AE Friends & Family: David Jones, One Young World Founder

AE Friends & Family: David Jones, 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.

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

What is your motivation and inspiration for One Young World (OYW)? Why did you choose to invest in youth leadership?

This generation of young people is really unique: technology has made them the most knowledgeable generation in history, their access to information and knowledge has made them the most responsible generation because they are aware of all of the issues facing the planet, and finally they are the most powerful generation ever as they best understand the digital and social revolution taking place and how to use its tools to drive and effect positive change. It is vital that we listen to them and we hope that One Young World gives them a platform where a global audience hears their views and ideas and where they can connect with each other as well as current leaders to create practical agendas for change.

For my own business, the creation of One Young World, a not-for-profit and global movement to give the brilliant young people of the world a platform to effect positive change, is my attempt to show that we have a purpose beyond profit. It is our tangible way of showing what can be done and comes out of the strengths and beliefs of the organization.

As Co-Founder, what is the most rewarding part of seeing your idea materialize in London, Zurich and soon-to-be Pittsburgh?

It’s exciting to see some of the blue-chip businesses that send their talented young people to One Young World make the most of what their delegates have gained by creating internal networks and systematizing ways they can really listen to the younger generation’s perspectives and implement their ideas.

It’s also hugely rewarding to see Ambassadors independently make connections with each other to drive positive change together. For example, there are Ambassadors from the USA, Australia, France and Zimbabwe working together to source and distribute educational materials to children in disaster-hit areas such as Haiti and East Timor. They are able to work together without the constraints of geographical or indeed, sector boundaries, in ways for which their elders seem to have less capacity.

American Eagle Outfitters (AE), headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa., cannot dream of a better place than the Steel City to host OYW. What made you choose Pittsburgh as the first American host city?

One Young World was impressed by the passion of the bid produced by Pittsburgh for the Summit. The city offers a unique transformation story.  With its people and many businesses and corporations expressing great interest in positive global change, Pittsburgh will be the “heart” of the Summit by encouraging, inspiring and supporting the delegates. It’s a great selection for the backdrop of OYW.

Never before has OYW hosted breakout sessions for local companies to open up dialogue with delegates. AE will be hosting a breakout session during the summit for delegates to discuss topics like corporate responsibility, social business, environmentalism and philanthropy. Our CEO, Robert Hanson once said, “Being a responsible corporate citizen and a highly profitable business are neither mutually exclusive nor conflicting. On the contrary, they are inextricably linked and in fact complementary.”  How do you balance being CEO of an advertising business and co-founder of a non-for-profit youth oriented charity in your day-to-day life?

There’s nothing to balance. The two things are perfectly aligned.  In simplistic terms: in the last century we’ve viewed doing good and making money as very opposite ends of the spectrum. In the past, NGOs and charities have had great intentions and often poor execution, whereas businesses have had great execution but often, poor intentions. The global and financial meltdown has shown where irresponsible behavior of governments and businesses and banks leads us. I think the opportunity for this century is for businesses to show that doing good and making money don’t have to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. That’s what the younger generation believes and wants.  For example, in Spain today there is 50% unemployment for young people. So, they want businesses to do well and create jobs. What we see through One Young World and also our major global studies is that this generation gets that a business has to make money but they want it to make money in the right way.

In the advertising and communications industry we are great at using creativity to change people’s behavior, to get them to buy product A instead of product B. But you can also use creativity to change people’s behaviors in ways that make the world a better place. I believe this is not only an opportunity but also an obligation for those of us in the creative industry and that we can use our talents to address some of the bigger issues facing the world.

It’s the brilliant younger generation that is at the forefront of positive change in the world. They not only feel they have an obligation to change the world but they also believe they can.

Why do you think it is important for companies to open dialogue with young people?

These young people are the future consumers and leaders of the world. They have the power in the digital age to reward or sanction businesses and leaders, depending on whether they like their values and beliefs or not. They will decide both who they buy from and who they work for based increasingly on those values.

Today’s young people want to work for a company that has a purpose beyond just profit. They want to work at companies they are proud of working for. So, it makes sense to listen to what they want because if your company is aligned with their desires then you will be more successful because the best talent will want to work for you.

My view is: even if we get it wrong, from what I have seen at One Young World, the next generation won’t, and they will force the world to be better.

You once said in a 2009 interview with Marketing Week prior to the first OYW summit, “Success will be measured in the number of attendees that go on to run countries and big businesses in the future. We’ll also see how much impact the resolutions have when presented to world leaders and the wider global community.” In its third year, OYW currently has more than 375 projects and initiatives involving  more than 100 countries. Do you think OYW is successful to date? What type of success is on the horizon for OYW?

We’re still in quite an embryonic stage, but yes, we’ve been amazed by everything that has been achieved and we’ve surpassed our greatest expectations. From the depth and scale and number of tangible projects, to the amazing counselors who believe in its power, to getting 1300 people from 180 countries together, making it one of the largest representations of countries other than the Olympic Games and United Nations, to the way we’ve seen so many of these brilliant leaders change and grow and develop. It’s incredibly exciting.

It’s been said “OYW is arguably the most forward-looking and comprehensive piece of corporate social responsibility ever attempted.” We know how you’ve changed standards for corporate responsibility and the non-profit world, but how has OYW and the overall experience changed you?

Yes, the brilliance of our young people has inspired me and shown me just how much we have to learn from them. The brilliance of these young leaders, their ideas, and perspectives are humbling.

This year’s OYW summit welcomes counselors whom you’ve dubbed ‘digital pioneers’ like Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Huffington Post; Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter; Pete Cashmore, founder and CEO of Mashable; and Jimmy Wales, founder and CEO of Wikipedia.Why is it essential for digital pioneers to be represented at OYW?

The digital revolution is changing the world. Social media has given people the power to create global movements. It is changing the world at a rate I don’t think people fully understand. The young people are those who best understand the power of these new tools. To have the brilliant creators and pioneers of these tools join us at One Young World is an amazing opportunity.

You said in an IBM Think Forum interview, “The reason I’m so interested in the brilliant young people around the world is I just think that you see a different attitude and mentality in them. Now, whether they will keep that, we will see.” How can OYW keep this momentum going?

I think we’re at the start of a brand new era for business that will be exciting for those who get it right and a real problem for those that don’t.  I also think the most interesting thing is that some of the world’s biggest businesses like Unilever, one of One Young World’s greatest supporters, really are leading the way among the big businesses are now stepping up to this challenge.  There is a major movement starting to drive business to a better place. One Young World is part of that movement and hopefully a catalyst to driving real positive change.

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