How One Young World helped bring my whole city together

Antoine is a One Young World Ambassador and served as Canada's first Coordinating Ambassador in 2014. He is the Ambassador lead of the Ottawa 2016 host committee and has worked in leadership roles in the international development, youth leadership, trade and communications sectors. 

What makes the One Young World Summit truly unique to me is the astounding calibre of the young leaders from around the world taking action to address the great challenges of our time. When the opportunity presented itself for Ottawa, Canada to bid on hosting the 2016 Summit, I knew that the city would be the perfect place to host the One Young World community— delegates, Ambassadors, Counsellors and sponsors. 

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One Young World puts tremendous energy and thought into selecting its host cities. Each tells a particular story that's timely and globally relevant. I want to share with you the story of why Ottawa will be a perfect place for us to gather in 2016 and how the story of the city is globally relevant, now more than ever. I also want to share with you what it was like being the Ambassador lead on the bid committee and what our team was able to learn along the way.

Last Spring,  I was contacted by the team behind the bid, led by Glenn Duncan and Lesley Mackay at Ottawa Tourism, around helping Ottawa put together a winning bid. The competition would be strong: three large Asian cities with large economic footprints as well as strong community, political and corporate support. Bangkok, Kobe and Hong Kong all put in very strong bids, and in each case, there was a One Young World Ambassador or team of Ambassadors at the core of making it all happen. 

Building a winning bid is all about building a strong coalition of partners, from young leaders to CEOs, mayors, businesses, venues, hotels and everything in between. We knew that Ottawa might not have the business base of Hong Kong, the strong One Young World network of Bangkok or the world-class destination team of Kobe. To win the bid, we were going to have to shine in a different way. Yes, we knew that to win the right to host One Young World 2016, we had to present all the components of a world-class destination: the conference centre ( in this case our friends at the Shaw Centre, which will be a truly memorable venue), hotels, event spaces, airport welcome, caterers, Counsellor support, media partners and all the behind-the-scenes logistics. We knew that all these things would get us into the race—but to show our city at its best, our most important strength was passion.

To explain just what that meant for our bid, let me start by telling you a bit more about the city of Ottawa. At around a million people, it's by no means Canada's largest city, nor is it its business centre. Ottawa is however Canada's capital city, which gives it the unique mix of government, national institutions, businesses, diplomatic missions, non-profits and culture organizations to make a world city. More importantly, it's a rapidly changing city, and to explain why, look no further than passionate young people. 


For most of Ottawa's history, it's been what some would call a "somewhat sleepy" government town whose biggest industry was the Canadian government's bureaucracy. But during the past decade, and especially since the economic crisis, it has seen a profound transformation, with creatives, entrepreneurs, tech firms, musicians, social ventures, global businesses and think tanks all increasingly converging in Ottawa. 

Ottawans (and especially young Ottawans) realized that if they wanted more culture, more art, and more and better businesses in the city, they had to build those things themselves. What emerged is a tightly connected, collaborative and participatory business culture that I believe that cities around the world can learn from. Ottawa's growth into a world city on a human scale has also been bolstered by our diversity and (constitutionally enshrined) multiculturalism. We hope to use the Summit to tell some of these truly Canadian stories, as well as showcasing how young leaders from the First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities (Canada's indigenous peoples) are helping address the challenges facing their communities while also retaining their language, traditions and way of life.

Throughout the bid, from the drafting of the bid document to the site visit by the One Young World bid team, the passion that is transforming Ottawa came to the forefront. While I won't give away all the secrets of how we went about wowing the bid selection team, what I can tell you is that our city's passion shone through at every step! The entire Ottawa community—from mayor Jim Watson, to community leaders, corporate champions, the whole tourism sector, young leaders, small businesses and government—came together to help us win the bid this Summer. 

We look forward to hosting the world at One Young World 2016 and hope that other Ambassadors reading this will consider helping their cities bid themselves. It's a tremendous amount of work, but there is nothing like knowing that One Young World will, alongside changing the lives of all delegates attending, have a permanent and lasting impact on your city. In the case of Ottawa, our journey to 2016 is just beginning, but I can already sense the first ripples of impact: the courage to dream big, dream global and have the passion and hard work to put those dreams into action.