“Explore, Connect, Inspire” was the motto of the first Youth Forum Switzerland (YFS) that took place in January 2018 at the ISZL High School Campus. The goal of the Youth Forum Switzerland was to provide a platform, empowering youth from across Central Switzerland, to discuss important global issues. In putting together this inaugural event, we certainly achieved our aim by successfully bringing together 29 world-class speakers and over 500 student attendees.
Embracing Diversity ~ Empowering Lives was the focus of the YFS and a topic that has become increasingly important in various social, economic and political facets in the lives of young people. The day was comprised of panel discussions and TED-style talks on topics ranging from migration to technology to gender equality and the future of work, with student moderators leading every session. Throughout the event, students interacted with guest speakers as well as with other students and community members, which created an exceptional atmosphere of positivity and collaboration. As one ISZL student said, “I enjoyed the relevance of the topics that were discussed. The speakers focused on us, a young audience, which made it even more relevant.”
Bringing students together with leading change makers was what motivated our desire to start this forum. Aurore, Willemijn (fellow Grade 12 students) and I wanted to show that passionate young people and dedicated teachers can have a great impact within a community. In January 2017, almost exactly one year before YFS 2018, we had the amazing opportunity to attend the Open Forum Davos that coincides with the World Economic Forum. We met many influential speakers, thinkers and trailblazers in their respective fields. We left feeling incredibly inspired yet were struck by how little time or attention was given over to young people. Although we were able to hear from adults who shape our world, we did not have an opportunity to participate or enter the dialogue. Aurore says “I realised that we are the people that these changemakers are attempting to address and this is why the Youth Forum Switzerland has so much potential.”
We returned from Davos determined to address the issue of youth representation and, as a result of some passionate planning sessions and heated debates, the Youth Forum Switzerland was conceived. Willemijn remembers that she “came back from the trip feeling inspired by the experience and very excited that we were able to share our experience with a broader community”.
A whirlwind year of meetings began and a year after our experience at the Open Forum Davos we hosted an event that gave students a voice. Attendees of YFS came from 8 local and international schools, allowing for a truly global conversation between people from over seventy different nationalities. Guest speakers included: Scott Weber, the Director General of Interpeace; Michele Mischler, the Head of Swiss Public Affairs and Sustainability at the World Economic Forum; Dolfi Müller, the Mayor of Zug; Philipp Handler, a Swiss Paralympian; and Prudence Mabhena, the Zimbabwean United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. In addition, many of the speakers at YFS were part of the World Economic Forum’s community of Global Shapers - individuals who are improving the state of the world through their work.
Our warmest thanks go to all the spectacular guest speakers who gave up their time to come and empower us! We also want to thank every member of the YFS Team, both students and staff, who all worked extremely hard to make this event such a success. The Youth Forum Switzerland 2018 has made me, and everyone else involved, extremely proud. An ISZL staff member put it best when saying, “I am proud to be part of a school and a community that can pull off such a great event.”
Youth Forum Switzerland (YFS) was funded largely in part from donations to our school's Fund for Excellence (FFE). The FFE supports innovative learning and experiential projects like YFS. We are thankful to our donors who helped make this fantastic event possible. Find out more about the FFE at www.iszl.ch/ffe.
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