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GES Young Fellows - Reflections from Generation Y


We will inherit the world that the GES is attempting to shape

Written by the GES Young Fellows of 2013 – a group of individuals between the ages of 20 to 35 invited to represent the voice of the Generation Y in GES 2013

If we continue along the same path as today, we will be facing global problems of greater and greater complexity with depleting natural resources, increased environmental crises, social inequality, and economic instability. Although some challenges, such as unemployment or lack of growth are very tangible, others have only just begun to reveal themselves, and some of their potential implications have even longer term time horizons. Unless something is done today, the next generation of leaders – leaders from Generation Y (GY) composed of individuals born between 1980 and 2000 – will be discussing the exact same challenges as the current, although they will most likely be even more severe. Policymakers are looking, more and more, to GY to take a leadership role in identifying and implementing the solutions to address the issues affecting us most.

Again this year, GY was invited to take part in the symposium, which since 2008 has provided academics, politicians, and industry leaders with a powerful solution oriented platform for tackling some of the world's most challenging problems. Besides being the generation that will inherit the world that the GES is attempting to shape, GY is also best placed to implement the solution and foster the behavior change that is needed to transition to a more sustainable world. As stated by Edward Jung, founder and CTO of Intellectual Ventures, during an interview at the GES, the young generation has not been compartmentalized into industries and functions in contrast to the former and current generation of leaders. This gives us the opportunity to “take the capability to socially interact and communicate with each other, and use it for an agent of change”.

GY was represented at the GES through a group of 20 individuals organized into the 'GES Young Fellows'. The GES Young Fellows actively took part in discussions and panel debates, and interviewed more than 25 GES participants during the symposium. But participation in the GES was just a first step. While the GES publishes solutions that may not always be welcome – whether because they are unexpected, unconventional, against the grain, or the minority view, they deserve to be shared and tested through implementation – the GES Young Fellows pledge to enhance the outcomes of GES through the following three pillars:

GES outcome


Pillar 1: Dispersing GES insights to the rest of Generation Y

To succeed at the GES slogan of "Finding Solutions. Together", it is necessary to mobilize a larger group than just the GES participants, as both current and future generations must integrate the GES insights into their daily lives. Therefore;

The GES Young Fellows commits to dispersing the GES recommendations to GY through their work, blogs, speeches, and any other channel available to them

The GES Young Fellows dispersed insights already during the GES by tweeting and blogging about the symposium. In addition to this, we interviewed over 25 GES participants about their solutions to society's challenges – these interviews are all available at the GES official YouTube site. During the interviews, we asked business leaders, researchers, and policy makers to give their main recommendations for how GY should deal with society's challenges. These recommendations are summarized below and these will be a key component of the message that the GES Young Fellows will bring forward to the rest of GY in the months and years to come.

First of all, leaders of the GES ask GY to assume responsibility for solving the challenges we face. In doing so, we must not be afraid of communicating and informing decision makers of what we feel is appropriate and not. "The younger generation will have to repay/deal with the debts/economic legacies incurred today, thus their voices must be heard" (Nemat Shafik).

Second, the leaders ask us to stay informed. We should not trust mainstream media or received doctrines blindly, and education for all is key to developing the skill set needed to dealing with society's challenges. In addition to this, we need to learn from each other. "In a world of globalised economies, one must think and go outside one’s country’s borders [e.g. through studying or working abroad]" (Daniel Gonzales).

Third, and very much along the same lines, solving the challenges of today will take coordinated action from a lot of people. Therefore, we must remember to work to coordinate efforts across disciplines and geographies. As previously stated, GY is uniquely positioned to do so.

Fourth, we are asked to maintain our curiosity and imagination to challenge status quo. Leaders repeatedly emphasized this during interviews: “Your most important asset is real curiosity” (Conny Czymoch); "We need the younger generation and an empowered younger generation to change our habits and our business as usual” (Barbara Unmussig).

Fifth, we must act on our curiosity and take risks. GES participants emphasized the importance of trial and error, and particularly making mistakes so as to build resilience and unlock new ways of doing things. As John Bryant said during a debate "Success means going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm". We should stay open towards starting our own businesses, be it a tech-start up or something more simple. "Don't talk about problems, talk about solutions. I very often work with Mohammed Yunus, who is promoting social business…, and he says “whenever I see a problem, I start a business”" (Fritz Lietsch).

Finally – and very importantly – passion will succeed. “Find the thing where there's the greatest passion and enthusiasm and go all in” (Cornelius Pietzner). Here, the loop back to the first recommendation is important. In other words, we must ensure that GY gets passion for solving society's challenges. Quoting John Bryant again: "You can't compete with passion".

Pillar 2: Taking responsibility for driving solutions

The GES each year ends up with a list of recommendations for how to address society's challenges. The list is thorough and full of inspiring ideas, and besides participating in developing the solution ideas during the GES;

The GES Young Fellows commit to help drive solutions by starting to build businesses around GES solutions, and by ensuring that solutions suggested are tracked and not forgotten

When you see a problem, start a business. Adopting this simple ideology in our own back yards in Europe as well as in the developing countries would catalyze a movement of fresh innovation. Based on the combined list of solutions in the GES report, we must start developing businesses around the challenges faced and solutions suggested. Besides the GES Young Fellows committing to reviewing their current activities and adapting these to address the solutions suggested to any extent possible, the GES Young Fellows commits to following up on the solutions suggested and report back on the status of these to the GES in 2014.

Starting from next year, the GES Young Follows would encourage the GES to ensure that each solution is given a sponsor, who in collaboration with a GES Young Fellow takes responsibility for pushing the solution forward to the right decision makers and thus spearheading the solution's implementation. Young people are willing and able to drive this process with some thought leadership, advocacy and financial commitment on the part of the older generation. This brings us to the third pillar.

Pillar 3: Challenging the GES status quo

The GES attracts exceptional thinkers with great experience, insights and sound advice. GES challenges the status quo, values intellectual integrity, and wants to avoid political correctness, so we – GY – also see it as our duty to challenge the established GES. Specifically, in order to push even further for identifying actionable solutions, ensuring true commitment and action plans, we call for a range of new formats and the inclusion of important themes during future symposia. We hope that GES 2013 was one of a many year-long relationship between the GES and the GES Young Fellows and therefore;

The GES Young Fellows commits to continue supporting and being a part of the GES, and take active part in shaping and improving the GES

The main additions that the GES Young Fellows hope to help develop for GES 2014 are:

  1. A dedicated sponsor to each suggested solution with the responsibility for pushing the solution forward in collaboration with GES Young Fellows. One specific task would be giving an update on the status of the solution either in GES newsletters or at the following GES
  2. A range of group working sessions based on clearly pre-defined issues, where several groups work towards different solutions to the same challenge and present to the larger group at GES. Social media could be used to include the opinions of more young people around the world in advance/during the sessions
  3. Smaller sessions bringing together interest groups to discuss specific issues and solutions
  4. The creation of the GES Venture Fund that allows for an entrepreneurial exploitation of a number of ideas that are brought forth at the event. Today's leaders would suggest ideas and, if they want, contribute to the Venture Fund with a dedicated amount for the exploitation of their ideas. Joint businesses between today's leaders, GES and the GES Fellow could be formed to test the solutions power to address the issue in a sustainable way
  5. An knowledge sharing fair (e.g. during lunch) where participants are encouraged to bring showcases of innovative solutions being put into place in their local context and invite questions, support, collaboration and/or replication


Finally, two key questions that we hope to see addressed in Malaysia in 2014 based on this year's discussions:

A. How to increase the degree of entrepreneurship and innovation in the world?
B. How to direct this increase towards solving society's problems?


The GES Young Fellows would like to extend a sincere thank you to Dennis Snower and Thierry Malleret for involving us in this exceptional event. We would also like to thank all the leaders who took the time to share their wisdom and insights in the interview sessions. The GES Young Fellows look forward to a long-term engagement with the GES and to helping to drive the solutions forward over years to come.

GES Fellows 2013

The GES Young Fellows (from left to right): Jonas Borchgrevink, Founder of MyGoodAct, G. Ryan Ansin, Chairman of Clarity Project, Christopher Pruijsen, Lead Growth Strategist, Raising IT, Elianna Sabbag Moquette, Co-founder & Co-director, Step Up Advisory Group, Raphae Olszyna-Marzys, Economic Analyst, Absolute Strategy Research, Anders Møller, Founding Partner, Grasp Media / Founder, Bangura Bags, Pan Pan, LGT VP ICat Fellow, Kasper Worm-Petersen, Managing Director, Grasp Media, Laura Carolina Baer, Architect, K. Tenke Zoltani, Founder, Better Finance, Victor Henckel von Donnersmarck, Founder and President,

Also GES Young Fellows of 2013, but not in the picture: Amisha Ghadiali, Associate Director, Future Fashion Forum, Rikke Krause, Consultant, Boston Consulting Group, Anika Saigal, Founder, World Code Day, Marco Stephan, Founder, Arineos, Dr. Peter Vogel, Entrepreneur and Scholar,