On Monday, 23 September, I found myself humbled not by the words of a statesman, but by a fictional anthropomorphic bear.
“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” – Winnie-the-Pooh
This sentiment, expressed by her Royal Highness, Princess Eugenie of York, was a refreshing change to the more traditional quotes used by public figures when addressing the topic of international relations and appealing to world leaders.
Delivered to the British contingent of the One Young World delegation during a pre-summit reception at St James’s Palace, London, these words capture the essence of what is the largest gathering of nations outside of the Olympic Games.
One Young World (OYW) is a not-for-profit organisation which provides opportunities for young adults to join in a global network of socially committed individuals with leadership potential. The One Young World summit – the primary activity organised by the UK-based charity – brings together the brightest and best millennials (aged 18-30) to ensure that their concerns, opinions and solutions are heard. From there, they take action, driving positive change in their communities, companies and countries.
It’s through a call to action that One Young World’s plenaries, breakout sessions, tours and keynote speeches attempt to enable leadership potential. To ‘take action’ is no small feat. Many nations and intergovernmental organisations are plagued with indecisive bureaucrats who lack the morale and motivation to lead – behavioural traits that don’t sit well with the world’s idealistic young leaders.
Today’s young people have grown up in a world of digital immediacy. It should come as no surprise that the sheer pace with which the internet has enabled them to learn, communicate and create has benchmarked their expectation for how quickly they want to see change happen in the real world. A quick tweet, and revolution is theirs, or so they hope. However, as the Arab Spring clearly demonstrated, it wasn’t people sitting behind computer desks that ultimately led to action, it was those who rallied together and through a physical presence, embarked on campaigns of change that made the difference. Even though the internet played a crucial organisational part in the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests that followed, traditional methods of leadership were the key drivers and these ‘old school’ teachings can’t be downloaded from a server – they have to be experienced.
One Young World and its partners understand that there’s no substitute for meeting face-to-face and from 2-5 October in Johannesburg, South Africa, each delegate will emerge from their own part of the Forest and offer up their story, their hopes for change, and debate models of leadership.
For me, I’ll be travelling in from the United Kingdom with a 32 strong delegation from the UK Chile, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Ireland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – a truly global cohort. The delegates include Telefonica employees and young people funded through the organisation’s youth initiatives like Think Big, Wayra and Talentum.
Our group is peppered with exceptional leaders, and many have been asked by One Young World to participate, chair breakout sessions and speak on the main stage. Charles Oliver, a young apprentice working through the Talentum programme will be running a session on youth unemployment, as well as presenting a business charter for Sir Richard Branson’s B-Team.
Other stellar delegates include Luis Lopez Mendez, who’ll be speaking on the main stage on the problem of youth unemployment Mexico. In addition Carlos Aravena – described as the Mark Zuckerburg of South America – will speak on education and the work he does through Poliglota: the first face-to-face social network for language exchange in the world.
To be part of a delegation showcasing such leadership potential is an exciting prospect and I hope to learn a lot from the experience, as I did when Bob Geldof imparted some of his wisdom during the inaugural One Young World in 2010. Speaking directly to the young people in the audience, the political activist said that those present were “not leaders yet.” Instead, he told them that they had simply been equipped with the tools and knowledge necessary to become leaders and that the real challenge would start the moment they got home.