Nurturing Tomorrow's Leaders: Reflections on the Seventh Youth Forum Switzerland

Youth Forum Switzerland 2024 Team members
Fiona Flintham

Last week over 900 students from around the world converged on our High School campus for the Seventh Youth Forum Switzerland. Travelling not only from neighbouring international and local schools but also from the United States, Romania, and Germany, the event was a diverse gathering of young minds. The roster of speakers included Paralympians, environmental activists, and Timothy Cho, a two-time defector from North Korea.

But what exactly is the Youth Forum Switzerland (YFS), and why is it gaining attention beyond the borders of ISZL?

Mission and Objectives

Youth Forum Switzerland was inspired by the Open Forum in Davos. In 2017, a group of ISZL students were invited to attend. They returned energised. Why were a group of older people discussing the future of the planet, with no young voices? If young people were to inherit the world, surely their views should be heard?

With the support of their teachers, the first YFS was born, inviting speakers from Zug and further afield. The event has grown year on year, moving online in the pandemic, and returning face-to-face in 2022.

Hearing from global changemakers, being heard by local policymakers

The keynote speaker for the event was the North Korea defector turned activist Timothy Cho. Mr Cho now lives in the UK and is part of the secretariat of a cross-party group of UK parliamentarians with expertise in North Korea.

Keynote speaker Timothy Cho. (Photo credit: Isabel)

Swiss Gold Medal-winning Paralympian Manuela Schaer, and former Managing Director for the WEF and Executive Director of the Villars Institute, Lee Howell, were among the other speakers.

Psychology of Sport panel discussion (Photo credit: Fatima)

YFS is attracting local attention too: in the audience were Mattias Michel, Zug representative in the Ständerat, Volkswirtschaftsdirektorin Mitglied des Zuger Regierungsrats, Sylvia Thalmann-Gut, and Head of the Directorate for Education and Culture, Stefan Schleiss.

Much of the enormous job of planning, organising and staging such an event is done through scheduled time in the school week.  Many of the students also use the project as part of their requirements for the International Baccalaureate

Exchanging ideas, and creating their own platform

The students were determined this would not be a typical conference. There are panels with speakers, but there are also TED-style talks, an art festival, art workshops, and “impact labs” where students learn first-hand about how to live more sustainably, and student participation and questioning is welcomed. This year, young entrepreneurs pitched their ideas and prototypes to a panel of experts for feedback and suggestions.

Lilou P. opening speech (Photo credit: Veronica)

Lead Student Organiser, Lilou P., opened the event and said its success was a reflection of how well the 130-strong organising team had worked together:

“Our visitors told me they were really impressed by how well YFS was organised. One person asked me, do teachers run this? And I said, no, it's, it's for students, by students. They asked, how do you have the time? It really is just dedication. As soon as you sign up for Youth Forum Switzerland, for the next five months no matter what team you're in, you have to be dedicated. I'm very proud of the entire YFS team. Every year just gets better and better.”

Bicycle Repair Service Group. (Photo credit: Fatima)

ISZL’s teachers facilitate, and support, but the students are clear: this is their event. From inviting and hosting the event to baking over 1000 cookies for attendees, the organisation is down to the students. ISZL teacher, Fabio Paron, said

“It is inspiring to see so many students gathered to discuss and find solutions to issues that matter to them. The future is bright when these students inherit the planet.”

The YFS 2024 team.  (Photo credit: Ann-Maria Torres)

ISZL’s school vision is that students should “turn their learning into action”. For the hundreds of students from across Switzerland and around the world who returned home after an inspiring day, they must be considering how they, too, can be the change the world wants to see.

To delve deeper into YFS 2024, tune in to the ISZL Podcast , where host Joanna Cull explores the discussions and impactful moments from this year's forum. You can also tune in on Apple Podcasts or Spotify



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