You would be forgiven for thinking we live inside a huge, literal steaming pile of garbage. The political landscape grows increasingly frightening each day as the world is forced to respond to an ever-increasing series of threats. So it would be easy to resign yourself to this reality, especially if you’re young. We’re made fun of for every aspect of how we live. How could anyone really take us seriously if we tried to stand up for what we believe in?

But as hard as it seems, it’s possible to make a difference. Growth Out of Chaos, a panel at this November’s ComplexCon, offered proof. Civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson; actress/activist Yara Shahidi; multihyphenate Jaden Smith, who co-founded the eco-friendly JUST Water; and new media journalist Noor Tagouri talked about how to work toward a better tomorrow amid the insanity of today. 

All it takes is one idea and the right mix of determination and willpower to effect change at the local level. Start with one thing you’re passionate about and find small, local ways to organize and find solutions to the problem. That’s what the 20 people on this list did—some starting at 6 years old. They’re here to prove that no matter the obstacle, and no matter your age, you can work hard and make sure that you leave behind a world that is just a little better than it was when you found it.