AIESEC finds itself surrounded by brilliant leaders at the Social Good Summit

Happy Monday everyone!

This week I have been given the fantastic opportunity by our lovely UN representatives, Tami and Eliane, to attend Mashable’s Social Good Summit at the 92Y in New York City.

The Social Good Summit is a three-day conference where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions. Held during UN Week from 22-24 September, the Social Good Summit unites a dynamic community of global leaders to discuss a big idea: the power of innovative thinking and technology to solve our greatest challenges.

I started off the day in the Digital Media Lounge, where hundreds of journalists and bloggers gathered to watch the day’s events and surrounded themselves with camera equipment and gadgets. It really felt like the “blogger-sphere” for me. I have never seen anything like it!

The organisers at Mashable and the United Nations Foundation have really done a great job bringing the right profile of speakers – previous heads of state, current United Nations representatives, entrepreneurs, activists and celebrities – to speak about development, the world we live in and how we need to act to eradicate poverty.

I spent most of the day absorbing the knowledge in the room, meeting fantastic social entrepreneurs and even meeting some AIESEC alumni!

You may recognise this amazing and approachable fellow – the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations – Jan Eliasson, whom is an AIESEC alum and supporter from AIESEC Sweden. I spoke to him after his keynote around the Human Right of Water and Sanitation for all. He remembers his AIESEC years with joy and sends his regards and support to AIESEC’s entire network.

One of the main themes of the day seemed to be around young people and development, and their push for a better world.  Some of the most high-profile speakers – from HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, to Ben Keesey of Invisible Children Inc. and Helen Clark, the administrator of the UNDP – spoke about this generations ability to speak up and act swiftly to create the change they want to see. They even brought people in who demonstrated these actions; one of the most impressive for me being Jessica O. Matthews of Unchartered Play, Inc. who created a soccer ball that when played with generates electricity.

 

If there is a lesson I have learned from the first days of Social Good Summit, it’s that there are a lot of young people that are trying to take action and are doing some pretty cool things. There are also a lot of platforms – like Ryot.org and Change.org – that help young people to take action when they don’t know how. What we need to make sure happens, is that all groups – from youth and corporate to government and civil society – come together to put in all efforts for the last 900 days of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals so that whatever comes next does not seem so difficult.

Social Good Events are happening all over the world in conjunction with the Social Good Summit. AIESEC in Brazil has been supporting the creation and organization of Social Good Brazil Seminar on the 24th of September that will be available via livestream with English translation.

Check out their website for more information (www.socialgoodbrasil.org.br/2013/live) or follow the conversation on twitter by using @socialgoodbr, #socialgood and #2030NOW

The end of the IANYD and ICMYO Meetings – just the start of AIESEC’s involvement with the United Nations

Hello again everyone.

I have been quite absent over the last few days, I know. I actually have been running around from meeting to meeting to event to meeting, and it has been an amazing experience.

I have taken part in the IANYD – Inter-Agency Network for Youth Development- Meeting as well as the ICMYO – International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organizations- Meeting over the last four days. As I indicated in my last post, this is the first time AIESEC has participated actively in these types of United Nations affiliated events in a very long time, so this week has been very informative for myself and for AIESEC as an organisation.

We are much more aware of the strategic focuses of the United Nations when it comes to youth, and specifically what the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmed Alhendawi is trying to push within the United Nations. Even more importantly, we have identified points of collaboration with other youth organisations; something AIESEC has been very happy to do for a few years now.

I really believe that AIESEC now can see many more ways we can contribute to the United Nations work, and how we can continue to fight for the World We Want with other youth organisations around the world. Working with other youth groups to make sure that the youth agenda is pushed, is listened to, and is committed to by member states is how we will make it happen. Youth have spoken up, and have already started taking action – it is time for our leaders to help us make it happen.

 

Day 1 Wrap Up: How to make Youth-SWAP more actionable

Hello everyone,

Day One of the IANYD conference proved to be a long and informative one. Learning more about the Youth-SWAP, and how the United Nations wants to move forward with making sure it is implemented is quite an intense discussion.

I spent a large part of the day with one of AIESEC’s New York based representatives Eliane, and she helped bring me up to speed with the youth initiative and what AIESEC’s role could possibly be.

 

There was a lot of emphasis on what the role of youth is with the UN. The Director of the United Nations Population Fund, Babatunde Osotimehin described it nicely by saying it is now the time that the UN is talking with and not talking to Youth.

 

In the afternoon we split into working groups to come up with recommendations for the UN on how to take action on their commitments. I joined the working group on employment and entrepreneurship, because I thought AIESEC had a lot to contribute in that discussion.

The conversations with the people at the table were great, but for some reason they left me wanting to hear more- not necessarily more around SWAP, but more around action. As AIESECers, we are very used to having one year to make an impact; we have to move quickly, and start implementing right away or we risk doing nothing with the one year term we have. Sometimes this leads us to have the “legacy syndrome”, where we do anything to leave our mark, sometimes reinventing the wheel when we don’t have to. But overall, it teaches us that we must move fast to make an impact.

Youth-SWAP was released in 2012, and a year and a half later, it seems it is still not clear on the actions it wants it’s member states to take. If the UN really wants to make an impact in the area of Youth, which I feel it genuinely does, it needs to figure out how to work more swiftly and smart to start taking actions that improve the lives of young people now.

I will be talking a lot more with some of the other youth organisations, but also Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, whom is so passionate around making sure that the Action plan on Youth works! I hope that we can not only identify ways that we can make sure the commitments for employment and entrepreneurship are met, but also the role that AIESEC can play in these plans.

My question to you, and I hope you participate in this discussion:
If the overall goal of the employment and entrepreneurship focus area is to ensure greater opportunities for youth to secure decent work and income, what do you think the first actions need to be? And how can the UN and Youth organisations make this happen?

AIESEC goes to the Big Apple to participate in UN Youth Action Plan discussions

Hello from New York City!

As AIESEC International, we made it a priority this year to really understand the role AIESEC is playing as the largest youth-led organisation in the world with the United Nations, as well as with the Secretary-General’s focus on Youth.

In January 2012, the Secretary General laid out his five-year Action Agenda which laid out five generational imperatives to be addressed by the United Nations requiring the mobilization of all the human, financial and political resources available to the Organisation. Working with and for young people is one of these imperatives.

AIESEC is attending the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development’s (IANYD) Open Meeting from the 18-20 of September with other Youth-led Organisations and Networks to understand the System-Wide Action Plan on Youth (Youth-SWAP), contribute to discussions on creating concrete proposals for partnerships between these organisations and the United Nations entities, and establish mechanisms for accountability and increased participation in implementing the strategies.

The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi with be participating in the week events to provide more information but to gain our ideas and support for the mandates he has taken by the United Nations for the Youth Agenda.

 

I will be live-blogging from the conference to give you an update on conversations, but also to gain your insight and questions so I can share it with the group of experts that are here to listen to our ideas and concerns, and use them to improve the strategies and programmes for Youth-SWAP.

Check out some information about the System-Wide Action Plan on Youth HERE

If you have any questions or comments, you can tweet them to the conference by using the tags: @UN4Youth #openmeeting or tag @AIESEC or me @cassruggiero

I will keep updating you as the week goes!

 

Being in Egypt through the Crisis: A Lesson in Leadership for a Youth Organisation

Why a youth-led organisation brought 800 young people to Egypt in the midst of its worst political turmoil since the Revolution of 2011.

It started with a dream. The global team of AIESEC had spent weeks discussing the issues the world is facing today, and the type of leadership that the world needs to overcome them. We wanted to make sure our organisation was contributing to changing the world through changing its leadership. The best way to do this was to have the world in one room – young leaders from 124 countries in one place to engage, discuss, connect and create the movement they would lead together.

Over our 65 years of existence, the mission of our organisation had been tried and tested. But we were not prepared for it to be challenged to its core while we were leading it.

The location for AIESEC’s 65th International Congress had been chosen in early 2012, by our 100,000 members of students and recent graduates from across the world. Our different member countries are able to put forward bids to host the conference, and the bids are then voted upon – very similar to the Olympic Games process. The Congress was to take place in Egypt – the cradle of civilisations – and this was decided months after the Revolution of 2011 that changed the face of the country, the Middle East, and the way the rest of the World would approach change. This would be the first time that AIESEC would hold a conference of this size in the Middle East region, a concept that both inspired and excited the entire network.

The 1400 students managing AIESEC in Egypt saw this as an incredible opportunity to showcase their beautiful country and culture but more importantly to host this important conversation about young people’s role in creating a better world. They immediately got to work on organising the biggest AIESEC conference ever in the best place they could think of, Sharm el-Sheikh – the city of Peace.

 

The demonstrations on the 30th of June in Cairo and the events that followed afterwards changed everything. The country was again in the midst of massive social and political change. Our conversation on the role of youth leadership was more relevant than ever, but our event was on the brink of cancellation. Surrounded by multi-national corporations and countless governments’ advice to enlist a travel ban on Egypt, AIESEC needed to make a decision.

Our organisation was build upon a platform of change. AIESEC came to be after the Second World War, when a group of students decided that the only way to stop history from repeating itself was to ensure cultural understanding in future generations. An internship programme was created so that young people could gain personal and professional experience while discovering a new country and culture. Fast-forward 65 years, and AIESEC is providing over 26,000 young people life changing internship experiences in 124 countries that contribute to their ability to understand the world, their own values and how to take leadership in making change.

The paradox that the crisis in Egypt caused within the organisation was simple – we could either decide to cancel the event due to the leadership crisis the country was facing and the uncertainty it brought managing a large event there or we could to commit to supporting the conversation of how to develop better leaders for Egypt and the World to avoid these situations in the future.

This decision was not an easy one. The entire leadership team of AIESEC International struggled with fully understanding the risks we were undertaking, the true nature of what was happening in Egypt, and the full effects of canceling this conference on the organisation and quite possibly the world. Our first and most important priority was the safety of every single delegate, volunteer and partner that attended our conference. While we may be the executive body of the largest youth-led organisation in the world, we were not experienced enough to make this decision alone.

We invested as much time, energy and money as it took to have the full understanding of the situation. Our President, Rolf Schmachtenberg, even flew to Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh to gain more perspective on the security issues the country was facing. We soon realised that many of the security concerns of the media and different governments were very specific to certain areas within the country, and not affecting Egypt as a whole. In particular, the location of our conference was unaffected by the situation. After gaining insight, reports and perspectives from our own trips and hired professional risk assessment specialists, we decided that with some diligent to our original plans and some extra security measures, the location of our conference was as safe for our delegates.

With all of this information and support, we decided to take a bold stand and move forward with the congress in Egypt.

While we made this decision, it did not necessarily make going to Egypt much easier for the team or our delegates. With every new event in the media came a phone call from our family and friends, worried about our safety and asking us why risk going to Egypt. Some delegates were even asked to not attend by their parents. Every concern expressed to us made us re-evaluate our decision over again in our minds.

But there is a strong reason why 800 young people made the active decision to continue on this journey to Egypt. For some of them, doubt may never have entered their mind at all and they were looking forward to the trip to Egypt all year. For others, they questioned themselves until the moment they made it home safe and sound. But for one moment, in the closing hours of the conference, every delegate knew exactly why he or she were there.

It was a moment where 100 Egyptian delegates and organisers were asked to stand in the center of the room with 700 of the international delegates circled around them. I was part of the international group, staring inwards at this group of Egyptians who looked exhausted after not sleeping for 10 days because they were working endlessly to organise the conference. This group did not disappoint all week, even when some of the worst events in their country’s history were taking place just a few hours away. Their commitment and purpose in hosting us in their country during this time was unwavering. We all stood in appreciation and support of this inspiring group of Egyptian youth in front of us while joining together as a global community of young people, regardless of which country we were from, political party we support or religion we practice.

As I stood on the outside looking in, I couldn’t help but feel the power that was around me.

Everyone had their own reason for being in that room, but all of our reasons were connected to our belief in AIESEC creating the leaders the world needs for a stronger future together.

Some were there because they had the courage to be bold; often mistaken in young people for naivety. The bold choice to attend International Congress came from the trust in AIESEC in Egypt and an enhanced sense of adventure that is common in AIESEC members.

Some were there because they were informed and engaged in what was happening in Egypt. If you looked beyond what the media was constantly distributing, there were a lack of travel warnings against the Red Sea Resort areas where tourism is a way of life for the citizens who live there.

Some were there because they felt a responsibility to the organisation and to represent their country in the congress.

But all of us were there because of the values we hold and the purpose we carry in bringing young people together from across the world to challenge their mindsets, make meaningful connections across cultural barriers and create smart strategies to develop many more young leaders when we return home.

The power of AIESEC as an organisation is in its ability to provide youth the opportunity to see and experience the world. Because when they are able to experience the world, they can start to understand it; and when they start to understand it, they are able to start changing it.

 

Now that all 800 delegates have returned home safely, we want to be able to share our experience in Egypt with the world. International Congress 2013 in Egypt was about more than just the location it was held in. It was and has always been the place where young leaders were born, shaped and influenced. It was the place where AIESEC recommitted to delivering leadership development experiences to one million young people by 2015. International Congress was exactly where it needed to be.

We believe the solution is always better leadership and we will continue to do all we can to make sure the next generation of leaders are ready, across the world, to commit to a better future together. This is why we do what we do. This is how we will change the world. What will your impact be?

Welcome to the AIESEC Blog!

Hello Readers,

We are now live on our first blog!

We are very excited to launch the blog and to share our stories with you.

What can you expect from this blog?

After 65 years of existence, we have learned a thing or two about leadership and we want to share that all with you! Check back here often for stories from our leadership teams across the world, some of our alumni, live from the events we are participating in and some special guest bloggers!

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Thank you, and Happy Reading!

– AIESEC International