Every generation assumes it has been handed the world's problems because the one that preceded it didn't quite master the agenda. In the rebellious 1960s, the baby boomers demonstrated noisily against established powers and ideas. But in the case of today's energetic and engaged twentysomethings--the Real-Time Generation--I think assuming responsibility isn't as much about disappointment in prior leadership (although there's certainly cause for that) as it is about the power of the new tools. Thanks to the social Web, now each and every person near and far can create a message and gain access to power.
For nearly four decades, since the countercultural heyday, the apogee of influence and leadership has been the World Economic Forum in Davos. It's the world's greatest annual meeting of the minds and still an amazing way for the high-level participants to get onto the same page, but it feels country club in the age of souk. From the rarified heights of Davos emerged one type of big-picture, helicopter view of the world. We've entered an era, though, in which we're becoming aware of the awesome power of doings things locally: being local but accessing global. And we're wise to the fact that game-changing insights and actions don't have a minimum age requirement.
That's why Euro RSCG Worldwide organized One Young World. On Feb. 8, hundreds of delegates from the world's 192 countries will meet in London, bringing a fresh take on the most pressing issues facing the world--interfaith dialogue, protecting the environment, global health and the changing media among them--and inspiring hope and change. As they draft resolutions on the biggest challenges of our time, these leaders of tomorrow will be guided by such luminaries as Kofi Annan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sir Bob Geldof, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and former President of Peru Alejandro Toledo.
The theme for Davos this month is "Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild." Our delegates will be doing the same things with one difference: For them, these acts are second nature.
The point is to unite young thinkers from around the globe, giving them a platform to raise their voice together. And because our world is increasingly virtual, participation won't have to be in the flesh. The community has been growing for months on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WAYN and has dedicated bloggers around the world, encouraging debate and spurring action. The summit will be open globally through online streaming and real-time updates at oneyoungworld.com.
To prepare for One Young World, we undertook a Global Youth Study with YouGovStone that examined the attitudes of 15,844 people in 38 countries between the ages of 23 and 28. One of the largest such studies ever done, it reflects a sea change in young people's mindsets the world over. While cultural differences remain real, young opinion here often transcends regional and religious constraints, revealing a striking consensus about such topics as human rights, the need for businesses to behave ethically and the separation of church and state.
By flagging differences and similarities among cultures, we've generated the beginnings of a real-time discussion. (It's taking place now at forum.oneyoungworld.com.) To me, the most striking thing about the survey results and the conversations that our global delegates are already having is the passion behind their convictions.
Let's listen in:
"Political leadership is a very important thing; it has the power to save many lives, build schools and bring about economic and social development. The involvement of the youth in this is imperative. However, the young people [in Africa] have to come out of the cycle that uses them as a tool/instrument for violent actions; they can have a more constructive role in the political process of a country."
"As I quoted from a candidate from the Philippines, any decision made by today's leaders will affect the next generation more. That is why the young generation should be involved in, or at least learn, the decision-making process. It is the kind of practice for the young generation to prepare themselves for the future. In my country, Indonesia, many youths start to get involved in political leadership activities. We are united to many organizations and share our thoughts here. We also make a step by doing charity (many, many kinds of it) and discussions. Some of us are doing Model United Nations or are involved in world conferences. My friends were involved in a world forests conference and represented the voice of youths and children."
"In Ghana, the unemployment rate can easily be dealt with if most of the available resources are channeled toward entrepreneurship. Over the years, seminars, conferences and workshops have been held to boost the morale of entrepreneurship among young people without tapping the very unique ideas of these people."
"I have initiated a global network of young people with the objective:
• To create a global network of young people for sustainable development
• To polish the leadership instincts among youth and ensure their participation in creating the peaceful environment
• To establish a platform to share the experiences and ideas for finding out creative solutions regarding global issues
• To recognize the power of youth and their efforts by building skills and capacitating them in various walks of life
For this idea I have great friends from U.K., Kenya and Pakistan, and everyone is welcome to be a part of this network."
"It is not wise and will never be wise to fight because of our faith in the different religions. At the One Young World, it is our time to visualize the ill that has been there, especially on how we relate as per our religion and to harmonize the fact that we worship one god. Despite the fact that we have different ways of worship, we need to respect that and by far get to understand the reasons behind the different ways of worship to avert conflicts. Religion is just part of the human existence and very important on how we relate to each other and also treat each other. We can coexist very well."
"Young people are being ignored by the government.... There are plenty of young people who have the passion and enough ability to make changes and enhance the development with creativity. However, we have no chance, no support, no motivation from our government so that we as the future leaders of our generation should be empowered and fight against this glass ceiling barrier. With this regard, it is the best opportunity to join the international platform of One Young World Summit to make our voice heard and to show our youth engagement to the world. I am so excited to be a delegate from Cambodia, and I am sure that this will bring changes to my nation after I come back."
Follow Marian Salzman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mariansalzman