ZURICH — It’s official: Pittsburgh will host One Young World 2012! This very exciting announcement was made at the closing ceremony of the OYW 2011 summit here Saturday night. At that ceremony, Mohammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist whose work in micro-lending earned him a Nobel Peace Prize, described how a business model can be used to create social good. The 29 members of the Pittsburgh delegation are already discussing next year’s event and the opportunities that hosting the summit in the United States — and Pittsburgh especially — present. Since the Oct. 18-22, 2012 gathering focuses on youth leadership, international development and social business, we can bring leading thinkers in these disciplines to southwestern Pennsylvania, and showcase the skills and talents of people and organizations in our region as well.
Earlier in the summit, I was able to be along the rope line as dignitaries entered, including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who is fighting for healthier school lunches, and Somali model/women’s health advocate Waris Dirie. Just a month after a terrorist attack on a youth camp in his country took nearly 100 lives, Norway’s Prince Haakon spoke eloquently about rejecting brutality and fear and nurturing tolerance, diversity and democracy. Anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Irish rocker and anti-poverty activist Bob Geldof also spoke. True to their characters, Geldof took a slightly antagonistic approach, while Tutu’s speech had a religious, hopeful undertone.
Unfortunately, there have been few opportunities for questions and comments from the delegates. The lack of breakout sessions further limited the ability to delve deeply into the topics up for discussion, or to meet those with similar interests. Overall, however, the conference discussions have been heavily critical of government, and emphasize the need for business to step in and contribute to the social good and environmental protection. There has also been a strong focus on sustainability.
We heard presentations from such business sponsors as Siemens, discussed their “Sustainable Cities” project. Barclays Retail presented their social corporate responsibility initiatives, such as setting up bank accounts for the poor in Africa. Oil giant Shell discussed how they examine markets and future sources of energy.
The main theme that has been expressed throughout the conference has been that the past generation has left the world in a worse place than they found it, and it will be our generation’s duty to clean it up. Many of the delegates we heard from are clearly up to the task. One from Uganda is an escaped child soldier now running for parliament. An Indonesia delegate helped her mother reduce a prison sentence for a crime she didn’t commit using social media. A Romania delegate helps prisoners re-integrate to society.
The final day focused on women, the environment and leadership. A project called “Women UP “seeks to create professional networks for women while they are still in school, and already has gained support of companies in Paris. The goal is to increase gender parity in business by acknowledging that the ability to network and self-promote often means as much – if not more – than skills or experience. I believe the project is very valuable and would be highly replicable in other cities.
Check out some of Amanda’s photos from the summit on our Flickr page.
Amanda Sennert is the Energy Workplace Project Fellow at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, where she coordinates communications for ShaleNET, a federal grant program that helps to prepare low-income, low skilled workers for family sustaining jobs in the natural gas industry. A native of Bradford County, Pa., she earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and political science from the University of Pittsburgh, and a master’s in international development from American University in Washington D.C. She lives in Shadyside.