2015 Nexus Global Youth Summit Highlights
Highlights from the 2015 Nexus Global Youth Summit
by: Hansol Choi, Mean Communications
The 2015 Nexus Global Youth Summit began on Wednesday, July 22, 2015, with a power-packed evening filled with inspiration and hope for the bright future ahead. Greetings from Nexus founders, Rachel Cohen Gerrol and Jonah Wittkamper, summed it up best with the statement, “This isn’t an event; it’s a movement. We’re here today to offer up the wealth of the human spirit.”
From Leon Logothetis’ personal experiences in the power of human connection through the kindness of strangers to Robert X. Fogarty’s portraits of heartwarming messages to the world, the strength of the human spirit resonated in the room.
We learned from Aziz Abu Sarah that “Travel makes you speechless, but then travel makes you a storyteller,” while Witness Uganda left us breathless through a powerful performance of a song from The Invisible Thread: A New Musical.
The evening ended with an impromptu breakdance by Nexus co-founder Jonah Wittkamper, a surprise that made participants more excited to see how the rest of the Summit would unfold.
The first plenary session, packed with powerful messages, began with a warm welcome to the United Nations Headquarters by Will Kennedy, the Senior Programme Officer of the U.N. Office for Partnerships, who set the tone for the rest of the day through an introduction of the U.N.’s proposal for 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani, next took the stage and opened Nexus members’ minds with his enlightening philosophy for engaging in business and philanthropy: “You cannot separate the work of philanthropy from what you do everyday. If you’re engaged with philanthropy the same way you engage with business, the solutions will be a lot better.”
Not Impossible’s Co-Founder Elliot Kotek, Liter of Light’s Executive Director Illac Angelo Diaz, and Bridges to Prosperity’s CEO Avery Bang showcased the impact of innovative thinking in creating solutions to global problems. All of these social entrepreneurs emphasized that the true viability of their projects depends upon involving and teaching local communities how to use and construct the products for themselves.
During breakout sessions, Summit attendees participated in active discussions with social entrepreneurs and leaders who have found innovative and successful ways to work on solving global problems including climate change, violence, human trafficking, etc. Other sessions involved education and discussions around philanthropy, social impact investment, empowerment, and finding one’s purpose.
Throughout the day, attendees visited the Tech Lounge, where they found samples of impact technologies including Not Impossible’s 3D-printed arm and EyeWire’s virtual reality glasses, which brought more than one participant to tears through a virtual journey in the streets of a Syrian refugee camp. The Tech Lounge also featured Dear World, whose founder Robert X. Fogarty worked to capture portraits of participants and their personal messages to the world.
In the second plenary of the day, young inventors made inspirational pitches for their impactful products, including Jack Andraka’s simple and inexpensive new test for pancreatic cancer; Joe Landolina’s Vetigel that, when applied to a wound, stops the bleeding in seconds; and Kavita Shukla’s Fresh Paper, which keeps fruits and vegetables fresh longer. A panel including Miss Universe 2013, Gabriella Isler, spoke about working to end slavery now, and international musician Mohombi and Olympic gold medalist Meryl Davis followed, providing their input about leveraging youth and using celebrity influence for good on the world stage.
As the day drew to a close, Ray Chambers, the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals and for Malaria, left Nexus members with the moving sentiment that any problem (even that as deadly as malaria) can turn around if there is enough collective and collaborative work by passionate individuals like those present at the Summit.
The second full day of the Summit opened with an early morning guided meditation with Deepak Chopra from the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, which left participants full of positive energy as they gathered for the opening plenary.
With a theme of intergenerational inspiration, the plenary featured leaders of various generations who have made a very large impact through their work. Speakers such as YGAP’s Elliot Costello discussed the challenges of ending violence against children, and Priyanka Jain, Youth Champion for the U.N. Foundation’s Girl Up program, gave an impassioned call for investing in girls’ empowerment.
Matthew Bishop of The Economist wrapped up the plenary by moderating a discussion between Edelman PR Firm’s Richard Edelman and daughter Margot Edelman on the challenges and opportunities that rise out of family business. A powerful piece of advice given by Richard Edelman captured the essence of the Nexus spirit: if we want to have impact, we must invite others; “don’t go solo, have a coalition.”
The diverse breakout sessions that followed offered insights into impact investing, integrating profit and purpose, learning tools to use to help end LGBT discrimination, and shaping culture through film and media. In one session about finding one’s voice in family philanthropy, panelists discussed issues of identity, voice, and mobilization in envisioning what philanthropic impact looks like in the twenty-first century, highlighting the sentiment of family philanthropy bringing fulfillment, results, and most importantly, the joy of giving to make a difference.
Further breakout sessions included a robust discussion on the evolution and adaptation of religion in contemporary civilization and the question of pluralism in strengthening the interfaith movement. Participants also engaged in active workshops with James Hurrell of the Nexus Network, Gemma Williams of Lookout Investment Group, and Melissa Kushner of Goods for Good on issues of social impact. Other sessions included a focus on the future of fashion and sustainable development, an exploration of intentional communities to promote greater social interaction, and deeper insight into the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals to inspire and mobilize worldwide action.
The final plenary featured Taso Du Val of TopTal, Rebekah Lin of Fifty for Fifty, and John Rutherford Seydel III of the Turner Foundation, who inspired the room at large with the endless possibilities of charting an impactful course for the future. Robert Swan, the first person to walk to both the North and South Poles, capped the day with a powerful declaration of the reality of climate change and humanity’s need to take responsibility along with a message of motivation to envision a better future for people everywhere.
The Nexus Global Youth Summit drew to a close on Saturday afternoon, but not without a bang! Nexus’ regional leaders highlighted the work in their regions and encouraged members’ growing involvement in the movement. Gerardo Goya shared the inspirational story of his work to found Iluminemos de Azul, and, later, Chris Pan invited everyone in the room to live a life of impact through the MyIntent Project. Chris distributed bracelets engraved with the word “IMPACT” to Summit participants as a daily reminder for purposeful living.
Tom Chi, the co-founder of Google X, brought energy into the room through an interactive workshop on brainstorming and rapid prototyping for social good, during which participants worked in groups to create physical representations of a solution to one passionate issue of interest.
True to the core of the Nexus message, the Summit closed with Ladislav Kossar and Teal Brown Zimring, two Nexus members who co-founded the Orphan Opportunity Fund after discussions at a past Nexus summit. The two inspirational members reminded everyone of why they attended the Nexus Global Youth Summit: the opportunity of now and the urgency in taking individual ideas to impact through connection and collaboration.