AY Young - RSA Fellow profile - RSA

AY Young

AY Young

CEO and Battery Tour flagship artist AY has powered global performances with 100% renewable energy, impacting communities in need with his regenerative live music.

The RSA Fellowship is an eclectic mix of talents. AY Young and his philosophy of ‘radical collaboration’ fully aligns with the RSA’s Design for Life mission and personifies our community and its innovative work perfectly.

You might think AY Young is not your typical RSA Fellow. The US singer, songwriter, producer, Eagle Scout, UN Youth Leader and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) champion, and creator of the innovative ‘Battery Tour’ combines a range of talents with infectious activism.

A former X Factor contestant, the ‘hip-pop’ artist has supported musicians including Wyclef Jean and Wiz Khalifa and is collaborating with N9ne and Peter Gabriel on Project 17 – a concept album highlighting each UN SDG. He has performed at the closing session of COP 28, in New York’s Times Square and at hundreds of concerts around the world.

AY Young performing - RSA Fellow profile

So not someone you would perhaps expect to have ‘FRSA’ after their name. But, in many respects, Young is the embodiment of the Fellowship. As he pointed out in an interview with the RSA Journal, Young’s philosophy of ‘radical collaboration’ – bringing together a range of individuals and organisations to make the world a better place – is very much aligned with the RSA’s mission to enable people, places and the planet to flourish in harmony.

The RSA is literally the epitome of what I have based my life on, of what the Battery Tour is, of what Project 17 is. The RSA is, across the board, plugging people in and it’s powering change.

AY Young

The goal of a regenerative future is fundamental to Young’s activism. This can be seen not least in the Battery Tour, which is powered solely by renewable energy and raises awareness about the support needed by communities around the world that have no access to electricity.

Powering change

“What drew me to the RSA was the simple fact that you guys are a convener. You’re bringing people together,” he told the Journal. “The RSA is literally the epitome of what I have based my life on, of what the Battery Tour is, of what Project 17 is. The RSA is, across the board, plugging people in and it’s powering change.”

Radical collaboration will be very much in evidence during London Climate Action Week (22-30 June) when the RSA and Young come together to host a day of conversations focused on how artists can mobilise audiences and communities to champion sustainability.

The ‘Building bridges’ event, taking place at RSA House and online on 26 June 2024, brings together leading figures from culture, industry and civil society. They will share insights into how we can foster the cross-sector collaboration needed to achieve the UN SDGs.

Ahead of London Climate Action Week, Young shared his thoughts about working in collaboration with the RSA and being a Fellow.

Building bridges: London Climate Action Week

Public talks

RSA House and Online

Join us at RSA House, and online, for a special event during London Climate Action Week 2024 with musician, UN Youth Leader and Sustainable Development Goal champion AY Young, to explore how we can bridge divides that prevent progress towards sustainability and regeneration.

Q&A with AY

Q1. How did you hear about RSA and what compelled you to join?

Through my partnerships with BNP Paribas and others in London, I heard about the RSA and how it is uniting people from all facets of humanity, and it's been doing so for hundreds of years. And because I leverage music, culture and arts to bring people together, build bridges and break down barriers, an organisation like the RSA is a perfect fit for potential collaboration or adding value. So I had to connect.

Q2. What does being an RSA Fellow mean to you?

Being an RSA Fellow means the world to me. I'm a huge believer in collaboration, radical collaboration. I believe that's the only way that we can achieve huge things like sustainability or protecting our environment or regenerating our planet. And I don't think any one person can do all this work on their own.

Q3. What do you hope to get out of your relationship with the RSA?

With every relationship that I have, I hope to add value. My hope in my relationship with the RSA and collaborating with Fellows is to simply add value and power change together. I'm here to get the world plugged in. I'm here to advance all the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. And so I hope that I can create and foster relationships and add value to projects or companies that are doing any one of these things.

Q4. What do you wish to accomplish with the Battery Tour in the next five years?

We have a pretty clear vision of what we want to accomplish with the Battery Tour. So far, we've powered 952 concerts using 100% renewable energy. We just had the milestone of doing the first-ever renewable energy-powered concert in the history of Times Square. We've also brought energy to over 19 countries, to communities and places that were lacking energy. I call this Music for Impact. I want to help bring power to over 500,000 people across the world. We want to reach over a billion people with this Music for Impact platform.

Through Project 17, we hope to launch a Global Goals Project – one song for each of the 17 SDGs, teaming up with a sponsor as a corporate, a nonprofit as an implementing partner that receives the funds of the music. Then a 17-concert tour that will also be a fundraiser to progress the 17 goals and advance sustainable action and impact.

Q5. What advice would you give to young social innovators?

The advice I'd give any young changemakers is to simply know your ‘why’. I think change comes from passion. But in order to know what you're passionate about, you’ve got to know your why, and what drives you. Once you know what drives you, you can figure out your passion. Once you know your passion, you can use it to take an action every day to help you and help better the world around you. And once you know your passion and you take actions with that every day, action will turn into change, and you'll really be able to change the world.

Are you between 18-25 and want to become a Fellow?

If you’re aged 18-25 become a Fellow for £1 a week, support the work of the RSA and access opportunities to amplify your impact. Together we can enable people, places and the planet to flourish in harmony.

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