They also want to campaign for change. Just look at the work that people like Greta Thornberg do.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of which there are 17 were introduced in 2015 and have targets for creating a better world. Some of them deal with gender or educational imbalances, others deal with health, sanitation and water problems. Others deal with human rights and the state of land and water resources. You can find out more about them at

The role of QS World Merit is to provide support to young people either in their University or in their community to decide their own priorities and deliver their own programmes. We are very much a bottom-up resource for the young people rather than a top down setter of programmes. Our work is global as is our Board. Our Chief Executive will be at our meeting in person today, but we normally see her on screen because she is based in Canada. Our Chief Operating Office is Dutch but lives in Spain. Our partnership manager is Russian but lives in London. One of our Trustees is based in India where we are currently taking on three staff to work from Mumbai.

In Pakistan, as an example, we have a national council and a series of local councils of young people all of whom are committed to local activities. In South Africa period poverty has been an issue for our groups. In others we help our young people deliver environmental programmes. One of the things that we will be doing this week is to link up to a global charity which assists with the planting of trees.

To do all this we have developed an impact APP which enable people to show what they have done and to have their actions validated by their peers. Through QS, a private company which works within the Higher Education field with 50+ offices globally, we can offer scholarships and a range of other opportunities for those who show their ‘merit’ through our App.

For many though the reward is twofold. Firstly, knowing that they are really helping their community in a very practical way and secondly, knowing that they are working with young people in other parts of the world on a similar mission to themselves. We hope when Covid is finally under control globally to start rewarding some of them by bringing them together at regional or global events to share experiences and just enjoy each other’s company.

We have signed up 25 Universities throughout the World in a programme which will come into full operation from September this year. In the UK this is being led for us by Exeter University. Work has already started in 5 Unis and in about 15 Countries. Although we work globally, we will particularly concentrate on 10 Countries in Africa and seek ways to link up the developed world with the developing worlds to share experiences. This week we are having exploratory discussions with organisations in Liverpool and Cheshire about how we can develop community-based links between the North of England and developing countries particularly in those areas where there is a link to our own diaspora communities.

You can find out more about QS World Merit at If you are interested in joining our work at your University or in your community, you can get all the contacts from that site and can look at some of the training and other materials that we are continuing to develop.

I love my work with QS World Merit. I receive so much energy from seeing young people working hard for a better community and a better world that it enables me to go out and do even more of the work that I do in my own way to deliver a stronger, better Liverpool.

Some people think that the SDGs are just for ‘poor’ countries. That just isn’t so. At a meeting of local government Leaders and Mayors from all over the world in Liverpool 6 years ago I pointed out that within minutes of where we sat in Liverpool Town Hall there were disadvantaged communities, racial and sexual discrimination, poor housing and educational disadvantage.

None of us can change the world by ourselves. But together we can. If we can get together the interests and enthusiasm of the willing who are passionate about improvement we can change the world street by street, community by community, town by town and Country by Country. The problems of the world are too important to be left to Presidents and Prime Ministers. If we all did our bit to improve things, together we can indeed change the world.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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