This article is part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020
By Samvita Amladi
Listen with Attention, Speak with Intention- a guideline given to us before the conference started. A part of netiquette, internet etiquette. However, I take it as advice for life. Pay attention to those who are talking, and speak with persuasion and interest when you are talking.
I participated in the Global Youthfest Virtual Conference conducted by the JUMP! Foundation. This was a two-day conference where people from all over the world came together to attend seminars held by experts and entrepreneurs.
After introducing ourselves in the chatbox of the Zoom call we realised we were interacting with people from such diverse backgrounds. The hosts proceeded to tell us about the seminars that were available during the first one hour block. What made this such a unique experience was the ability to choose your own subjects and customise them to what you want to learn. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what JUMP!’s real purpose is. They want to equip you with the strength to be an independent citizen of the future. School teaches us what to use in adulthood, but experiences like this teach us how to use it.
We used the first few minutes for a short speed meeting, where we were organised into randomised breakout rooms. We were given a few prompts to spark a discussion- What are your objectives for joining this conference? Which topics or sessions do you feel most comfortable with? Which will be completely new? How do these topics connect to the global picture? This was an opportunity to get to know each other better as well as see if we share the same morals and beliefs.
My objectives were to see the world as an amalgamation of perspectives, to see how people around the world think and view things differently, as well as to observe how Social Entrepreneurs make a distinct difference in this world.
Each workshop facilitator gave us a 30-second elevator pitch describing what we would learn and take away from their session. I started out in my comfort zone, Art Therapy. We were told to start out with a yellow background, then to colour freely, to see what the page wants the art to look like. Each session was an hour long, we had 10-minute breaks in between, to stretch and recuperate. I then attended the seminar for Social Enterprises, composing of a short introduction to entrepreneurship, and a Q&A session with the two founders of the enterprise. To make sure we wouldn’t get tired, the hosts organized an energizer, a few minutes to teach each other something exclusive to our culture. In this energizer, we taught each other the first five numbers of our mother tongue. I then attended three more sessions- “Advocacy in the Time of Coronavirus,” “Remembering the Heart,” and to mark the end of the day “The Closing Session.”
There was such a difference in the age group but not a difference in how we, as a people want the world to be. We should realise our role models don’t have to be those who are in power now, but those who are changemakers, and believers in acceptance. There were some who had done more research, had more experience, were more composed, and more direct with their opinions. Although I still idolize Michelle Obama, I feel there is a certain connection between us and those who are close to our own age when it comes to the way we want to live and want the future to be.
Although it may seem bizarre, I remember liking the closing session the most. It amazed me that even after spending almost 6 hours at my computer, I still had enough energy to participate in the closing session enthusiastically. This is where the first guideline really made sense.
“Listen with Attention, Speak with Intention.” The closing session was an opportunity for us to Speed Network- talk to each other about our day and specific events we enjoyed. Like the opening session, we were given a few questions- What was your highlight from today? If you could invite any person to come and speak at this conference, who would it be and why? If you could send a message back to yourself a year ago, what would it be? If you could send a message to yourself one year in the future, what would it be? Who is one person that inspires you and why? What role does the youth play in leading the world through COVID? We discussed these questions in breakout rooms and had an amazing time talking to each other about these topics. I found myself cherishing these moments a little bit more as I learned about the people I was having a conversation with even more.
I looked forward to the next day with even more anticipation. Day Two was similar, but offered a slightly different lineup of programs. Even though the people you’ll meet will most likely be far away from you, the connections you’ll make will be personal and longlasting. The closing session for day two was a little more focused on maintaining these connections. The hosts, acknowledging that we had all become closer, planned a speed networking session, again to appreciate the day and talk about what we took away from this experience.
Before this program, you could say I was quite the pessimistic-realist. However, after this experience, I see a future that isn’t filled with apocalyptic disaster, but rather capable individuals ready to restore humanity to Earth. Maybe the world would be a better place if we did not ridicule those like Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, and Yara Shahidi. But rather Listen with Attention, and Speak with Intention. This generation needs empowerment in order to be reminded that they have a role in today’s society and to decide the new normal. This experience reminded me that I have a duty, that we as the youth have a responsibility, to make this world the way we want to live in it before it is decided for us.