credit: Sam Balye via Unsplash

AIESEC’s YouthSpeak UK conference held last weekend

By Lucy Dunn

The event discussed leadership opportunities for young people, with a variety of successful speakers.

AIESEC, a globally-operating platform run “by youth for youth” that allows young people to learn and develop leadership skills, hosted its YouthSpeak UK conference last weekend. 

Engaging young people’s involvement in team-working and leadership opportunities via volunteering experiences and internship programmes, AIESEC’s YouthSpeak Forum created an event that aimed to “empower” young people to help work towards achieving “Sustainable Development Goals”, particularly their eighth: “Decent Work and Economic Growth”. 

The event encompassed a number of mini-events, with speakers ranging from NUS president Larissa Kennedy, Joe Griston from Arrival, and Darren Jones MP. Between solo talks ran four panel discussions, including one on reducing inequalities in leadership roles, and another on sustainability in business. A TikTok workshop also took place, as well as another “Being an Influencer for Change”, which included Lucy Edwards from the BBC.

Speaking on AIESEC’s presence in the UK, the team introduced the event by discussing the involvement of the not-for-profit organisation in 16 universities across 13 cities, with 400 members at present. AIESEC operates across over 110 countries worldwide, and provides young people with “over 30,000 experiences” annually. The organisation provides students with interning opportunities, as well as volunteering experiences. 

The first talk of the day from the NUS president, Larissa Kennedy, who spoke about looking back at how much young people have done previously in order to continue paving the way for societal change at a student level: “We, as this present iteration of young people of the student movement, need to harness that same hope and drive for something better as our founders did. It’s time to be radical, to be visionary, and to build a grassroots mass movement that is capable of realising a re-envisioned education system and a re-envisioned world.” 

Joe Griston, chief of talent at Arrival, a UK company founded in 2015 that produces electric vehicles, presented a talk titled “Building a Billion Dollar Startup, Twice”. He gave tips to students on what he had managed to achieve and how he had done so, to get to where he is currently. He discussed how ideas had changed over time, with Arrival having a “soft reset” in 2017, where the business approach was altered in order to make the company excel further. Joe also spoke about the success of well known social platforms today, and the goals that they had to become successful. 

A variety of panel discussions followed afterwards, including Bola Ajose, during the DIY Youth Panel, who talked about her non-linear career path from pharmacy to event Management to Technology. Harvey Matthewson, social mobility commissioner for disabilities and health, was a speaker in the Reducing Inequalities Panel and spoke about his own difficulties finding work due to his disability. 

The TikTok panel showed how the recently exponentially popular media platform can be used for marketing and campaigning, with statistics that stated 77% of TikTok users felt the app had helped them learn more about social justice and politics. The Sustainability Panel discussed climate action, and their own involvement in organisations that aim to reduce climate change, for example by helping other businesses reduce their carbon footprint.

Lucy Edwards spoke about how “the world needs AIESEC to succeed”. Discussing her own time with AIESEC, she commented: “Without AIESEC, I wouldn’t have seen Antarctica. I wouldn’t have had the skills to run clean energy events across Asia, which is where I met my co-founder of my off-grid solar start-up, and we started that business together. Without that job I wouldn’t have been living in Bangkok, travelling to Singapore or running events in India.”

The virtual event ran on the HopIn platform, where viewers could jump between a “main stage” to workshops and networking breaks. This enabled participants to have one-to-one discussions with the great variety of speakers at the event. A chat bar functioned at the side of every discussion so that viewers could ask questions, and speakers generally left their emails and contact details if anyone wanted to get in touch.

AIESEC are hoping to host a second YouthSpeak Forum even later in the year, “in an offline setting” if restrictions allow. 

For more information about getting involved with AIESEC, click here

Editorial Note: The Glasgow Guardian were media partners for this event, but received nor gave compensation, but partnered because we principally believed it fit our motto of being “On the side of students” by promoting youth leadership. 


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