Avalon (she/her) is a facilitator, entrepreneur and Founder of Sonder Youth.
This profile is part of our Changemaker series, focussed on sharing stories from across Australia from people working with youth-led organisations and movements to beat injustice and transform the future.
Avalon Bourne is a facilitator, entrepreneur and big believer in the power of the individual to create positive change.
She is the founder and director of Sonder Youth, an organisation based on the South Coast of New South Wales that empowers young people to ‘step up and do the thing’.
Doing the thing is an idea that has driven Avalon long since the creation of Sonder Youth four years ago. While studying international relations at university she travelled to Vietnam, India and Kenya, working with local grassroots organisations – some of which were started by just one person and had immense local impact.
This grassroots approach differed from her studies which focused on top-down processes, institutions and governments.
“I’ve never thought ‘I’m going to create all the change by myself’ – but I knew that my skill set was in working with people.”
Avalon started Sonder Youth with the same idea: to empower others, so the ripple effect of change could be felt beyond the local community.
“People on the ground – and having the self-belief, confidence, network to do these things – that’s when change happens.”
With that in mind, Avalon created the Changemaker Program: a 6-month afterschool program for young people offering autonomy, mentorship, and peer-to-peer support as they executed a project, campaign or event they designed.
‘The sense of self-efficacy from seeing a project come to fruition that you have designed has a major impact for those young people and their communities.’
Mental health is another significant component of Avalon’s passion for her work.
“There are so many issues – it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You don’t have the capacity to enact the change that needs to happen as a young person. Climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, dealing with COVID – so many things can lead you to feel powerless. This work is important because the only thing that will change anything is people stepping up.”
Avalon encourages the people she works with to think about themselves in this way, too.
“How can helping the people around you and engaging in a positive way, reflecting on your skill sets and values, how can those things create a sense of positive wellbeing?”
Consistently, even outside her work with Sonder Youth, Avalon’s philosophy of ‘doing the thing’ shines through.
“I love people who do things on a really small scale. Who aren’t particularly flashy, or when it’s not really newsworthy.”
“Beach cleanup, making a doco, changing careers, or just a different morning routine. Whatever it is, I’m so invigorated by people stepping up to do the thing.”
Now, in what Avalon calls the ‘snowball’ effect of her impactful work, Sonder Youth is seeing previous participants of the Changemaker Program return as leaders.
She is excited to see the continued impact and resilience of young people being amplified.
“It’s not about giving advice. They have the answers. How can we tell them what to do? The best thing is to ask them the right questions to get them to where they need to be.”