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Commonwealth's rising stars brainstorm for change

10 July 2018

130 young people from across the Commonwealth gathered at Marlborough House last week to plant the seeds of a new era.

Their challenge: to envisage how the Commonwealth could change for the better by 2040, and what young people from across the Commonwealth could contribute to help it happen.

Marlborough House – the historic palace that serves as the Commonwealth’s headquarters – was turned into a hothouse of new ideas for the week.  35 aspiring leaders from the Commonwealth Youth Council and Commonwealth Youth Networks were equipped with new skills as part of the programme.  They built their capacity, learned about strategic planning, and discovered hidden aspects of the Commonwealth’s work.

At the ‘Your Commonwealth’ Youth Challenge participants heard an inspiring discussion from Journalist Shivvy Jervis and author Mark Stevenson on what the future might look like.  They discussed what innovation really means, the role of technology both now and in the future and how meaningful change can happen.

Layne Robinson, Head of Social Policy Development at the Commonwealth Secretariat, speaks at the Youth Challenge event

The young people then worked in groups to make elevator pitches about their proposed innovations and received feedback from a panel made up of Uganda’s Minister of State for Youth and Children’s Affairs, Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, futurist and writer Mark Stevenson, Commonwealth Youth Council Chair Tijani Christian and Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, Vijay Krishnarayan.

“How do you define value? The value of happiness, the environment, lack of prejudice, companionship should be included in value creation plans,” said Mr. Stevenson. 

Pitches from the young people covered topics such as:

  • strengthening monitoring and evaluation, governance and accountability mechanisms in the Commonwealth;
  • educating young people about important youth issues through tweeting;
  • creating platforms so young people can be better-represented in policy making – for example by providing a youth seat at CHOGM or by encouraging National Youth Councils;
  • providing employment opportunities through a trade agreement amongst all 53 Commonwealth countries;
  • improving access to information through capacity-building toolkits available to all young people involved in youth networks; and
  • setting quotas for young people in key institutions such as parliaments.

These ideas could transform the Commonwealth because at their heart they provide opportunities for the Commonwealth's one billion plus youth generation.

Tijani Christian, Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council, concluded by proclaiming to Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex and the Commonwealth’s new youth ambassador: “We young people have a unique perspective about what is needed to create a better future in the Commonwealth. I hope that the Commonwealth doesn’t just occupy your mind but takes a place in your heart, too.”