So I went to One Young World. Now what?

After having the most incredible, thought-provoking, emotional and almost surreal 4 days of my life, I was left with an unsettling question in my head: “NOW WHAT?”  

Last year, I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of Barclay’s charity delegates to represent non-profits in Hong Kong. As soon as I arrived in Bangkok, I was introduced to other charity delegates. Great start? More like, overwhelming.

You see, when you are in a room filled with delegates from countries that are politically unstable, where Internet is a luxury and children work instead of go to school, how do you answer the question: “So tell me about Hong Kong?” as a person from a place that ranks top 50 in the world in terms of GDP. I mean, for goodness sake, some of these people’s countries are sinking and will actually disappear during their lifetime if we don’t do anything about it, am I still going to sit there and talk about high housing prices?

I felt small. Not just because I was from a small place, but also because I was probably in a more fortunate situation than most of the 1200 delegates, yet I didn’t know what I could do to make their lives better as a fellow delegate, as a friend or as a person living in the same world. But instead of letting this feeling consume me for the rest of the Summit, it made me even more determined to make something out of my experience at One Young World.

Fast forward 8 months, I found myself sitting in a local dai pai dong (a street style restaurant) in Hong Kong sweating like crazy in my business dress. I was having the most meaningful conversation with 9 awesome global youth leaders after they had  just shared their stories with hundreds of local youth: Theresa - inventor of The Drinkable Book, Max – founder of The Street Store, Mark - hairstylist for the homeless and founder of #BeAwesomeToSomebodyFoundation. Among the 9 young leaders, 4 were fellow One Young World Ambassadors who were already doing amazing things when we met in Bangkok: Saida from Russia - Coordinating Ambassador and founder of Youth to Youth Initiative, Ana from Mexico – professor, youth project facilitator and TV collaborator, Robin from Japan – international coordinator of Peace Boat, and Hai from Vietnam – founder of Triip.me, recently recognised by Forbes 30 under 30 Asia. 

This was my “NOW WHAT” moment.

With the support of The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, the non-profit that I worked for, I was able to bring 9 global young leaders and One Young World Ambassadors to Hong Kong to inspire over 6,000 young people face-to-face. During their 10-day stay, they met with government officials and prominent community leaders of different fields to discuss global issues and local solutions, explored collaborations with local young leaders, co-created community events for the homeless and low-income, held workshops and talks for students, and of course, gained first-hand experience of both mainland China and Hong Kong. 

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This programme has received much attention via the media not only in Hong Kong, but also in Mexico (thanks to Ana!), and of course via the 9 young leaders’ networks and social media. I’m proud to announce that after the pilot run, this programme, now named “Leaders to Leaders”, will be held twice a year to bring more outstanding global young leaders to Hong Kong. Hopefully it will be able to inspire more ideas and actions that will make the world a better place, and also provide them with new insights for their projects.   

Why did I do this? My experience on Day 1 of One Young World made me realise that as much as I wanted to, there was no way I could solve all the problems of the 196 countries that were there. But as one of my favourite sayings goes, “The fact that you can only do a little is no excuse for doing nothing." So I thought, maybe the “little” that I could do was to connect people with problems with people who might have the solution or resources to solve them. So I did what I do best and love doing: making friends and connecting them, as simple as that!

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How did I do this?  Here are some tips that worked for me, I hope upcoming delegates will find them useful, if you have other tips, please share!

  • Figure out your topic of interest/expertise and make a list of people who might bring insights and resources. For me, it was youth development, so I listed out non-profits founders/employees, educators, people with money, etc. Of course, it’s best to go in with a concrete idea in mind, but if you don’t, at least have a direction of what you wish to achieve, it helps to list out 3 things and work towards that.
  • Before the Summit, you should connect with other delegates by posting your profile online, downloading relevant apps (last year, it was an app called Convene), joining a Facebook groups, etc. I found it helpful to browse delegates’ Linkedin profiles (so update yours too, help others find you!) to get a brief idea of what they do and then reach out to the right ones.
  • Arrange meet-ups during the Summit. In my case, I organised 2 group meet-ups and many small 1-to-1 ones. The key here is to follow through. You will be overwhelmed by everything that’s happening around you when you get there, and so will others! It will seem like everyone has forgotten about it and maybe some really have, but don’t worry, just keep refreshing their memory by sending reminders. For group meet-ups, even if it seems that people are dropping out because of other engagements, don’t change the date and time as there will never be a time that fits everyone’s schedule and it will mess up other people’s plans, just go with it and keep inviting new people you meet along the way.
  • If the first meetup goes well and you see potential in working something out, organise a follow up so you can get into details and conceptualise ideas; it also helps to get to know the person better before considering working together.
  • Finally, when you return to your own country, reach out to organisations that may be interested in supporting your idea. If you were lucky enough to be selected by your organisation to attend, don’t take it for granted, keep them updated during the Summit and make sure to thank them afterwards. It will also be the best time to bring up your idea and seek their feedback.
  • Either your idea is invincible or you’re super lucky, but most likely it will take more than 1 attempt to make an idea happen. No matter what happens, just keep asking yourself this question:

“NOW WHAT?”

All the best and go make the world a better place!

Thank you to Coordinating Ambassador, Saida Ibrahimava, for the invitation to write this blog and to all One Young World Ambassadors who participated in the programme. You can see their names on Leaders to Leaders' website. I no longer work for Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, but I will continue to devote myself in social services through youth empowerment and education. Feel free to reach me at [email protected] if you have any ideas in mind.

Iris Wan is a One Young World Ambassador from Hong Kong. She was a Development Officer for The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, one of Hong Kong’s main youth work organisations.