Last year at a One Young World conference, I was approached by the CEO and Founder of World Merit, Mr Chris Arnold (cool dude) and he asked me to come to Merit 360. He told me how this would be a great platform for me to pitch my idea to the United Nations, when he said this, I was convinced that its something I should do!
This past week 300 young leaders from across the globe flew into New York for an opportunity of a life time. They got to put together solutions/action plans that would then be used to meet the United Nations sustainable development goals. What was even more exciting was the fact that we also get to pitch these ideas/organizations to the United Nations Youth envoy and other important delegates.
After everyone checked in at hosteling international, we were all ushered to a beautiful summer camp that overlooks a scenic lake in Pennsylvania. So Indian Head camp was going to be our home for two weeks as we worked together to come with solutions to change the world for the better. We were all divided by the different Sustainable development goals that we were tackling and placed into rustic log cabins. This was my first time in a camp experience and I must say I felt like I was back in boarding school when I walked into cabin with 11 other dudes.
But unlike my boarding school the 11 other dudes were extraordinary young change makers from all over the world. The guy who snored his life and slept right across me was from Brazil and the other countries represented included (but are not limited to) Croatia, India, Pakistan, Netherlands, Egypt, Canada and Nepal. It seems like I must have not gotten the memo because the lads hosted a snoring World Cup each night which made sleep something I longed for, for a good three days until I started sleeping before everyone.
During the camp we all had a rigorous schedule, woke up at 7:30 and the schedule ended at midnight every night. The daily events included attending workshops and inspiring speaker talks and then breaking of into our sustainable development goals groups. In each group we had to come up with solutions for three different components related to solving the target or mission of that group. For instance, our group target was sustainable cities and communities. Working with this group was invaluable for me as a leader and an aspiring social entrepreneur.
What made this experience invaluable was the fact that it was one of the most challenging experiences I have ever had to be a part of. Imagine having 19 young innovators in one room from different countries, all their countries have different problems and different agendas, these young people are involved in several different startups and organizations and you have to work together in a week and pick one project that really serves one problem and go with it. This taught me how to deal with group dynamics, personality differences, team building and most importantly it taught me the importance of compromising for the purpose of the greater good.
I presented to the group the concept of Ubuntu and there was an initial general liking of the project however everyone else presented some incredible projects which made the process of selecting one project ultra-difficult. This led to me having to pitch the idea to the group and to world merit community just over six times and in each case it challenged me to think about the project at all angles as I was questioned and critiqued by my peers. After a series of voting sessions Ubuntu Design Group Model was selected by the group to be the main project that we would present to the united Nations. This was a huge achievement and I’d also like to recognize that all the other projects were amazing and I hope all the other pitchers continue to implement them anyway.
After the decision had been made, the group became super engaged and united behind refining and developing the Ubuntu model for the United Nations Pitch. This was huge blessing to me, having 17 of some the brightest young minds work together in developing the Ubuntu concept. This whole process taught me that true leadership is being able to inspire others to be so passionate about your idea that they end up owning it and running with it. It was exciting to see that people were so excited about the project that we ended up having six people interested in pitching it at the United Nations. Kiran Patel a innovating lad from Auckland New Zealand ended up being the one stepping up to the occasion and impressing the United Nations Youth Envoy.
Aside from Ubuntu being presented at the United Nations and getting attention from that, I learned the importance of getting to know people. I honestly had moments of fretting about whether I’d be able to get along well with my teammates, but one night our group camp together and started sharing our life stories which included our childhood failures and success and what we aspire to be and to do. When that happened something magical happened, all the facades dropped, we started loving each other for who we really are and even our behavior changed. We went from being guarded and projecting a certain façade to being free, happy and just comfortable around each other and this was beautiful. This made me realize that you don’t know a person until you know their story and it is only then that you realize how beautiful and wonderful that person actually is.
Together we worked on 3 components:
1. Creative campaign to make the Global Goals for Sustainable Development – more well-know. We came up with www.sdgcities.org
2. Global & Local Partnership Opportunities – we found that these two initiatives, are doing great work: Green Office VU & Project for Public Spaces.
3. New Initiative for WM Community to support – Ubuntu Design Group.
Above all of this is the people: the opportunity to be in the same space with ~360 people from 85 countries, was extraordinary.
In a very special way, I’d like to thank the World Merit for this unforgettable opportunity and experience to be part of such an initiative, I wish and hope that this opportunity will be extended to many more young people out there who seek to bring in a change in the community. Also very importantly, I’d like to extend my sincerest gratitude to all the team members I worked with, who were beyond awesome, starting with our very influential and charismatic leader, Milena Dudasova from Slovakia, Michael Suplaag from the Philippines, Sanjay Baral from Nepal, Maddy Casey-Ashton and Kiran Patel from Auckland New Zealand, Paul Bissonnette from Canada, Melinda McNutt from Ohio, Anna Lucas Marin from Chicago, Nini Ho Li from Malaysia, Bathilde Fabre from France, Ivy Langat from Kenya, Charlotte Josam from Germany, Eduardo Pinheiro from Brazil, Diaa Al-saidi from Yemen, Nicolas Lopez from Columbia, Alexander Loris from Switzerland, Ankie Peterson from Northlands, and Laura Fae from the UK. All you guys were awesome and I wish you all the very best for your future endeavors!
To find out more about the us, please visit our website at http://www.ubuntudesigngroup.com and also share your comments and feedback!