Home Business Insights & Advice Kate Robertson dreams of a future where G20 leaders are all One Young World ambassadors

Kate Robertson dreams of a future where G20 leaders are all One Young World ambassadors

by Sarah Dunsby
27th Mar 24 3:10 pm

In an era where division often seems to define the contours of global politics, Kate Robertson, co-founder of One Young World, envisions a future where the leaders of the G20 nations are not just politicians, but also ambassadors of the youth-driven global forum known for empowering young leaders.

This ambitious wish isn’t merely a daydream; it’s a clarion call for a seismic shift in the way nations navigate the complex challenges of the 21st century. Robertson’s perspective underscores the importance of youthful idealism, innovative thinking, and empathetic leadership in tackling global issues such as climate change, inequality, and peace-building.

“Better leadership would change a lot of things,” Kate Robertson shares. “For me, the vision is when the leaders of the G20, for example, are One Young World ambassadors, things will be better.”

Growing up under apartheid — a legal system for racial separation in South Africa from 1948 until 1994 — Robertson experienced firsthand how fundamental fair and just leadership is.

“I’m obviously a South African, or was, and coming from apartheid South Africa, where the transformative leadership of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu changed the trajectory, changed the arc of history, it was amazing to me as an adult and a CEO that the great and the good gathered in various forums around the world throughout the year, but nothing ever changed,” Robertson reveals.

“Climate change and the impact of climate change. Lots could have been done about that 27 years ago after the Kyoto Protocol, but there was a global failure of leadership. So the question is now: Can we find these young leaders in the hope of better leadership?”

One young World: A conduit for change

One Young World has gained prominence as a platform where young leaders can share ideas, foster innovation, and collaborate on solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. By integrating these budding visionaries into the highest echelons of global decision-making, Robertson believes positive change can occur.

“I see these young leaders and how much they care about their people and what they’re trying to do, in often unimaginable circumstances,” she says.

The rationale behind Robertson’s wish is clear: Young leaders aren’t only acutely aware of the challenges their generation faces, but are also more inclined to employ innovative methods and technologies to address these issues. Moreover, their intrinsic optimism and resilience could infuse fresh energy into the sometimes-cynical corridors of power.

Robertson’s daughter, Ella Robertson McKay, managing director of One Young World, is equally invested in tomorrow’s changemakers.

“Our mission is to inspire, build, and elevate young leaders because we believe that at the heart of every global threat, whether it’s violence, peace, lack of peace, climate change, nuclear war, etc., at the heart of all of those challenges is a lack of leadership,” Ella Robertson McKay explains.

“And if we build, elevate, develop, and inspire the next generation of more ethical and effective young leaders the world will be a better place with more responsible and sustainable leadership.”

One Young World is the pathway to that goal. “We offer them the platform of our global summit where they meet each other, where some get to speak on a global stage,and they meet current world leaders,” Ella Robertson McKay adds.

“They meet business leaders, politicians, artists, musicians, athletes, a really inspiring group of people. And they come away, having met a hero up close, inspired to lead the change they want to see in the world.”

By the numbers: One young World’s impact

In its 2022 impact report, One Young World shared astonishing statistics — more than 5.7 million people have been impacted by the organization’s ambassador-led projects. One Young World aims to connect up-and-coming bright lights from all over the world to build a better future. In 2022, scholarships were awarded to recipients in 176 countries with 629 scholars participating. More than 40,000 people applied for these scholarship places making it more competitive than Harvard.

One Young World also formed Lead2030 to fund sustainable development goals crafted by founders under 30. In 2022, 17 prize winners from 12 countries received a combined total of $875,000. Since Lead2030 launched in 2019, One Young World’s impact report states that $2,075,000 was delegated to 40 young leaders in 21 countries.

When Kate Robertson was developing the idea for One Young World, she acknowledged that the need for such an organization was long overdue. And it all goes back to her South African roots.

“Did the world really have to wait for [Nelson] Mandela to be incarcerated for 27 years, or Malala Yousafzai to get shot in the head for a leader to emerge? [It] doesn’t seem right with so many people on the planet,” Kate Robertson stated in a video interview with Swiss tech company Bühler Group.

“But I also feel with this generation that we would call young, being the most informed, most educated, most connected generation in human history, is different.”

Robertson says she has high hopes for the upcoming generation — if previous ones relinquish the reins. “I think our confidence in them is increasing because we find them all over the world in every walk of life,” Kate Robertson said. “Extraordinary. However is my confidence in their ability to change at the pace the world needs? It’s not overwhelmingly high because we’re in the way.”

Robertson hopes the movement she started — that The New York Times has deemed “a firecracker of optimism” and Vanity Fair described as “a catalyst for the development of both young leaders and their projects” — will continue to inspire young people to make a difference in the world.

“Mr. [Kofi] Annan always used to say to us, ‘Our generation needs to help them and get out of the way,’” Kate Robertson added of the former secretary-general of the United Nations. “And I think that’s probably what’s needed by now. It’s a race against time.”

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