Monday, 3 July 2017

T20 Summit: Global Solutions for G20

The G20, for those who haven't heard of it, is a gathering of the leaders of the world's twenty biggest economies. What I didn't know until recently is that the G20 has a bunch of sister events, like W20 (Women 20), B20 (Business 20) and T20 (Think 20). 

T20 is a gathering of the world's leading economists including Nobel Laureates, finance ministers, UN and EU people and more that comes up with policy proposals for the G20 leaders, and a few months ago the German G20 and T20 Presidency and Global Solutions sent out a call for Young Global Changers between 18 and 40 to represent their country and pitch solutions to global problems to these people.

Probably needless to say, because I wouldn't be blogging about this otherwise, I applied and was accepted out of 1400 applicants. I got to represent Ireland, be profiled in Berlin's main newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, watch and learn from an impressive summit and pitch to very cool people, but I think the most amazing thing was meeting young (well, 18 to 40) people from all around the world and learning so much about their societies that I'd never have learned from reading a book about it. 

We were there for four days. On the first day, we had talks from a Nobel Laureate and representatives from PwC, got to know each other and started working in teams on our pitches (I was in the Climate Policy and Finance task force). 

The middle two days held the actual T20 Summit: Global Solutions for G20. It was very fancy and very impressive, held in the old seat of the East Berlin government. We saw some very cool people -- highlights included:

  • Ylva Johansson (Minister for Employment and Integration, Sweden) -- "We don't protect jobs, we protect workers"
  • Gabriela Ramos (Special Counsellor to the Secretary-General, Chief of Staff and OECD Sherpa)
  • Nicholas Stern (Lord Stern of Brentford, IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government, LSE) - carbon pricing
  • Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel Laureate in Economics) - carbon pricing
  • Peter Altmaier (Head of German Federal Chancellery)
  • all the speakers at the Evidence-Based Policy Design session
  • Jeffrey Sachs (involved in everything in the world, very passionate -- watch his speech here)
There were loads of other cool speakers, including a bunch of Nobel Laureates like George Akerlof. There were also some panels that became actual heated debates between panellists, which was cool, although I don't know how many solutions were reached. 

I remember thinking this is cool, it would be incredible if there was something like this but for public health and thinking there must be and then going to the session on Evidence-Based Policy Design and finding out the World Health Summit exists! I read the speaker list and geeked out, a lot. I'll have to find some way to be able to go. 

I am not actually in this photo because I didn't check the right schedule. But here are some YGCs with our cool lanyards.

On the final day, we prepared and presented our pitches to a bunch of impressive people having used design thinking. I really don't like the hype around it but seems reasonably helpful, just not something worthy of cult-like adoration -- but then few things are. 

The best part of the scholarship was meeting so many people from so many different places. There were 100 YGCs chosen, 90-something of whom could attend because of visa difficulties, and they were from all over the world. I'm used to "international" events just being Ireland, the UK and maybe a bit of the US and Europe, but this had dozens of people from each of Africa, South America and Asia, plus a few from Europe and North America. I learned so much about people's cultures and societies that I would never have known otherwise -- I'd been reading about Saudi Arabia's treatment of women the week before, for example, and then got to quiz a guy from Saudi Arabia about it and learn lots. 

I've met a good few people from various places, but these people actually live there day-to-day. My roommate is from the Philippines, and the people I hung out with most there are from Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, Fiji, Uzbekistan, El Salvador, Venezuela, Israel, Afghanistan, Namibia, Iceland and Ethiopia (I'm sure there are some I'm forgetting). This is a photo of five of us hanging out, and there happen to be five people from five continents. How cool is that?

  • Europe (Ireland) 
  • Africa (Ethiopia) 
  • Asia (Vietnam) 
  • South America (Venezuela) 
  • Oceania (Fiji) 
My team members were from Italy, Peru, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Cameroon, and I talked to cool people from Syria, Tunisia and Myanmar. 

I could read books and books about these countries and have no real idea about how people live there, and even though I only met one from each I still learned so much! Most of the YGCs were doing really cool projects as well, and it was nice to see that there are the same ambitious, driven people in every country. Also, a lot of people were surprised that I've done things by age 18, which I found weird because it's quite common in Ireland (at least, I keep meeting these people). 

Also, Berlin was HOT. In a 24-hour period, the lowest temperature was 18 C at 6 am, which is heatwave temperature in Ireland. On the first day, I came from the airport and no one could understand my accent when I said I was looking for the Hampton by Hilton Hotel Alexanderplatz so I spent an hour wanderingly being directed towards the Hilton, the other Hilton, and oh man I died. It was really nice in the evenings though because I could just walk around perfectly warm in my dress -- especially the evening PwC threw us the best reception ever. 

Lots of inspiration, lots of information, lots of admirable people, lots of work to do. Seeya soon Berlin.


Thank you to Bernadett, Anya, Dennis Snower, Dirk Messner and all my fellow YGCs for a great event! :) 

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