These nine simple words are to be found whenever the line ‘famous quotes by Nelson Mandela’ is entered into Google. (Other search engines are available!)

Sadly, political leaders of all persuasions continue to struggle to emulate the great man – known by the world as Madiba (chief) and Tata (father). Why? Perhaps it’s because we feel we know and believe the story behind the words – how each syllable was hard won, hewn out of a life well-lived; not researched from a spin-doctor’s thesaurus.

This generation faces so many complex needs: from broken families, to intolerance and discrimination in local communities, to nations split by conflict, to a world where hunger, disease and disaster needlessly kill thousands of people each day. A new generation of leaders is needed to boldly step up and speak out against poverty and injustice, with Mandela – like courage and wisdom. However, we don’t all need to be statesmen. We can all influence in different ways and I believe that you are never too young to be an influencer.

Like the young boy in the photo, influencing the Vice President of Bolivia during a campaign to promote better treatment of children in that country, your endorsement can carry great weight. In a country where eight in ten children endure physical violence, the Good Treatment Campaign is changing tens of thousands of adults’ attitudes to the abuse and exploitation of children every year and promoting positive practices in young people’s relationships with each other. The campaign has had a significant impact on society and on authority figures: members of the National Assembly have praised the campaign for bringing members of different political parties together.

In the UK, people who catch Viva’s vision can use their influence in their own networks. One of Viva’s influencers amongst the business community in the UK is Isabelle Boscaro-Clarke from Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire. She uses her influence to raise awareness and support of Viva’s work because she believes we “have a unique, networked approach to protecting children at risk across the world”. Business professionals and philanthropists search for ways to find meaning and significance through giving generously and a personal recommendation from a staff member is the most effective way of applying to a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) budget.

Using your network effectively can help charities like Viva connect with a wider group of people who have a heart for development alongside a desire to see sustainability, impact, reach and value for money. Influencing enables others to be great – whether you’re a young boy in Bolivia or the President of South Africa – and giving a little strategic time can help bring lasting change to people’s lives. Could you be a part of that generation?

Martin Thomas

This article first appeared in the November/December 2014 issue of Sorted magazine and is republished here with their permission.