Gathering at One Young World with over 1300 delegates, and a speakers list that resembled a mash up of the Emmys and the United Nations, was an inspiring experience and incredible venue at which to represent the University of Ottawa.
As a youth engagement activist at one of the biggest gatherings of youth in the world, I was excited to meet some of the young people nominated by companies and organizations globally to become empowered young leaders. There was also the opportunity to hear world-renowned leaders and this century’s biggest change-makers, such as Kofi Annan, Bob Geldof, Mary Robinson, and our own Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Long days listening to these leaders was empowering, but it was truly the stories of the young leaders from around the world that resonated with me. These young people had taken inspiration in their lives, from challenges in their own communities, and taken major action to change lives. In every field and sector, from education in Papua New Guinea, to Olympian refugees from Kenya, and teaching coding in Israel, youth had different stories, but similar outcome: change. Though many of the impressive speakers held inspirational stories, they did not share them as explicitly. They were there to encourage youth to be active and resilient in creating change, from the grassroots perspective, within companies, or in whichever venue is most appropriate. As many colleagues said, the most important way to create change is within the way that makes the most sense for the individual: work with your strengths to create the most sustainability.
For my own experience, as a student in my final year of my undergraduate degree, One Young World was an opportunity to see the future of youth activism, and how that will be a part of my life in the next few years. After post-secondary, it can be difficult to continue with extra projects when they are not central to your work. Many attendees of the conference were already working, and in this framework started and continued to incorporate actionable change into their everyday life, whether related to their work through corporate social responsibility initiatives, or by making their work social enterprises and not-for-profits. Generating a lifestyle where moving the bar on social change is part of every young person’s existence is certainly the message of One Young World; and the venue definitely has the potential to create it. Now, after the conference, it is up to each delegate, myself included, to choose whether to live that life.
I look forward to continuing my own work in youth engagement, with the strengthened network and resources of now being a One Young World Ambassador, and the repertoire of inspiration the four days in Ottawa provided. A big thank you to the Faculty of Social Sciences for supporting me as a delegate for One Young World, and for uOttawa in sending a delegation of seven students who represented the University on the world stage, just down the street.
Megan Beretta, Faculty of Social Sciences