An interview with Kate Robertson, Co-Founder of One Young World

Kate Robertson
By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

2 June 2017

One Young World (OYW) is a UK-based charity that gathers together the brightest young leaders from around the world and provides the opportunity to make lasting connections and drive positive change.

Founded in 2009 by David Jones and Kate Robertson, OYW hosts an annual international summit for ambassadors and speakers to collaborate and debate innovative solutions for global issues.

The winner of One Young CA 2017 will attend this year’s summit in Bogot√°, Colombia as an ambassador with a group of representatives from other Chartered Accountant Worldwide (CAW) members.

Kate sat down with Eleanor O’Neill to discuss the incredible opportunity on offer.

Why did you start One Young World?

The vision was bringing the world together and really developing leaders.

Whether it’s governments, not for profits or corporates, there is a challenge for all of us around leadership. There’s a lack of understanding.

The founding principle is a belief that the most informed and educated generation in history are actually different. That if they were inspired by leaders who really do make a difference, then you’re laying down a future investment that says “this lot will make a difference and the right kind of difference”.

That’s the dream.

How important is it to have representatives from so many different backgrounds?

Absolutely critical. This is the only forum for that age group which is properly cross-sectoral.

You have a big representation from the corporates, a good representation from non-governmental organisations as well as some self-elected people, some self-sponsored people and people from education. You also get a mix of people going into politics.

Every other forum for the age group bends too much in one direction or the other.

You know, Kofi Annan has always said “it takes everybody”. And that’s our approach, that we’ve got to get to everybody.

It’s no good if business people just meet business people because we all know that’s a testosterone fuelled race for the money.

It’s no good if political types just meet political types, we know what that mentality looks like. And it’s no good when it’s good for the NGOs looking at each other because they’re all chasing the same dollar.

So anything that’s not bringing it all together just isn’t going to work and it doesn’t, it shows.

What is the role of an ambassador?

Our view is that the great and the good, such as ICAS, select and send delegates who, once they attend the summit, become an ambassador.

Their role in the world is to emerge quickly in leadership positions. That’s what we intend for them.

Our values are that young leaders matter, young leaders should be heard and the rest of us should be bending our everything to what they want.

There is a complete disconnect between what people under the age of 30 want and what is being delivered to them. That is the case in many, many instances.

It is very important that their voices as leaders are raised and are sufficient noise as to not be ignored.

What do you look for in ambassadors?

Everyone is very hesitant to define the qualities that make a leader. And yet, when you speak to people who lead corporates or who lead NGOs or who are in the senior places of education, when you say to them “here’s a batch of 30 people, who are the leaders?” they instinctively know.

So you’re looking for that spark but, beyond that, they define themselves as very curious, courageous and action-oriented.

That’s what leaders do, they act.

If you look at someone like Jamie Oliver, he did ’15 because it was something he believed in, that he could help young people, unemployed people to have proper jobs.

But I think in him there is someone who is a proper leader.

And if you look at Geldof, you know, all he wanted to be was a musician. He didn’t expect to land up the way he did but he’s a leader, a proper leader.

Who inspires you?

Just when you look at those people I’ve mentioned, you know, Bob, Jamie, Muhammad Yunus, Desmond Tutu, Emma Watson, Malala or closer to home, Helen Morrissey.

And when I see our lot, whether it’s Indy Hothi or any of the others, they are completely amazing. They are so receptive and so driven.

To me, I’m just so, so happy to be of any kind of service to them.

What is your favourite thing about the annual summit?

The fact that the quality of the delegates is rising as sharply as it is each year is fantastic. Rationally, that is an incredible thing to see.

But I think at the summit itself the highlights are probably emotional.

It is a wonderful thing to see the world in one place, to see the human family in one place and remarkable to see the extent of how the values truly are universal.

I love seeing all the nations together like that and I love seeing the trade of energy and inspiration between famous people and those that are yet to be famous.

I see people being inspired by Yunus or Annan or Geldof or whoever but equally I do see those famous people being inspired right back. That is a magic thing to see.

What would your advice be to CAs who want to attend One Young World as ICAS One Young CA?

Fight for your place. You people are so important to the way the world works; you really are so important. Nothing that needs fixing on a big scale is going to get fixed without you guys.

Somebody has to run the numbers; somebody has to account for the money.

The biggest problem in the world today is, by far, corruption. The people who can address that are you lot, more than anybody else, you guys have got your hands on it.

It is vital for people, particularly in the great professions, to understand how important they are and to deliver on that. To live up to that thing, to be that thing.

How do you want your profession to be seen? Do you want to be the doppelganger, the hired maiden of corruption? No.

So stand up for your profession.

Fight for your place at the summit because it is a life-changing experience.

We are so glad to have you there, to have a professional body represented is incredible. We are using you as an example to all the others, it’s really, really great.

Kate Robertson is one of the key speakers at the 2017 ICAS Young Leaders Summit. Book your place now.


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