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Focusing
on a positive impact

No one is too small to make an impact

By Diede Ruelens


I was incredibly fortunate to attend the 2019 One Young World (OYW) summit in London, as one of the 78 Johnson & Johnson (J&J) delegates, joining more than 2,000 young leaders from over 190 countries across the globe. Words cannot express the inspiration, motivation and raw emotion that the various talks stirred up.

I was incredibly fortunate to attend the 2019 One Young World (OYW) summit in London, as one of the 78 Johnson & Johnson (J&J) delegates, joining more than 2,000 young leaders from over 190 countries across the globe. Words cannot express the inspiration, motivation and raw emotion that the various talks stirred up.

We were confronted with the immediate urgency of climate change and environmental pollution, its disastrous effects and how, as explained by Kumi Naidoo, Secretary-General at Amnesty International, it’s effectively a human rights issue.

We were told stories of the many injustices around the world, such as slavery, medical inequality and discrimination. The emotional stories of political refugees and the struggle with mental illness without any support system left barely a dry eye in the room.

Above all though, we heard messages of radical hope and calls to action.

As young people, we have a collective responsibility to drive humanity towards progress.
– Jayathma Wickramanayake, United Nations Youth Envoy

Elio Leoni Sceti (co-founder The Craftory) encouraged us to be optimist change makers, while Dr. Jane Goodall DBE (primatologist and anthropologist) gave us the rallying cry: “Together we can, together we will!”

We heard testimonies of how small changes in big companies can have great impact, such as BMW now using floor mats made from recycled materials – an initiative driven by OYW ambassadors. From my company, our own Agung Bimo Listyanu presented on the main stage the great work he’s doing together with OYW ambassadors from BP and Unilever around a new initiative called CarbonEthics, helping people in the Philippines calculate their carbon footprint and planting mangrove trees to offset it.

But I’m not writing this post as mere ‘cyberwanking’ – as Sir Bob Geldof put it. After all, we should be judged by our actions, not our words. So, in the next weeks, I’ll be doing two things:

  • I’ll be supporting the incredible Rayan Mamoon, a 2019 J&J OYW Scholar, with her wonderful Courses Cross Borders organization. Together with my fellow J&J delegates Aida Valmaseda FreixaAndrea Bonini and Stephan Ender, I will help with the marketing and sustainability of her initiative, with the goal to improve patient care in Sudan, by educating & empowering health workers. You can learn more Rayan’s story here.
  • Growing my mustache in support of Movember! Having a slightly ridiculous stubble on my upper lip is a tiny price to pay to raise awareness for prostate cancer – the second most pervasive cancer in men (after skin cancer). You can donate to the ‘stache here.

Is this enough? Absolutely not.

Could I do more? Certainly.

I’ll be on the lookout for more opportunities to help drive social change, whether that be to reduce our carbon footprint or to stimulate lifelong learning, whether inside my own company – a 133-year old startup, or outside my company. I’m sure that the great OYW ambassador community will keep me accountable and inspired by the amazing things they’re doing!

What change will you make? Let me know by commenting to this post! I’d love to hear your thoughts and actions.

Diede