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on a positive impact

"No one is too young to lead, or too old to learn."​

ByChloë Symes

The delegate composition of One Young World (OYW) was truly global, consisting of more than 2,000 young leaders from 196 countries. I was part of a 78+ J&J delegation from across the world. Yet although we live thousands of miles apart, at the OYW Summit we were all of ‘one heart and voice’. During the week I gained so many insights, listened to many inspiring speakers and met numerous amazing fellow leaders. There were simply too many impressions to share in this blogpost, however I wanted to share some of my key learnings with you below.

1.     To tackle climate change we desperately need businesses to be sustainable.

The conference was centred around several main themes, of which the environment and human rights featured strongly. Several CEOs from global organizations stated that there is not much point in business, if there is no planet to do business in. It doesn’t matter what promotion you are chasing if we all run out of food to eat, due to global warming resulting in unsuitable weather to farm crops. The CEO of Sky, Jeremy Darroch, spoke about how his passion was scuba diving, therefore he was on a mission to reduce ocean plastic. Sky are eliminating all single-use plastic packaging by 2020 and are urging other businesses to do the same. Although we all try and recycle as much as we can at home, businesses are the biggest consumers and producers of plastic waste and we need to hold them accountable for this. Private businesses are some of the most motivated and fastest moving organisations, so this is possible, we just need to push it up the agenda. The very promising part of OYW was knowing that most of the largest businesses globally were present, including my company Johnson & Johnson, with their young leaders in the room, who would go back to their management & leadership teams and bang the drum to drive change.

2.     Being a voice for people who don’t have a voice is crucial.

The human rights talks were incredibly emotive, as the speakers revealed the intense trauma they have experienced (including persecution and extreme poverty), in particular Yeonmi Park, who escaped North Korea via the horrific route of human trafficking. She spoke about watching her mother be beaten, the prejudice she faced for what she had been through and how she was losing members of her family, as punishment for her writing about her experience. I would highly recommend her book, ‘In Order to Live’. I had read her work before this event, but nothing prepared me for listening to her break down as she spoke about it, the audience cried with her. The alternative for her was risking starvation as her family were so poor. As a rarity, someone who has escaped from North Korea, she said it was critical that she “spoke up for the millions of people who can’t”. We can see from this that refugees from all across the globe are trying to escape from situations so terrible, they would risk their lives rather than carry on. I feel her story is the ultimate of resilience and perseverance of the human spirit.

3.     J&J has given me the opportunity to drive the change I want to see in the world.

I realise how lucky I am to be selected for the 2019 J&J OYW Program. This is an accelerated 6-month program to further advance my leadership capacity, including the opportunity to attend the exhilarating OYW Summit just two weeks ago in London. J&J’s main theme this year was “Resiliency For Change” which I think is a critical leadership quality, as when trying to evoke change in a fairly stubborn and complicated world, you are going to come up against challenges and it’s important not to let these make you lose your way. It’s also something I try and work on improving in myself.

I am more motivated than ever to impact the world positively following OYW.

I shall end with my favourite quote from the week, “We can’t choose our parents, our skin colour or our birthplace, but we can choose to be kind. We can choose to fight for things that mean something to us.”