AE Friends & Family: Kate Robertson, One Young World Founder

AE Friends & Family: Kate Robertson, One Young World Founder

American Eagle Outfitters is a proud sponsor of One Young World Pittsburgh. One Young World is a global youth leadership summit, bringing together young leaders in their twenties from 190 countries worldwide. This will be the first year that the summit will be held in the United States, and it is the second-largest gathering of young people outside the Olympic Games! One Young World Pittsburgh will feature talks and discussions by Ariana Huffington, Bob Geldof, Fatima Bhutto, Imran Khan, Jamie Oliver, Jimmy Wales, Joss Stone, Muhammad Yunus, Natalia Vodianova, Oscar Morales, Pete Cashmore, Jack Dorsey and Rahul Gandhi this year. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton will be the keynote speaker. One Young World was founded by David Jones, Global CEO of Havas, and Kate Robertson, UK Group Chairman, Euro RSCG.

Kate Robertson was gracious enough to do an exclusive interview for our blog. Read below to learn more about Kate, One Young World Pittsburgh, and how young people can make a change in the world.

What does One Young World (OYW) afford its participants that is unlike any other organization?

One Young World provides the kind of platform where the young delegates can discuss and debate solutions to the systemic problems in the world while being backed by high-profile counselors. Since no youth-dominated event outside the Olympic Games brings together more countries than One Young World, following the summit these young ambassadors are able to effect change through a new global network.

We read that you love the Olympics! What inspires you about the Olympic movement? How do you incorporate those values into OYW?

The Olympics are so inspiring because all countries unite to compete together despite their differences. That is my vision for One Young World. Like athletes meeting their global counterparts at the Olympic Games, One Young World gives young, energetic leaders a chance to meet their counterparts in the world who all work toward a common goal – to make the world a better place.

You grew up in apartheid South Africa. How has that experience made you feel so strongly about youth empowerment? What does it mean to you to have someone like Archbishop Desmond Tutu support the summit you co-founded?

In the 1970’s opponents of apartheid had no voice – the South African media were cowed and street protests were illegal. There was no social media, which is hard to imagine today. Young people in Soweto and all over the country died trying to protest. Today it might be different. The revolution has an infrastructure and an ecosystem online. But the role of young people in revolution and change is a constant, but we need more of it and not less. They hold all of us to a higher standard and even if that’s all they do, it is still vital.

My friend Desmond Tutu is an inspiration and a hero for the whole world, not just South Africa. His sacrifice and his constancy are so humbling that I am always awestruck by him. But his unfettered total love of young people and the hope and potential they represent that makes him really ‘the Father of One Young World’.

In a world of digital transparency and instant communication, how do you advise young people to navigate the internet through their professional and personal lives?

The world of digital communication is something that young people have grown up with their entire lives, therefore its power can be easily overlooked. I would advise young leaders to realize the written word, even if it is only 140 characters, is just as important as the spoken word, except the written word is immortalized.

OYW has been dubbed a ‘Junior Davos’ by CNN. As someone who has attended the World Business Forum in Davos, why are comparisons drawn between the two?

Perhaps that it has been dubbed a ‘Junior Davos’ and not a ‘Mini Davos’ suggests that One Young World is just as important as the “adult” summits like the World Business Forum in Davos. Since delegates debate and formulate solutions for the world’s pressing issues just like the World Economic Forum, the biggest difference is only the age of the attendees. These young leaders have significant points to share, just as their more experienced counterparts.

This is the first time the OYW summit will be held in the United States. What does this mean for America and American OYW delegates?

This is a wonderful chance for America to host some of the most amazing young leaders in the world. When we envisioned One Young World, we never expected cities would end up bidding to host the summit. Pittsburgh’s bid for One Young World 2012 had a passion that just couldn’t be matched. It’s wonderful for American delegates and America to host One Young World in an American city that is so young at heart, youthful and passionate,  and has interesting success stories to share in areas related key topics being debated during the summit, such as global health, education, sustainable development and more.

In the Havas Worldwide Prosumer Report blog, you wrote, “we’ve seen the power young peoples’ voices have and how quickly they spread over social media, and how growing dissatisfaction can topple governments.” What advice can you give to young people who underestimate their voices?

One Young World is really all about young people to show their leadership potential and to make a difference despite their age. In fact, it’s because of their age that it’s important to make a difference now because they really are the leaders of the future. If all young people underestimated their voices the OYW summit, where they are free to share their views and opinions, wouldn’t exist.

Nelson Mendela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.” In addition to educating young people, what else contributes to positive global change?

Of course, education is the first step because education leads to informed decisions by young people. Additionally, listening can contribute to global change. Listening to young people and young people listening to each other is a step toward a positive change. The One Young World summit allows young leaders that chance. They’re able to connect with each other and are also given a platform for others to listen.

In order for OYW delegates to effect global change, what steps must be taken at the OYW summit and brought back to the delegates’ home countries?

Action is required to effect global change. The summit is a great place to generate ideas and momentum for an idea, but to truly influence positive global change, action is needed following the summit. These young people must go back to their prospective countries and companies and act on what they saw, said and heard at the summit. To date, almost four million people have been directly impacted by the work of One Young World Ambassadors, and that number must continue to grow.

As a successful business woman, what do you think is most important for young people, especially young women, who are seeking leadership roles in business?

The most important things for young people seeking leadership roles are bosses who really care about your views and your voice.  You in return must stand and deliver with brilliant ideas, instant and constant follow-through, courage and humility. All that and you are guaranteed to emerge as a leader! Best advice: take the work seriously, not yourself.

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