Climate Cardinals

An international youth-led nonprofit with 8,000 volunteers in 41 countries working to translate climate information into 100 languages.

Photo of Sophia Kianni
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Please confirm you meet the following criteria

  • We have submitted the supplemental form linked in the description above
  • We are aged between 14 - 20 as of February 11, 2021
  • We live in the United States or its territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa)
  • We are not employed by, or directly related (parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
  • We have been working on this project for at least three months
  • We consent to Ashoka and/or GM featuring our work on their website, social media, and in other materials regarding this Challenge using the information in our application
  • We confirm we have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Website: Instagram: @climatecardinals Facebook: Climate Cardinals Twitter: @climatecardinal

Date You Started Your Project

03 / 20 / 2020

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

A Google Scholar search of climate change publications will yield 3,700,000 research papers in English—3x more than Mandarin Chinese and French combined. Among the top ten countries most vulnerable to climate change, none are majority English-speaking. The populations unable to access sufficient climate change research and information are the most vulnerable to its effects. Consequently, these communities are left voiceless and uninformed.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Using our volunteer base of 8,000 people, we have translated over 500,000 words (3,000 pages) of climate information into over 100 languages. We have used social media to reach our 400,000 people, recruiting students to translate climate information in exchange for community service hours. We have partnered with organizations and institutions including the UNEP, National Geographic, and UNICEF, to translate their new climate and environmental research and documents. For documents that are highly technical or lengthy, we connect them with our partners, Translators Without Borders (Kato Platform) and Respond: Crisis Translation to assist them with the translation process. Our translations enabled the UNEP Youth #ForNature manifesto to be the most widely circulated petition on biodiversity action. We also have members and chapters in over 41+ countries, enabling volunteers to work autonomously to translate climate information that is relevant to their local communities. For chapters that need monetary support for these programs, we provide them an opportunity to apply for our Chapters Support Fund, with over 10,000$ in grants available.

3. Please tell us how you are using science, technology, engineering or math to address your environmental challenge.

In collaboration with our partner, Translators Without Borders, we use the Kató platform, a web-based translation platform, powered by SOLAS to assign and facilitate translations. The recently improved version of Kató is more robust than ever, with computer-assisted translation tools, functionality for storing common words and taxonomies. Translators can now use Kató to interpret for all media, including providing subtitles and voice-overs for videos. The platform is also used to train speakers of languages through machine translation, translation memory, and enhanced quality assurance tools. This management system makes us more efficient, due to our large volunteer base of over 8,000. In the past, we have translated highly technical research documents by the University of Michigan, Circle Economy, and the United Nations Environmental Programme. We collect scientific research and documents and work to breakdown the barriers between communities and the sciences by translating these sources and making them more accessible. We also develop our own infographics and guides to make more technical concepts more approachable to the layperson.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I realized the need for climate translation while on a trip to Iran in middle school. I was shocked when I learned that due to climate change temperatures in the Middle East were rising more than twice the global average. When I brought up my concerns to my relatives, I was disheartened when they informed me that they knew nothing about climate change. My shock compounded when I read a study that found only 5% of Iranian university students could properly explain the greenhouse gas effect. Determined to educate my Iranian family, I began to pore over climate research; however, I quickly realized that there was no information available in Farsi, their native language. I worked diligently with my mom to translate climate research to help them understand the severity of the climate crisis, and through Climate Cardinals I hope to continue making climate education more accessible.

5. Video (Keep it simple, your phone on selfie-mode is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

Since our inception we have built up an international volunteer base of over 8,000 people; translated over 500,000 words (3,000 pages) and distributed them through our network of partners and press contacts; partnered with leading intergovernmental organizations, nonprofits, and translation agencies; and received over 15,000$ of grants and financial support from groups like National Geographic to establish and expand our local chapters in schools and universities to over 41 countries.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

In order to tackle climate change, we need to empower a diverse coalition of individuals who are able to pressure governments and corporations to act. However, most environmental organizations do not address the linguistic barrier to information and education. We are the first nonprofit working to make climate research more accessible to non-English speakers.We believe your native language should not hinder your capacity to advocate for social change and environmental justice. Climate Cardinals endeavors to educate and empower youth who are often ignored in policy discussions.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made.

In the last 3 months, we have had over 100,000 people visit our website to access our translated documents. We have been able to recruit 8,000 translation volunteers and 500 team members. We have also established chapters in 41+ countries. We have translated 500,000 words (3,000 pages) of climate information. We also have formed important strategic partnerships that include: UNICEF, working to translate their 2021 Climate Change report and release these translations to the UN media, government, and academic partners. Circle Economy, to translate their Circularity Gap report that will be distributed to governments as a framework. UNEP, translated their Youth #ForNature manifesto on biodiversity action.

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

We plan to continue growing our regional chapter network by using our 10,000$ grant from National Geographic and working with their Young Explorer staff. We will have an anticipated 100 chapters around the world by April 2021, serving as a regional translation distribution outlet and fostering community-based action on the grassroots level. These regional chapters will conduct on-the-ground community outreach programs to educate and empower marginalized communities, host translation and research workshops, and translate one document per month into their regional languages. To disseminate these translations, we are solidifying numerous partnerships such as with Radio Javan, with whom we are educating 11 million people in the Middle East.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

Through social media and strong presence in news outlets including Forbes and the Washington Post, we have built a network of 8,000 young activists across 41 countries. Our team has reached over 400,000 people, and we plan to continue leveraging social media platforms to target and recruit youth globally. Climate Cardinals has empowered a youth community to tackle the climate crisis, immersing them in region-specific environmental policies and increasing their understanding of climate change.

11. How would you partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

Partnering with youth entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and leaders around the globe, Climate Cardinals seeks to amplify its network base and increase its distribution avenues. Working with these leaders, we also hope to better select climate research catered towards the needs of specific regions and work alongside policy-makers to combat language barriers, growing the magnitude of the climate movement and calling on governments to take decisive legislative action to institute environmental change.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

Perhaps the greatest obstacle facing the climate change movement is the lack of understanding of just how urgent of a threat climate change is to our existence. Through social media and press in outlets like CNN and NBC we are working to educate the public about why improving accessibility to climate research is so vital to ensuring the survival of our planet. We provide statistics on how translations can help increase access to climate education, improving public aptitude for climate action.

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Donations over $10k

14. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you? You’ll be able to select only one option.

  • Marketing Strategy

Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?

  • No

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Ashoka page or contact

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or General Motors, who was it?

My feature on Ashoka:


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Photo of Nick Christoforou

Sophia and Team, great work spreading climate change awareness and enabling others through technology.

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