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Embracing Diversity

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An estimated 100 billion people have been born since the dawn of time. These people

have had different appearances, come from different countries and territories, have

been brought up with different mindsets and have spoken different languages. They

have eaten different food, have had different lifestyles and have belonged to

different generations.

The only sure trait that every single person has had in common is that they were all

unequivocally unique and different.

This is what we call diversity.

 

Embracing Diversity

More and more, we see an emphasis on “accepting and embracing diversity” in both

our professional and personal lives. Socially and politically, there is a huge focus on

eliminating discrimination of any kind and equalizing the treatment of every

individual.

To some, embracing diversity exists only on a surface level. Tolerating and accepting a

different culture, different lifestyle or a different way of thinking is just that –

tolerance. This is by no means negative, but embracing takes much more effort and

much more understanding, and the benefits are much greater as well.

 

Let’s take a deep dive

Every person you have ever walked past, spoken to, befriended or ignored – they have

had a lifetime of experiences that shaped them into who they are today.

Instead of generalising, accepting and tolerating a group of people, assess a person

and interact with them on an individual basis. Ignore the labels that are placed on an

individual (nationality, religion, age, gender) and purely look at the experiences that

have shaped him/her. Understand and appreciate how these different experiences

and upbringings add on to their character.

Put yourself in their shoes and make a connection to their experiences. You don’t

have to love every single difference – just understand and appreciate them.

That is embracing diversity.

 

The Benefits

When we acknowledge these differences, embrace them, and respect them, we can

accomplish what we never thought was possible. We can join ideas together, birthing

from different environments, mindsets and perspectives. We can forge more efficient

teams combining a variety of strengths and experiences. We can be surprised with the

connections we make to a person who is different than us.

Most of all, we appreciate a person so much more after embracing their diversity and

what makes them different – their trials and tribulations. Everyone is different – no

two lives are the same. Sympathize, emphasize and appreciate differences.

 

Putting it into Action

All it takes to be understanding is to start a conversation.

In the next 2 weeks, more than 800 delegates from over 118 countries and territories

will gather in India at AIESEC’s International Congress 2015. We invite you to join us

virtually through our live stream and enjoy conversing with young people from all

over the world.

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.

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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.

How World Peace Begins With Everyday Leaders

AIESEC World Peace series highlights the stories and lessons from thought and everyday leaders from around the world on how World Peace may just be attainable. Contribute your story.

World Peace.

It has been humanity’s eternal, elusive dream. A dream that has inspired influential leaders like Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Wangari Maathai, and Malala Yousafzai, to rise from being an ordinary citizen to becoming a leader to make a significant difference. There is also AIESEC’s very own alumnus Martti Ahtisaari, who was the 10th President of Finland and 2008 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his “for his efforts on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts.”

Ahtisaari states that AIESEC helped him “discover new passions about diversity and diplomacy.”

Leaders like Ahtisaari are not super heroes, but human beings just like you and I who have strived to achieve extraordinary accomplishments. They are everyday leaderswho care about the world and take action to defend human rights.

Ahtisaari AIESEC

The peaceful freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi was once faced at gunpoint, but she did not give in. Instead, she demonstrated absolute courage and clarity by walking without fear to the line of soldiers and with the guns pointed at her, and walked passed it. Nobody was killed.

What would you have done in this moment?

The Lady Gunpoint

In the movie The Lady, Michelle Yeoh portrays Aung San Suu Kyi’s extraordinary life, challenges, road to peace and democracy in Burma, and is a compelling movie that showcases the power of nonviolence. The strength of this iconic woman is outstanding, and is a role model to show that fear cannot conquer our common humanity.We all live our own lives and we often turn down activities by saying “I’m busy.”

Pushing for world peace does not mean we all need to be walking in front of guns, but to take action even in the smallest ways. It is as practical as dedicating even a few hours a month volunteering for a cause that improves the lives of others, and yourself.

Being an everyday leaders means you are actively seeking for ways to improve the well-being of others in your community. An everyday leader can be as simple as:

  • Showing more compassion and empathy to those around you
  • Joining your grandparents for dinner even though you’re busy with work
  • Calling your loved ones to remind them of how thankful you are for their support
  • Volunteering for a social cause because it will make a difference in other peoples lives
  • Leading a peaceful movement of people to actively advocate for positive change in your community

These everyday actions, make a significant difference because you are now actively participating in your community.

Three specific TED Talks that will alter your perspective on the road to peace

 

In the Road to Peace playlist on TED, “these speakers offer inspired ideas, practical advice and real-world examples from around the globe of how it just might be attainable.”

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Winner in 1997 for her work toward the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines advocates for society to have a more realistic vision of world peace. The talk focuses on rethinking world peace to human security, and enabling people to live dignified lives.

Scilia Elworthy a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and founder of Oxford Research Group that seeks to develop effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers worldwide and their critics, talks about how to deal with extreme violence without using force in return. Exploring the themes of how to overcome bullies ranging from countries to individuals without any violence in return

Julia Bacha a filmmaker who produced Budhrus discusses the power of attention, and how we often media and audiences pay attention to the violence, but not the non-violent leaders and peacemakers of the Middle East region that may very well bring peace to the region. Bacha advocates for us to pay attention to nonviolence.

AIESEC Youth Leaders

Progress will come, when all of humanity is awakened, moved to take action and not idly sit by to wait for change.

Young people around the world need to strive to become an everyday leaders and make positive change happen by taking actions that improve the lives of others.

How will you get involved in the global community and create positive change?

Submit and share your everyday leader story with us. Tweet us at @AIESEC or engage with me at @gdondon

 

 

AIESEC – 65 Years of Developing Great Leaders

For 65 years AIESEC has been impacting young people around the world. And yet we are often referred to as “The World’s Best Kept Secret.” Until Now!

With a midterm ambition to provide life-changing leadership development experiences to 1 million young people before the end of 2015, the organisation is thinking big and making the brave decision to dramatically evolve. Economical, social and technological change demands responsible and entrepreneurial leaders who are both adaptable and globally minded. By its international nature, AIESEC has already succeeded in bringing together over 1 million young and talented minds to build a road towards a better future, where cultural and social boundaries are overtaken by international exchange of experiences and ideas. Understanding the world is the most powerful tool to change the world and this is what AIESEC aims to do.

This is why we do what we do. This is our contribution. Join us, and impact the future.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDJQOJCFPng

 

The end of the IANYD and ICMYO Meetings – just the start of AIESEC’s involvement with the United Nations

Hello again everyone.

I have been quite absent over the last few days, I know. I actually have been running around from meeting to meeting to event to meeting, and it has been an amazing experience.

I have taken part in the IANYD – Inter-Agency Network for Youth Development- Meeting as well as the ICMYO – International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organizations- Meeting over the last four days. As I indicated in my last post, this is the first time AIESEC has participated actively in these types of United Nations affiliated events in a very long time, so this week has been very informative for myself and for AIESEC as an organisation.

We are much more aware of the strategic focuses of the United Nations when it comes to youth, and specifically what the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmed Alhendawi is trying to push within the United Nations. Even more importantly, we have identified points of collaboration with other youth organisations; something AIESEC has been very happy to do for a few years now.

I really believe that AIESEC now can see many more ways we can contribute to the United Nations work, and how we can continue to fight for the World We Want with other youth organisations around the world. Working with other youth groups to make sure that the youth agenda is pushed, is listened to, and is committed to by member states is how we will make it happen. Youth have spoken up, and have already started taking action – it is time for our leaders to help us make it happen.

 

AIESEC goes to the Big Apple to participate in UN Youth Action Plan discussions

Hello from New York City!

As AIESEC International, we made it a priority this year to really understand the role AIESEC is playing as the largest youth-led organisation in the world with the United Nations, as well as with the Secretary-General’s focus on Youth.

In January 2012, the Secretary General laid out his five-year Action Agenda which laid out five generational imperatives to be addressed by the United Nations requiring the mobilization of all the human, financial and political resources available to the Organisation. Working with and for young people is one of these imperatives.

AIESEC is attending the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development’s (IANYD) Open Meeting from the 18-20 of September with other Youth-led Organisations and Networks to understand the System-Wide Action Plan on Youth (Youth-SWAP), contribute to discussions on creating concrete proposals for partnerships between these organisations and the United Nations entities, and establish mechanisms for accountability and increased participation in implementing the strategies.

The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi with be participating in the week events to provide more information but to gain our ideas and support for the mandates he has taken by the United Nations for the Youth Agenda.

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I will be live-blogging from the conference to give you an update on conversations, but also to gain your insight and questions so I can share it with the group of experts that are here to listen to our ideas and concerns, and use them to improve the strategies and programmes for Youth-SWAP.

Check out some information about the System-Wide Action Plan on Youth HERE

If you have any questions or comments, you can tweet them to the conference by using the tags: @UN4Youth #openmeeting or tag @AIESEC or me @cassruggiero

I will keep updating you as the week goes!

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Being in Egypt through the Crisis: A Lesson in Leadership for a Youth Organisation

Why a youth-led organisation brought 800 young people to Egypt in the midst of its worst political turmoil since the Revolution of 2011.

It started with a dream. The global team of AIESEC had spent weeks discussing the issues the world is facing today, and the type of leadership that the world needs to overcome them. We wanted to make sure our organisation was contributing to changing the world through changing its leadership. The best way to do this was to have the world in one room – young leaders from 124 countries in one place to engage, discuss, connect and create the movement they would lead together.

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Over our 65 years of existence, the mission of our organisation had been tried and tested. But we were not prepared for it to be challenged to its core while we were leading it.

The location for AIESEC’s 65th International Congress had been chosen in early 2012, by our 100,000 members of students and recent graduates from across the world. Our different member countries are able to put forward bids to host the conference, and the bids are then voted upon – very similar to the Olympic Games process. The Congress was to take place in Egypt – the cradle of civilisations – and this was decided months after the Revolution of 2011 that changed the face of the country, the Middle East, and the way the rest of the World would approach change. This would be the first time that AIESEC would hold a conference of this size in the Middle East region, a concept that both inspired and excited the entire network.

The 1400 students managing AIESEC in Egypt saw this as an incredible opportunity to showcase their beautiful country and culture but more importantly to host this important conversation about young people’s role in creating a better world. They immediately got to work on organising the biggest AIESEC conference ever in the best place they could think of, Sharm el-Sheikh – the city of Peace.

Youth Leadership Provider

The demonstrations on the 30th of June in Cairo and the events that followed afterwards changed everything. The country was again in the midst of massive social and political change. Our conversation on the role of youth leadership was more relevant than ever, but our event was on the brink of cancellation. Surrounded by multi-national corporations and countless governments’ advice to enlist a travel ban on Egypt, AIESEC needed to make a decision.

Our organisation was build upon a platform of change. AIESEC came to be after the Second World War, when a group of students decided that the only way to stop history from repeating itself was to ensure cultural understanding in future generations. An internship programme was created so that young people could gain personal and professional experience while discovering a new country and culture. Fast-forward 65 years, and AIESEC is providing over 26,000 young people life changing internship experiences in 124 countries that contribute to their ability to understand the world, their own values and how to take leadership in making change.

The paradox that the crisis in Egypt caused within the organisation was simple – we could either decide to cancel the event due to the leadership crisis the country was facing and the uncertainty it brought managing a large event there or we could to commit to supporting the conversation of how to develop better leaders for Egypt and the World to avoid these situations in the future.

This decision was not an easy one. The entire leadership team of AIESEC International struggled with fully understanding the risks we were undertaking, the true nature of what was happening in Egypt, and the full effects of canceling this conference on the organisation and quite possibly the world. Our first and most important priority was the safety of every single delegate, volunteer and partner that attended our conference. While we may be the executive body of the largest youth-led organisation in the world, we were not experienced enough to make this decision alone.

We invested as much time, energy and money as it took to have the full understanding of the situation. Our President, Rolf Schmachtenberg, even flew to Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh to gain more perspective on the security issues the country was facing. We soon realised that many of the security concerns of the media and different governments were very specific to certain areas within the country, and not affecting Egypt as a whole. In particular, the location of our conference was unaffected by the situation. After gaining insight, reports and perspectives from our own trips and hired professional risk assessment specialists, we decided that with some diligent to our original plans and some extra security measures, the location of our conference was as safe for our delegates.

With all of this information and support, we decided to take a bold stand and move forward with the congress in Egypt.

While we made this decision, it did not necessarily make going to Egypt much easier for the team or our delegates. With every new event in the media came a phone call from our family and friends, worried about our safety and asking us why risk going to Egypt. Some delegates were even asked to not attend by their parents. Every concern expressed to us made us re-evaluate our decision over again in our minds.

But there is a strong reason why 800 young people made the active decision to continue on this journey to Egypt. For some of them, doubt may never have entered their mind at all and they were looking forward to the trip to Egypt all year. For others, they questioned themselves until the moment they made it home safe and sound. But for one moment, in the closing hours of the conference, every delegate knew exactly why he or she were there.

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It was a moment where 100 Egyptian delegates and organisers were asked to stand in the center of the room with 700 of the international delegates circled around them. I was part of the international group, staring inwards at this group of Egyptians who looked exhausted after not sleeping for 10 days because they were working endlessly to organise the conference. This group did not disappoint all week, even when some of the worst events in their country’s history were taking place just a few hours away. Their commitment and purpose in hosting us in their country during this time was unwavering. We all stood in appreciation and support of this inspiring group of Egyptian youth in front of us while joining together as a global community of young people, regardless of which country we were from, political party we support or religion we practice.

As I stood on the outside looking in, I couldn’t help but feel the power that was around me.

Everyone had their own reason for being in that room, but all of our reasons were connected to our belief in AIESEC creating the leaders the world needs for a stronger future together.

Some were there because they had the courage to be bold; often mistaken in young people for naivety. The bold choice to attend International Congress came from the trust in AIESEC in Egypt and an enhanced sense of adventure that is common in AIESEC members.

Some were there because they were informed and engaged in what was happening in Egypt. If you looked beyond what the media was constantly distributing, there were a lack of travel warnings against the Red Sea Resort areas where tourism is a way of life for the citizens who live there.

Some were there because they felt a responsibility to the organisation and to represent their country in the congress.

But all of us were there because of the values we hold and the purpose we carry in bringing young people together from across the world to challenge their mindsets, make meaningful connections across cultural barriers and create smart strategies to develop many more young leaders when we return home.

The power of AIESEC as an organisation is in its ability to provide youth the opportunity to see and experience the world. Because when they are able to experience the world, they can start to understand it; and when they start to understand it, they are able to start changing it.

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Now that all 800 delegates have returned home safely, we want to be able to share our experience in Egypt with the world. International Congress 2013 in Egypt was about more than just the location it was held in. It was and has always been the place where young leaders were born, shaped and influenced. It was the place where AIESEC recommitted to delivering leadership development experiences to one million young people by 2015. International Congress was exactly where it needed to be.

We believe the solution is always better leadership and we will continue to do all we can to make sure the next generation of leaders are ready, across the world, to commit to a better future together. This is why we do what we do. This is how we will change the world. What will your impact be?