Friday, January 1, 2010

Change the world - how's that for a New Year's resolution?

Happy New Year! With the beginning of a new decade comes the tendency to look ahead to the future, take stock of where we are now and where we want to be, and then do something to make that happen. No more is this desire to make change evident than in today's youth. The Millennials (youth who were born or grew up during the last decade) have shown time and time again that their generation feels the need to stand up and make a meaningful difference in the world. Simply said, today's youth are compelled to rally around causes that are important to them.

Here are two quick examples of young people rising up to change two critical landscapes: government and the environment. Growing up, American youth endured government policies (war, a quest for oil, etc.) than ran counter to what they believe would make the world a better place. With Obama, they sensed an agent of change, a figurehead they could rally around to make things happen, and rallied to support him. Even those who were too young to vote acted as sparkplugs to convince those who were old enough to help bring change to the country.

Here's a video from the Obama camp that illustrates how important youth were to the election:



I was going to use Earth Hour as the second example, but I came upon a more recent illustration of the passion that youth have for changing the world. At December's global climate change conference in Copenhagen, a swarm of American youth crashed a series of live webcasts in protest against the government's lack of action. They aren't willing to sit around and wait for others to dither when it comes to the planet - they want change to happen now. Check out the video below:


Though youth tend to rally in large groups to make change happen, some are so inspired by a cause that they take an independent stand for what they believe in. Bilaal Rajan is a 13 year-old kid from Toronto who is a youth activist, philanthropist, author, and UNICEF's youngest ambassador. Beginning with a public campaign in which he went barefoot to raise awareness for underprivileged children in developing countries, he has now become an agent of change in general. Check out his website: http://www.makingchangenow.com. It makes you wonder, with all of his charity work, when does this kid have time to go to school?

Here's a CNN video on Bilaal's story:


Which brings us to what this note was supposed to be about: an upcoming event that will bring youth together in order to change the world. The event is called One Young World, and will act as a "summit" for the leaders of tomorrow - youth no older than 25 - to meet and discuss the best ways to make the world a better place. Here's a link to an article about it from The Economist.

The event, which is co-founded by two advertising execs, will be attended by 1,500 youth from around the world, selected proportionally according to each country's population (ie. China and India will have the most representatives). In order to be considered, youth wishing to become agents of change must rally support from their friends via a Facebook app and submit a video on YouTube making a case for themselves. Here's the recruitment video:



And don't worry, this event isn't make-believe. Meeting with the goal of "solving the world's problems", sessions chaired by influential leaders, like the UN's Kofi Annan and activist Desmond Tutu, will be streamed online and actual resolutions will be drafted in workshops. The summit will take place from the 8th to the 10th of February, in London, and its organizers are aiming for it to become an annual event. Stay tuned!

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