Young people are full of brilliant ideas. It's up to us to listen

One Young World's co-founder explains why she has faith in young people to change the world for the better, as its summit returns to London.

Extraordinary protests from young people around the world have captured the hearts and minds of campaigners and the attention of media everywhere, with pupils walking out of their schools to demand greater action to stop climate change. 

The next generation is saying that the status quo is not good enough; Greta Thunberg (pictured, above) is perhaps the most high-profile young leader worldwide, but she is by no means the only one.

Throughout my life, I have seen the power of young people to inspire change in society. I grew up in Apartheid South Africa and saw again and again the incredible strength of activism in young people to stand up to authority, demanding a better future.

In equal measure, my career in advertising convinced me that young talent was being wasted, with corporations failing to nurture the next generation of leaders.

One Young World

This led me, 10 years ago, to co-found One Young World – now the largest global forum for young leaders. Every year, the brightest and best come together at our annual summit to discuss how to make a better world.

This week, the summit returns to its origins in London as more than 2,000 young people from more than 190 countries converge on the capital for a packed agenda of speeches, panels, networking and workshops. 

This year’s transformational agenda has been curated to fuel debate among our delegates, allowing them to put world leaders under scrutiny and opening up pathways for them to receive valuable mentorship.

Our ambassadors and counsellors

We will hear how individuals are disrupting and carving their own paths to success in their industry; stories such as that of model Halima Aden, who will talk the summit through her journey from a refugee camp in Kenya to world-renowned model – the first model of colour to wear a hijab on the cover of Vogue.

Alongside our delegates and ambassadors, we have a huge array of political, humanitarian and business leaders – One Young World counsellors – in attendance to provide counsel and guidance. These include former United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, Sir Richard Branson, the Duchess of Sussex and Sir Bob Geldof.

And watch out for Ellie Goulding, singer/songwriter and UN Environment goodwill ambassador, and her session on amplifying young people’s activism and driving towards a brighter future. She is the latest in a long line of famous names giving their time to drive change in an area they are passionate about, just as the likes of Emma Watson, Cher, Akon, Amber Heard, Terry Crews and Naomi Campbell have in past summits.

This is not to mention speeches from 30 global chief executives – all of whom will be tackling the core issues of our time.

Climate change

Climate change will, of course, be a huge presence during the week. It is a crisis that affects every country on Earth and every person at our summit and beyond.

Throughout the week, One Young World attendees will hear a myriad of angles on this issue, including climate change as a threat to global health, to endangered species and to human rights. Most importantly, we are bringing the largest corporations into the conversation, including Unilever, Sky and Virgin Media.

Mental health

2019 has been a titanic year in the fight to destigmatise and open up on mental health, driven in part by powerful marketing campaigns such as Instagram’s "#HereForYou", The Football Association’s "Heads up" and LadBible’s "UOKM8?" series, which featured One Young World ambassador Hussain Manawer.

Manawer will be part of one of our most important sessions on mental health at this year’s summit on Wednesday, in discussion alongside former political aide and author Alastair Campbell, who has spoken similarly openly about his battles with mental health. On Thursday, we’ll look at the mental health perspective from the tech and gaming industry with Niantic chief executive John Hanke.

Media freedom

Media freedom is a persistent challenge faced by nations around the world, including many of our delegates’ countries. More journalists than ever face persecution for their work and the tsunami of fake news is putting the basic principles of communication at risk. 

On Thursday, we will be running a plenary session to get to grips with the challenges of protecting truth in the media. Our expert panel draws on influential pathfinders such as Antonio Zappulla, chief executive of Thomson Reuters Foundation, and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman.

Why One Young World?

I am inspired every day by the dynamic work of young leaders. Since 2010, 21 million people have been positively impacted by initiatives led by One Young World ambassadors. Our Lead2030 programme is already funding visionary projects from young people that help meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

I look forward to our ambassadors’ vision and influence only expanding in the years ahead, providing the informed, educated and connected leadership the world so desperately needs. London is lucky to have them.

Kate Robertson is co-founder of One Young World

Picture: Getty Images

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