#LetMeLearn: the story of a global education campaign

Theirworld Global Youth Ambassadors Blessing Adogame, Gabriel Monteiro, Yuv Sungkur and Mathilde Boulogne in New York (Theirworld/Ilya Savenok)

Global Youth Ambassadors, Let me learn, Theirworld

How Theirworld mobilised young people, the UN and international organisations to call for urgent and game-changing action by world leaders.

Why the #LetMeLearn campaign is crucial 

There’s a global education crisis. Even before the pandemic, there were 260 million children out of school and half of all children were not reaching their full learning potential. 

But in a world of so many crises – such as Covid-19, climate change, conflicts and the cost of living – the global education emergency was in danger of being seriously overlooked and underfunded.  

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recognised that last year when he called for the historic Transforming Education Summit to be held during the UN General Assembly in 2022. 

Theirworld knew it was vital for the summit to deliver real and long-lasting action. Decisions at the UN would have implications for every country and community. Young people had to be “in the room” and the big decisions had to be made only after their experiences, concerns and ideas were heard and understood by leaders. 

We saw that our role was to mobilise young people and partner organisations, ensuring the crisis was visible and that actions were taken to tackle it.  

Lessons and wins from the past 

Benedict Joson Podcast 2

Theirworld’s #UpForSchool Petition is presented in 2015 to Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, by Global Youth Ambassadors Benedict Joson and Dawnique Shury, along with singing star Shakira (Theirworld)

Theirworld has a track record of successful education campaigns. They include the biggest education petition in history, when 11 million people signed the #UpForSchool Petition in 2015 to demand every child get a primary school education. 

In 2016, our campaigning led to the creation of the Education Cannot Wait Fund to deliver learning in humanitarian emergencies. That year our #5for5 campaign also made the case for investment in early years development and education, a call now echoed by many leading organisations. 

Our #YouPromised campaign in 2017 and 2018 held leaders to account over their pledge to get all Syrian refugee children into education. Also in 2018, Theirworld’s Global Youth Ambassadors led a campaign to back the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd), with 1.5 million people signing a petition to the UN. IFFEd was finally launched last month after years of relentless advocacy by Theirworld and young people. 

The #LetMeLearn campaign explained 

#LetMeLearn’s aim was to mobilise young people to demand world leaders take the actions needed for every child and adolescent to receive a quality education. Specifically, it asked for leaders attending the historic Transforming Education Summit to listen to the voices of youth when making decisions. 

Ben Hewitt, Senior Campaigns Advisor at Theirworld, said: “The phrase emerged from consultation with our Global Youth Ambassadors from around the world. Once we picked up the phrase, other young people started to use it and it became a rallying cry that unified the movement.

“We wanted to support individual voices in the campaign but also show that a generation of young people had similar frustrations with the education systems in their countries.” 

The campaign was designed so that every organisation and group could rally behind it. It was key to push a strong, simple and compelling message to cut through all the other issues facing world leaders. 

#LetMeLearn was launched on August 1, along with the findings of Theirworld’s global poll of 10,000 young people in 10 countries, which showed that education systems are failing a generation and leaving them unprepared for the future. 

At the launch, Guterres called on organisations and individuals to engage actively with #LetMeLearn and to ensure the inclusion of marginalised groups often excluded from decisions affecting their future.

António Guterres

Through this campaign, the diverse experiences and views of young people and lifelong learners everywhere will feed into the discussions, decisions and outcomes of the summit. 

António Guterres

To launch the campaign, Theirworld Chair Sarah Brown wrote an article about the role of young people in global education. 

Based on our consultations with youth and education experts around the world, Theirworld asked leaders and government ministers to commit to three main actions – increased investment in early childhood education, more funding for the education of refugees and displaced children, and a global funding plan that includes the International Finance Facility for Education.    

How the campaign was created 

Theirworld worked with a variety of partners to create #LetMeLearn. We were excited to use our partnership with marketing giant Omnicom to work together on its strategy and implementation. 

The research team at Hall and Partners established a ground-breaking survey of 10,000 young people in 10 countries, which gave us the insights and mandate to share their views. 

A campaign pack was created and the translations team at Mother Tongue gave support, connecting around the world and ensuring everything we did was translated into numerous languages.  

Hewitt said: “Our aim was to empower communities to take part – especially those whose voice is rarely heard. The pack guided organisations and young people on how they could share their messages with leaders and be heard. 

“It focused on the power of voice, the strength of sharing our own personal experiences. Instead of organisations speaking on behalf of young people, we put young people at the front of the campaign.” 

The team at creative agency BBDO supported the overall strategy and creative elements of the campaign. This was particularly important for our time in New York, as world leaders needed to see #LetMeLearn was high-profile and hard to ignore. This was done through two major elements: 

  • A hologram installation in Brooklyn Bridge Park, projected against the Manhattan skyline. Theirworld teamed up with BBDO New York to bring people face-to-face with children affected by the education crisis. 
  • Outdoor advertising, with Theirworld films projected on big screens in New York, to remind leaders of the education crisis as they travelled around the city. 

Bringing the big guns on board 

GYA Yuv Sungkur , sitting on UN platform alongside Secretary-General António Guterres, speaks at the youth day during the Transforming Education Summit (Theirworld/Ilya Savenok)

As well as the UN’s backing for #LetMeLearn, a range of other major partners came on board – including the UN agencies UNICEF, UNESCO and the UN Foundation.  

We were also joined by the Global Partnership for Education, Global Citizen, the Education Commission, Unlock the Future and civil society organisations like ITA in Pakistan, Climate Action Schools and Hello World. They and many others have helped to spread the message. 

For the first day of the Transforming Education Summit, UN leaders agreed to a specific youth day, with almost young 2,000 people joining the discussions. For the Leaders Day, Theirworld negotiated a commitment to have young people in the room and on the big screens in front of world leaders. That day opened with Theirworld’s film showing young people demanding #LetMeLearn and our Global Youth Ambassador Yuv Sungkur sitting on the platform alongside Guterres. 

During the summit and General Assembly, Theirworld and our GYAs also had talks with Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

And we hosted an event attended by Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, and the other leaders including the heads of the UN agencies UNRWA and World Food Programme. Young people sat at every table, holding discussions with decision-makers.  

Young people rise to the challenge 

Global Youth Ambassadors and other young activists at UN headquarters with Little Amal, the giant puppet representing the plight of refugees (Theirworld/Ilya Savenok)

Before the summit and UN General Assembly, the GYAs sent a powerful and passionate message to world leaders, calling on them to end the education crisis. The blunt statement said: “You’re not doing enough.” 

GYAs and other young people made videos backing the campaign and talking about their own experiences of education. A compilation of these was shown at the summit’s Leaders Day. That enthusiasm and energy turned #LetMeLearn into a social media success (see the section below on the digital impact).  

Theirworld also took GYAs from various countries to New York for the summit and UN General Assembly. Dozens of young activists from other organisations were also present. 

As well the youth film being shown and Sungkur’s appearance with Guterres, GYAs appeared at the summit’s special youth day, as well as at events hosted by the UN and Theirworld and at the Unlock the Future of Learning Festival. 

GYA Mathilde Boulogne from France said: “A lot of countries are really making youth voices count.” Fellow GYA Jennifer Borrero from the United States said: “Finally, youth are getting listened to.” 

Celebrities join the cause 

Famous people from a variety of countries supported #LetMeLearn through social media posts and videos. Among them were Stephen Fry, Priyanka Chopra, Bill Nighy and Choi Siwon. 

Theirworld Ambassadors Matt Lucas and Steve Nguyen turned their social media channels over to our Global Youth Ambassadors on International Youth Day on August 12, giving them an audience of millions. Nguyen also created an animation for the campaign which had more than 230,000 views. 

The digital impact of #LetMeLearn 

The campaign generated a social media surge. In total, it #LetMeLearn saw more than 30,000 posts from more than 180 countries – with a mind-blowing two billion potential impressions, according to Sprout Social media tools. 

Theirworld’s TikTok channel, launched only this year, grew more than 200% during the campaign.


of #LetMeLearn videos

60% watching them to the end and 16,000 people watching the films more than once

Theirworld also worked with specialist digital campaigning agency Electica to set up an innovative campaign to directly reach people at the Transforming Education Summit and the UN General Assembly. As they browsed mainstream news sites, they encountered the stories of Syrian refugees asking world leaders to #LetMeLearn. 

What leaders said about #LetMeLearn 

The voices of young people remind us every day why as leaders and decision-makers we must stay committed to addressing the global learning crisis.

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio

Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education: “I have been listening to young people and they all have one single message: #LetMeLearn. It is time that we take this message seriously and bring their message to the halls of the United Nations.” 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres: “I pledge to listen, learn, discuss and act on the views and experiences shared through the campaign – and to encourage world leaders to do the same.“ 

The #LetMeLearn legacy 

#LetMeLearn campaign videos and messages were shown on giant screens around New York

The Transforming Education Summit has been a turning point for education. In his vision statement, the Secretary-General said: “Young people will be the heartbeat of this effort, leveraging their voices, experiences, knowledge and agency. The summit has helped to generate a new momentum and to seed a public movement for the transformation of education.” 

Theirworld is excited to be part of this growing movement and we will continue to support of our network of young people around the world to play their role. 

“It’s been an incredible journey for Theirworld and our supporters,” said Theirworld President Justin van Fleet. “Six years and 1.5 million signatures later, the IFFEd announcement will unlock billions in funding to help children globally. Congratulations and thanks to all who made this possible.” 

The next steps 

Theirworld has 2,000 GYAs who are committed to taking the actions needed and holding leaders to account. We want to see to real change, with lasting improvements to education systems. 

While we have achieved a lot in recent weeks and months, there is still much to do – particularly in the area of early years development and education. A strong start in life gives children the building blocks they need to succeed. We want to see big changes in country and global support for the early years. 

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