What inspired me to come back to AIESEC

With a youth population in Cambodia under the age of thirty making up 68% of the 14.8 million people and a GDP growth rate of 7%, Cambodia is a young country with a lot of energy and potential.

The Global Leaders Summit 2015 in Phnom Penh hosted by AIESEC brings together 200 young leaders from AIESEC’s network of 125 countries and territories. Emily Jones who was invited to chair the conference is a former AIESECer and was Director of Western Europe & North America with AIESEC International in 2009-2010. Originating from AIESEC in Canada, she led the the entity as President in 2008-09, and is now as Associate Lecturer at the University of Sydney’s Business School, teaching students about critical thinking in business.

When asked about her initial thoughts after being away for 5 years, Emily responded with: “The energy, passion and the belief that people have in AIESEC’s mission is refreshing and exciting to experience after having left the organization 5 years ago. To be back in an environment where there is a constant sense of urgency and purpose that is shared amongst everyone reinforces my belief in the journey that AIESEC offers young people.”

AIESEC Conference

“What struck me was how people were making decisions with responsibility and having deep conversations to better understand issues at hand” continued Emily.

Emily’s advice to young people in AIESEC was to not under-estimate the power of the opportunities that AIESEC gives them and to understand that it is very rare at a young age that we are given such real responsibilities.

When asked why Emily accepted the invitation, she responded: “I really wanted to give back to the organization that has given me so much during my years in AIESEC.”



Global Youth Speak Forum Launches in Cambodia

AIESEC’s Global YouthSpeak Forum launches in Phnom Penh, Cambodia – a country where people under the age of 30 make up 68% of the population in the country.

YouthSpeak is a global youth movement aimed to understanding on what matters to young people today, gather insights on Generation Y and engage across sectors to create collaborations that will positively impact their societies. With a global youth population of 1.8 billion, governments, companies and the third sector are seeking for greater understanding of the next generation and how to effectively collaborate and develop them as they grow up to take formal roles in society.

The YouthSpeak Forum brings together 200 president’s of AIESEC’s network across 120 countries and territories, corporate and the third sector to engage on issues such as education, employment, technology and cross-sector collaboration.

The United Nations together with AIESEC have been working closely in the past year and we are starting a new path of collaboration. Ahmed Alhendawi, United Nation’s Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, where he is mandated with the task of bringing the voices of young people to the United Nations System. He joined us virtually on a Skype call to jumpstart our discussion on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’S) that will be launched this year as the Millennium Development Goals finish this year.

Ahmed says: “I am very pleased to see this enthusiasm to see your end to work with the UN. Because this is exactly what we need.” Representatives from AIESEC, Karolina Piotrowska, Global VP Public Relations and Vinicius Tsugue, President, have been working closely with Ahmed at the UN headquarters in New York City over the last year to connect the world’s largest youth-run organization with leaders and global youth initiatives at the United Nations.

Global YouthSpeak Forum

“2015 is historic — we are coming to an end for the MDG’s and launching the sustainable development goals (SDG’s) — this will focus on the sustainability of the planet ” Ahmed discusses the importance of young people as United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon has prioritized young people in the UN system, where a youth strategy rallying 40 entities on these issues.

“I am a firm believer is that at the least “you should get a degree—but you should get much more, network experience, exposure, visiting new cities and places—I think you are an example of doing all that while you are still doing school,” says Ahmed.

Gordon Ching AIESEC YouthSpeak Forum

Highlights of the global YouthSpeak survey was presented by Gordon Ching from AIESEC International and it highlighted that if we are to make a change, we need to understand what young people think and how to best activate them.

The key statistics highlighted for activating young people; youth voiced that they wanted to see:

  • 55.3% A clear sense of what their time can achieve

  • 47% Mentors and role models

  • 39.8% Doing it together with friends or family

Young people want to understand what impact they can make, and they want to see it with greater transparency. The importance of youth role models and mentors will play a crucial role in inspiring more reassurance to youth on their ability to take ownership and responsibility for issues that are relevant to them.

79.8% of respondents have plans to become an entrepreneur -- a growing trend that represents the approach young people want to take towards their careers and role in society. 

Young people today want to contribute to social issues, but they often have are challenged with how to start and what contributions their time will make in in the issue. How will we adapt as a society to work across sectors and activate young people to become positive agents for change?


AIESEC’s Voice at the United Nations on the Post-2015 Agenda

Here at AIESEC, we are no stranger to the belief that youth have the power to change the world. We are in the business of changing lives and giving young people the opportunity to become ethical leaders—all while moving towards our vision: peace and fulfillment of humankind’s potential.

Earlier in the month, AIESEC took part in the UN ECOSOC Youth Forum, with Karolina Piotrowska, AIESEC International’s VP PR, speaking on behalf of UN Major Group on Children and Youth .

The topic of the forum was: Youth Engagement in the Transition from MDGs to SDGs.


The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established following the Millennium Summit of the UN in 2000, and consist of eight international development goals to achieve by 2015, ranging from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, to promoting gender equality, to ensuring environmental sustainability.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) refer to the development and proposal of a set of future international development goals beyond 2015. They are to be integrated into the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The Post-2015 Agenda, then, is a process led by the UN which will aim to help define the future global development framework, in order to review the progress of the MDGs and advance the development agenda beyond 2015.

Of course, these are all very relevant global initiatives to enact change to better the planet. But where do youth come in? Rather, how can young people become involved with such lofty international agendas?

During the Youth Forum, youth leaders came into dialogue with Member States, in order to contribute to policy formulation. They were also given the opportunity to offer their own perspective on specific issues relevant to youth, as well as the broader role of young people in enabling and promoting sustainable development.

The question the forum sought to answer was: how can youth become meaningfully involved in the implementation of the Agenda, though every step of the way? How can we engage youth—that is, the 1.8 billion young people making up a quarter of the earth’s population—in changing and shaping the world into a better place?

UN ECOSOC Youth Forum

Source: UN ECOSOC Website

Start from the Bottom

The grassroots level is “crucially important”. Change happens from the bottom-up, which means it is impossible to ignore the local level because here is exactly where the change detailed in the MDGs/SDGs is supposed to happen. Governments, then, should create opportunities for youth to participate in events that will allow their voice to be heard in decision-making processes. For example, Youth Forums, peer-to-peer training, and capacity building at the grassroots level will empower youth to realize the scope of their potential impact. International knowledge, such as about the SDGs, should also be introduced and embedded into education systems worldwide. There should be no reason for youth to suffer in ignorance of the impact they can be making.

Collaboration on all Fronts

With the SDGs, multi-stakeholder and cross-sector collaboration are also hugely important for implementation. Everyone should come together as a whole to make change happen. This would require a keen knowledge and awareness of differing power dynamics and varying interests of each stakeholder, and being mindful thereof. This would include being aware of cultural differences, of course, but also working with human differences in order to become more influential overall, and together. Furthermore, we should create more opportunities for youth representation and participation by allowing collaboration with youth and including them as stakeholders. For example, reducing formal restrictions on minimum age and setting quotas for companies and governments to employ young people would help achieve this.

Accountability via Transparency

The world today is interconnected a thousand times over via information and communications technology (ICT). The question of the matter now, is how to utilize these channels in a smart, efficient way to engage youth–to raise awareness and education people about the goals. There are various channels of online and offline media that will allow significant reach towards youth, and have the SDGs embedded into their daily lives. However, we also cannot forget the people who do not have the privilege of access to online resources; therefore, offline channels and traditional media should also be used, such as mobile phones and radios, in order to involve community leaders, local organizations, and NGOs.

Awareness & Education

What these all boil down to, is the importance of raising awareness and educating people about these goals. Individuals themselves become very important stakeholders in these global promises once they realize what the SDGs are and what they can do to further the goals. The same rule applies to the private sector; once we have raised awareness and given companies a reason as to why they should be paying attention to cross-sector partnerships and supporting the accomplishment of the SDGs, we will have created a common destination.

Furthermore, awareness is what will also allow the people to hold their governments accountable. By raising awareness, we will increase the visibility of the common vision, and simplify the communication to build partnerships that will facilitate capacity-building. This will then allow all the stakeholders involved to come together and not only implement but accomplish these goals, changing the world for the better.

In summary, the importance of youth engagement is critical at a time where the United Nations will launch a series of goals that will require the youth today to carry on the legacy tomorrow. The answer is clear. Young people need to carry the torch and our current leaders need to ensure that young people are engaged and feel a sense of ownership towards these long-term  initiatives if we are to see success.

For more information on the ECOSOC Youth Forum, check out their website here. You can also find out more about the MDGs here and an overview on the Post-2015 Agenda and the Action 2015 initiative here.

The Value of Purpose-Driven Leaders

The world doesn’t need more profit-driven leaders, but purpose-driven leaders who can solve real world issues.

“The key challenge for business is how do we get more purpose-driven leaders that realise they are there to make a difference in the world”, said Bill George of Harvard Business School at The World Economic Forum, which took place in Davos again this year.

dbpix-george-blog480“The pressures are greater today than they’ve ever been on CEOs to produce short-term results but it’s really not about that. It’ about having a company that’s going to solve actual social problems through the work the company does and that requires a company with commitment to purpose throughout the entire organisation.”

In a highly globalised world we live in today facing numerous challenges, purpose is what unites people to work towards a common future. To have purpose is to give meaning to the goals we are striving to achieve together. Purposeful and meaningful work is becoming more and more important worldwide. According to Youth Speak, the global millennial insight survey, young people rated meaningful work as the 2nd most important factor in the first 5 years of their career.

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Additionally, 72% of Youth Speak‘s 25,000 youth respondents across over 100 countries believe that it is important for companies to positively impact society. Although the definition of “positive impact” varies, data shows that Generation Y demands companies to have meaningful contribution to society and not solely generate profit without purpose.

Many companies worldwide recognize the significance of meaningful contribution to issues that affect society today. A PR Newswire article highlights the findings of the global research, which was launched at The World Economic Forum by Ernst & Young and Oxford. One of the findings states “Corporate leaders see the organization’s role evolving to address global challenges, taking an active role in creating well-being and value for and with a wider set of stakeholders.”

However, the findings also show that while businesses recognize the importance of purpose for driving core strategies and operations, they also “acknowledge there is a gap between this recognition and the policy and practice in their organizations.” (source)

Therefore, we are back to the question posed by Mr. Bill George of Harvard Business School:

How do we get more purpose-driven leaders who can act on the purpose?

AIESEC, the world’s largest youth-led organisation, believes the answer lies in providing young people with practical leadership experiences. By engaging in a challenging environment designed to test them, push them and shape them, young people are given the chance to try and the freedom to fail. Members of AIESEC are given the chance to engage and learn across different cultures and geographies–enabling young people to connect with different types of living and working while contributing to the development of their peers. In turn, enabling the young person to connect with issues that matter to them while being considerate of the global nature of many of today’s issues and make more sustainable decisions.

Learning by doing leaves the most powerful impact and allows first-hand discovery of what you are good at, what you are not good at and what really matters to you. Self-awareness developed by learning through trial and error is a first step to realizing your own potential and your unique contribution to the world.

So do you know how can you contribute?

We need leaders who see the bigger picture and understand the importance of creating meaningful contributions to building a better world. The development of more purpose-driven leaders is a step towards building a more sustainable future and you have a chance to become one of these purposeful leaders. How will you move our world forward?

We’d love to hear your thoughts – Tweet us your opinions of the leadership needed today @AIESEC #purposeleadership



AIESEC Participates at UN ECOSOC Forum on Youth

This generation of young people – the largest the world has ever seen – has a historic opportunity to end poverty, combat climate change, create jobs and fight injustice, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a Youth Forum at UN Headquarters in New York this morning as he called on the participants to get involved in shaping a future sustainable development agenda.

Today, there are 1.8 billion young people, representing one quarter of the world’s population. Many struggle to find work, and are often hit hardest in conflict. The Secretary-General says that it is time now to see this huge cohort as a force of change that harbours the ingenuity and creativity to help solve the world’s most daunting challenges.

The event started with a keynote address urging an uptick in investment for children around the world, children’s activist and 2007 International Children’s Peace Prize Winner, Thandiwe Chama, called on delegates to be “on the right side of history” and place “our rights, the rights of children and youth, at the heart of the SDG agenda.”

“There’s no doubt that young people are facing multiple challenges to meet their potential but they are not giving up,” emphasized Youth Envoy Mr. Alhendawi.

“Everywhere I go, I see how the youth want to be connected to the United Nations; they will not miss any opportunity to volunteer and to advocate. They will participate at the Model UN just to simulate what’s happening in the rooms with delegates. Today we are not simulating. This is the United Nations in action.”

As the UN representative on all things relating to young people, Mr. Alhendawi said that a “sense of ownership” is critical to the success of the future sustainable development agenda. The 1.8 billion young people worldwide are ready to “carry their share” of the post-2015 development.

AIESEC representatives Karolina Piotrowska and Tala Mansi are present at the forum to voice our opinions in the role of Youth in light of the upcoming launch of the UN SDG’s.

AIESEC Karolina Piotrowska

Karolina Piotrowska representing the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organisations

AIESEC United Nations ECOSOC Youth Forum

Tala Mansi from AIESEC speaking about Youth at the forum

Tala Mansi spoke on the panel voicing “the importance of youth development, bridging the gap between employment and education, and creating individual commitment and awareness of SDG’s from the bottom up.”

The engagement of young people is key to ensuring the successes of the SDG’s as young people will be the ones implementing these large global initiatives. AIESEC has engaged tens of thousands of young people in voicing up their opinions via the YouthSpeak survey where it captures their opinions on the challenges they face in reaching their fullest potential.

We further encourage young people to take ownership of the issues they care about and not sit still waiting for change to come. As we firmly believe that the world needs new leaders and our generation are the ones who need to step up, have courage and stand up for what matters to us.

The world needs your leadership and it’s your time to step up and take responsibility. When was the last time you spoke up about issues that mattered to you?

You can learn more about the ECOSOC Youth forum here.