Lauren Garey

Today started with a plea for us to ignore the negativity and to focus on the good we want to see in the world. In doing so, we can experience first-hand the contagious growing power of good and we can governise a positive sense of possibility in the people around us.

Lily Cole, a model and philanthropist, spoke with us about her new social network, Impossible. This network links wishes/needs to people who can help and uses thanking as an abundant currency on the site which enables people to recognise offline goodwill. This business is an interesting play on the gift economy as it triggers cycles of reciprocity and generosity. When asked why she started the site, Lily responded, ‘We must ally economic and social needs so there are no perpetuating conflicts between them.’

The importance of giving, doing the right thing, and optimistically focusing on the good resonated throughout the Summit. One speaker touched on the topic of optimism by highlighting a quote from a French philosopher, ‘there were many terrible things in my life, but most of them never happened.’ Winnie Mandela told us that her husband, Nelson Mandela, believes that ‘our society needs to re-establish a culture of caring’ while Arianna Huffington encouraged us enthusiastically saying, ‘we can start a revolution of compassion.’

Ron Garan, a famous astronaut, showed us pictures of the 180 days he spent in the international space station and told us that he had a new-found appreciation for our earth upon return. All of these lectures proved inspiring and will serve as a constant reminder to appreciate the good around us and to work continuously to create more. 

We next learned that one cannot focus on the good in the world without ensuring that they have found the good within themselves. In a lecture by Arianna Huffington on personal well-being, she emphasised the importance of taking care of yourself by getting enough sleep, setting aside time to relax and to reflect, and saving time for meditation, yoga or whatever helps you find your centre of strength.

We heard about the importance of learning to disconnect from technology and to reconnect with ourselves. By focusing on our personal well-being, we will be happier, more optimistic and more productive. Likely we will achieve more success, especially if we enable ourselves to redesign the two-pronged definition of success (fame and money) to include well-being as the third tenet.  After all, as Warren Buffett aptly stated, ‘the best investment you can make is in yourself.’

The Summit then continued onwards to address the sentiment around leadership – in business, government and politics. Many wondered what active role we can play in leadership given our youth. Arianna Huffington defined leadership as follows, ‘leadership is about seeing possibilities where others see problems.’ She continued on, with the rest of the panel, to encourage us to share the possibilities that we see with figures of leadership in our employers, governments, countries, and corporations – regardless of our age. Kofi Annan asserted, ‘You don’t have to be a certain age to take responsibility. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.’

Ultimately, what I found most interesting was how many of the leaders from different generations indicated that we can work together – across the generations – to transform leadership, to ensure various opinions are heard, and to make an impactful change in the world. It is inspiring to hear about not only the potential collaboration, but also the existing collaboration happening around us. We learned about Havas’ appointment of two directors under the age of thirty and about Coutts’ Youth Forum, built following the early One Young World summits. 

We also learned that Virgin founded a team of entrepreneurs, executives, and social and business figureheads to create a committee known as the B Team which intends to build a new charter for leadership in business. This committee attended the summit as a group to ask us for our input on their three key objectives:

·       Empowerment of Young Employees

·       Purpose Beyond Profit

·       Collaboration as well as Competition

The team closed by telling us that they believe businesses have the responsibility to help young leaders to draw the future closer and to make our present reality a thing of the past. Richard Branson stated, ‘business is only working when it is making something positive in the world.’

Leadership spans beyond business and into politics/government, the place where we next examined our role. We focused on two key questions: What is the new democracy? What is the power of protest? On the topic of the new democracy, we heard first-hand experiences from speakers from Palestine, Israel, Greece, the USA, Venezuela, and the UN.

All of these speakers shared one common conviction – a belief that common public good should be the focus, rather than political affiliations and popularity ploys for upcoming elections. The Youth Envoy to the UN Secretary General informed us, ‘we make the countries, not vice versa’ reminding us of the active role we must play.

We received a call to action: get involved in politics if you do not like the way things are done. Why? Because as India’s youngest mayor, Ashish Damle, shared ‘politics is not a dirty game, there are only dirty players.’

Below are a few shocking statistics about youth and its relationship to politics/government:

·       Globally 28% of young people do not participate in their country’s political process

·       In 2012 only 45% of young Americans voted

·       In India, 50% of population is youth, but 100% of the politicians are 45-75 years of age

·       Tax evasion is responsible for 1/5 of Greek debt, yet the consensus amongst the youth is that they want to pay taxes and to get back on track

How can we ensure our voices are heard? Protest is a commonly used mechanism which has frequented the press lately. We heard from delegates from countries which experienced major, influential protests in the last year: Bulgaria, Turkey, Egypt and Brazil.

These speakers explained to us the power of numbers, common causes, and congregation, but juxtaposed this dialogue with a request not to bring violence into it. If you want to protest, to make a petition, to rally a large number of people behind a cause, there is a way to do it peacefully. A delegate from Turkey, Kaan Ozguney, shared with us his view that ‘protest is not enough. Be a citizen every day.’

Being a citizen every day requires us to not only act in the best interest of society, but also to bring others upward with us, encouraging them to do the same. If we continue to focus on the good and remain optimistic we will likely be able to act as global citizens daily and to take Arianna’s advice to ‘live life as if it is rigged in your favour.’