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The Briefing

Young Leaders A Symbol of What We Need Most Today

Young Leaders A Symbol of What We Need Most Today Banner

by Aiken PR


Resilience, creativity, and disruptive thinking combined for a firecracker of positivity.

Few things captivate the imagination like a young leader aspiring for a better tomorrow. Those innovative, wise–beyond–their–years individuals who, in their actions, instigate transformative change across social, political, and economic spheres. The leaders of tomorrow, making a tangible difference today.

On a local level, young leaders have served up a much–needed showcase of leadership in the absence of elected officials. The next generation, plotting a collective path for our future and the future of Northern Ireland. It was that spark of optimism that was on full display earlier this month when Belfast played host to the One Young World Summit. And the official numbers speak for themselves.

Close to 2,000 delegates from 190 countries descended on Belfast for what was pitched as a global summit aimed at creating a better world ‘through more responsible and effective leadership’. Famous faces as well as political, business and humanitarian figures engaged with an audience whose average age fell between 18 and 29. But if youth is supposedly wasted on the young, it didn’t show.

For all throughout One Young World there existed a voracious drive to discuss and dissect the greatest issues of our time: mental health, inequality, the climate emergency, to name but three. Exceptional young individuals who share a commitment to shaking up policy, society and the world around them. To see the opportunities and challenges that exist through a global lens.

Resilience, creativity, and disruptive thinking combined for a firecracker of positivity, with young peacebuilders in particular drawing lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process on its 25th anniversary as a blueprint for reconciliation.

Yes, 2023’s Summit was particularly poignant, providing another moment’s pause during this momentous year to reflect on Northern Ireland’s transformation since 1998. We’re now in a position to open our doors to the world, positioning Belfast as a crux for collaboration across the business, social and cultural arenas. Having one eye on the past is all well and good; it brings perspective and an appreciation for the many milestones achieved along the way. But now’s a time to commit to the future. To the fresh–faced leaders and aspiring change–makers whose young shoulders already carry the weight of tomorrow. They are the generation who stand to be most affected by the crises facing our world. No wonder the desire for change burns brightest at events such as One Young World; future leaders know that it is action, not words, that holds the power to rewrite the status quo. They are born digital and understand deeply the issues around diversity, equity and inclusion.

Advocating for positive, long–lasting change is a noble endeavour, and a key tenet of leadership that’s currently being taught at 25@25, a future–focused development programme designed to nurture tomorrow’s leaders that has taken root at Ulster University.

Participants in 25@25 will emerge equipped and informed, having covered themes ranging from creativity to entrepreneurship, sustainability to civic leadership. This coupled with lessons from exceptional leaders, including Head of Northern Ireland Civil Service Jayne Brady, provides a well–rounded experience to put into practice in the real world.

Leadership is akin to a lighthouse, a resilient source of guidance that people look to in times of challenge. As a society we need individuals who can champion inclusive values and fight for positive progress. Leading by example. Taking the path less travelled in the pursuit of wholesale change.

That’s something we’re seeing more and more of among the youth of today. Young individuals grasping the nettle. Individuals like Greta Thunberg who at age 15 risked jeopardising her performance at school to start #FridaysForFuture in 2018. It’s now an international movement.

Then there’s Zuriel Oduwole. An advocate with a global agenda who became the world’s youngest filmmaker at age 12 and put girl’s education issues in Africa under the eyes of global leaders. Inspired change–makers, pushing the dial from an early age.

Social media has undoubtedly fast–tracked the impact of activism, but it still falls on would–be leaders to light the fuse. The ability to galvanise people is inspiring. As we look forward, we must enable future leaders to be forces for good. They are the ones who will inherit tomorrow, but it’s the action we take today that will have the biggest bearing on our shared future.