Wake up, wake up : One Young World (OYW) is here. The young guns arrive on the global stage and congregate under one roof to brainstorm solutions to the world’s biggest problems – the annual event commences today in Pittsburgh, PA for the third time in its history.
‘Junior Davos’ : what is OYW ?
It is a one-of-a-kind global forum where Gen Ys gather from countries all over the world to collaborate with high-level political, environmental and business leaders on prominent global issues. The event has been branded a ‘Junior Davos,’ as a group of up-and-comers discuss key issues and develop new ideas related to topics like global health, education, business and leadership. The event runs over an action-packed four days, and the US was selected at the host country this year because of the impending US election.
According to Founder David Jones the whole idea is to give brilliant minds a platform to drive and create positive change.
in the face of global disarray : OYW’s beginnings
Kate Robertson and David Jones, two executives from marketing powerhouse Havas Media, realized that action needed to be taken in the face of such a deep global crisis. Decades of experience, a worldwide brand and a network of key global decision makers wasn’t enough though, what they needed was the energy and idealism that only youth can provide. Thus they came up with the idea to launch a global event for young leaders and bring together a group with the level of diversity that rivals the Olympics; they registered OYW as a charity in 2009 and threw the inaugural event in London in 2010, followed up by last years event in Zurich (pictured below).
the faces of the future? : who attends
The official criteria for applications is youth with leadership potential between 18 and 30. Applications are submitted to OYW several months before the event and potential candidates are then told whether they are eligible for sponsorship.
Essentially, if you want to go to the event you need to be (or at least believe that you are) a young gun with the potential to shake things up. Then you need to find a sponsor, or group of sponsors, to back you and foot the $5,200 bill (same for all participants regardless of geography) to make the trip. The majority of participants from the developed world are sponsored by large corporations.
Looking at this years field of attendees (1,500 attendees projected), it seems that most countries are quite well represented.
‘you’re the pilots now guys’ : event format
High-level counsellors and global leaders are brought in to lead the plenary sessions and deliver speeches. Counsellors and speaders at this year’s event include Bill Clinton, Jamie Oliver, Muhammed Yunus, Arianna Huffington, and many more prominent names. The diversity and depth of expertise at the event is impressive.
Last year, Bob Geldof gave a rousing speech (clip above) that blasted global leaders and told youth at the summit, “you’re the pilots now guys.” Mr. Geldof and other leaders of the plenary sessions will focus on the following major topics:
Focus: Why do we allow the physically disabled to be socially disabled?
Focus: Why can’t every child read?
- Global Business
Focus: What is the new CSR?
- Human Rights
Focus: Who is responsible for upholding human rights?
- Leadership and Governance
Focus: Why will this generation will do a better job?
- Sustainable Development
Focus: What is the new green?
- Transparency and Integrity
Focus: Why is corruption so hard to fight?
Counsellors and industry leaders provide insights and perspectives about the specific topics, OYW delegates are then given an opportunity to ask specific questions about the topic in a public forum. Following these sessions, ambassadors come up with calls to action and delegates sign a pledge to show their commitment.
More information about the impact from previous years’ initiatives can be found at the link below:
Our two cents : props and critiques of OYW
Props to Kate and David for organizing the event ; judging by the energy in room and the looks on peoples’ faces, it’s a memorable moment for many. One 2011 attendee who we talked to called it a truly inspiring experience.
It does have a certain marketing polish to it that breeds skepticism, at least in us. Putting high-profile market players, some with companies who have questionable histories on ethical issues, on the podium to inspire idealistic up-and-comers is fine to a point, as long as the promotion is tapered with the backstory on the company or individual. For example, last year a Shell executive lead a session on the future of energy – is sending a representative from Shell really the best way to open a conversation about renewable energy and a non-fossil-fuel based economy?
We’ll let you answer that question for yourself.
What we love, is the way the whole event is put together and broadcast. The coverage is amazing, allowing people from all over the world to participate in these important discussions. Twitter is buzzing (look for trending topics) and the conversation goes global as soon as the debates begin – it really does feel like open, borderless collaboration. And beyond the feeling is the look ; they make it look really sexy to save the world : it is sexy to save the world : )
If you want to follow the action, the event will be streamed live (check the website for details) or use the hashtag #OYW to participate in the conversation on Twitter.
beyond the event : takeaways
It is a very interesting model to explore for future collaboration ; adults bring the wisdom and experience, youth come in with the energy and ideas. Put them in the same room and what happens? We wouldn’t know unless we tried, but the idea to inspire us Gen Ys with stories and perspectives from the older generation is worthy enough to experiment with as long as it is framed in the right context (ie. equal footing). One Young World has done a brilliant job executing the event and testing this model.
But : we don’t need to wave flags around and fork out big cash to facilitate this type of collaboration. It can happen here and now – we have the technology, enough pressing global issues and the energy – so let’s open up our own debates and collaborate. The beauty of the event is that it should inspire everyone to take action, regardless of age, race, gender or creed. So let’s get started!