Bringing the world to Dublin

Clara Kelleher is a One Young World Ambassador and a founding member Dublin Host City Bid Committee responsible for bringing the 2014 Summit to Ireland.

When I attended the One Young World Summit as a delegate in 2012 I never thought that just two short years later I would be standing on stage at the Opening Ceremony giving a welcome speech to 2,000 people including delegates, Ambassadors and Counsellors!

In Pittsburgh, I and the other Irish delegates talked about how fantastic it would be to host the Summit in Dublin. We all agreed that it would be a perfect One Young World city, apart from all of the stats (youngest population in Europe, EMEA base for the big tech companies) we knew that young people in Dublin needed an event like this. The recession had hit Ireland hard and young people were starting to innovate and create their own opportunities.

An initial application of interest was submitted (the easy part!) and we were told that Dublin was on the shortlist.

So, one afternoon Bob, Val and I sat down to the process of writing the bid for Dublin. The three of us were clear that we wanted the Dublin event to have an impact, not only on the delegates visiting the city, but on Dubliners too. We wanted to share our history and lessons from The Troubles, get delegates out into the city and provide more informal networking opportunities.

The support that we received from the very outset was astounding. Everyone we spoke to was willing to help in some way and, over around a month, little by little we pieced together our bid document. In the end it was our vision that won the bid for us. All cities have impressive conference venues, hotels and airports but we really put our hearts into the bid. It was written by young people for young people.

With the bid won we headed off to Johannesburg to see the other side of the Summit. As a delegate you don’t think about the work that goes into making the Summit happen every year. You sit in the audience, listen to speeches from the most inspirational of your peers and global luminaries, network with other delegates and leave completely convinced that us young people really do have the ability to create change. But, you don’t really think about the huge amount of time and resource that goes into pulling off the event. Well at least I didn’t.

Winning the bid was just the start for us. Now the real work began and we had to make all those ideas that sounded so great on paper a reality. Some didn’t make it, for one reason or another (mostly the weather in October!), but most did and it’s these uniquely Irish aspects that we’re most proud of. These took over a year over careful (sometimes stressful) planning and it was beyond rewarding to see and hear the reaction to them. 

Two of my focus areas were the branding and the External Breakout Sessions. We wanted delegates to feel that Dublin was welcoming them as soon as they stepped off the plane. It was great to see so many tweets and photos on Instagram of delegates’ reactions to the branding in the airport.

The other major theme from the Summit was ‘Peace and Conflict Resolution’ with the inspiration coming from the ‘troubles’ on our own island, which have seen a relatively successful peace process adhered to by both communities in Northern Ireland over the past 16 years.  Bob worked closely with Dr Martin McAleese over the past 6 months to bring together former combatants from two paramilitary organisations involved in the armed struggle to talk about why they laid down their arms, in addition to Professor Meghan O’Sullivan from Harvard, and some local Historians and broadcasters here in Ireland. Over three sessions, delegates from conflict zones around the world learned from those involved about the cost of conflict and the price of peace, resulting in some amazing feedback from delegates on stage, and a rapt audience for what proved to be 3 intense sessions.

The standing ovation that the panel received when the lights came on in the Disability Session was one highlight for me. Disabled people are one of the most marginalised groups in the world yet Disability and inclusion is not a topic that is usually on the agenda at international forums and we wanted to challenge people’s perceptions.  I had worked with Caroline Casey over the last year to map out the session and to hear the reaction from the audience was just incredible.

But by far the biggest ‘Irish’ highlight for me was hearing feedback from delegates and hosts about the external breakout sessions. I wanted each and every session, from the venues to the content discussed, to be a unique experience for delegates. Our twenty-five hosts worked extremely hard to plan these sessions and to make them engaging and inspirational, and I genuinely can’t thank them enough. They are all really eager to hear feedback on the sessions so please make sure that you fill out the Summit feedback survey!  

The legacy for Dublin is what you, the One Young World Ambassadors do when you leave. I hope that our city and the Summit has inspired you to take action and create positive change. One Young World is an amazing platform but ultimately it’s up to you what you make of it.

So, Bob, Val and I now challenge you - what are you going to do next?