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Student Insights

What’s it like to… attend One Young World

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 22 Sep 2022

ICAEW Students One Young World event young people pair woman man

ICAEW’s Chartered Stars Mariee Payne and James Skilton were selected as ICAEW ambassadors for One Young World. They share their experiences of attending the 2022 summit in Manchester.

The annual One Young World summit brings together 2,000 young people of all sectors and backgrounds to discuss the world’s key challenges – and the potential solutions. This year’s event, held 5-8 September, saw keynote speeches from Sir Bob Geldof; Sylvia Earle, President and Co-chair of Mission Blue/The Sylvia Earle Alliance; and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, among many others. Five themes were discussed: conflict prevention, gender equality, oceans, ethical leadership and health. The winners of ICAEW’s 2020 Chartered Star Competition, Mariee Payne and James Skilton, explain what the four-day event was like.

Mariee Payne, audit assistant manager, Mazars

Attending One Young World as a delegate was exciting, overwhelming and thought-provoking. I felt really honoured and privileged to be there. James and I were part of a cohort of 12 people from Chartered Accountants Worldwide – some companies send huge delegations from all over the world. 

Our cohort attended a dinner hosted by Chartered Accountants Worldwide the night before the summit started, which was a nice chance to meet each other first. We all gelled naturally, and it felt like making friends, rather than forced networking. Tentative plans have been made to meet in the future somewhere around the world. 

The opening ceremony the next day was held in Bridgewater Hall and it wasn’t until we were sitting there that I realised every single seat was full. There were 202 countries represented in the opening flag ceremony and it took a solid ten minutes to get through them all. The applause didn’t lag for any country. After the ceremony, we attended a dinner with all 2,000 delegates. It was held in a huge abandoned depot and I had never seen anything like it.

There were lots of different things to do over the four days – watch speakers on the main presentation stage, take part in action sessions which allowed you to discuss the topics in more depth within smaller groups, take part in Q&As with speakers on the interactive stage, and network in the community garden.

Tackling climate change is a key interest of mine - and the role of accountants in enabling greener business is something I based my Chartered Star Competition entry around. At the summit, I listened to oceanographer and marine biologist Sylvia Earle and Daniela Fernandez, founder and CEO of Sustainable Ocean Alliance, talk about the fact that the ocean is our home as well as that of marine life. If oceans didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be here either. 

I also attended a session on how we can make our cities more circular hosted by Holcim and Bloomberg Media. We had an amazing discussion about the cost of living in cities. I had a fantastic and nerve-wracking opportunity to talk to the rest of the audience about the ideas our group had come up with to make cities more sustainable, including training adults for second careers in STEM subjects to encourage innovation.

There were so many amazing speakers. One speaker from the US described developing a way to turn glass bottles into sand to return to the seabed off Philadelphia, which doesn’t recycle its waste. Another described fleeing from Syria as a 14 year old and how, now in her 20s, she has set up a therapy area to help refugees’ mental health. I had a bit of a sense of imposter syndrome, of how I fitted in with these people doing amazing things, but I was reminded that I am only 24. There was a complete mix of people at different stages of their lives and their careers attending the summit. It was very inspiring.

In the run up to the summit we had so much support from the Institute. I hadn’t been sure what to expect from the event, but my experience exceeded any expectations I may have had. The main thing I learnt was that One Young World isn’t just about the summit: it is a starting point where you get ideas. We leave as ambassadors who are part of a community for life.

James Skilton, audit and accounts semi-senior, Wilson Wright

Ahead of the summit, I had been introduced to a group of delegates as part of Chartered Accountants Worldwide. So, I went into the first day feeling a bit flat about my own achievements. However, that feeling quickly dissipated and was replaced with buzz, energy and inspiration to use the opportunity to build a more sustainable tomorrow.

Across the four days of One Young World, I experienced stories that I had previously only heard about on the news. For someone like me, born and raised in the UK, learning about someone else’s upbringing in the slums of Kenya or the struggles of escaping war-torn Syria brought things into perspective.

One of my highlights of the summit was listening to the experiences of former South African rugby captain and world cup winner Francois Pienaar and his ongoing mission to fund education for the leaders of tomorrow in South Africa. Another highlight was hearing from disability activist Oscar Anderson, who made a powerful speech about his experiences of having been a One Young World delegate and how it inspired him to be an advocate for the changes he wanted to see.

Amongst the plethora of powerful speeches, I was lucky enough to attend a workshop run by AB InBev, the global beverage company, outlining its 100+ Accelerator programme. The scheme offers mentorship, funding and access to new networks for start-ups looking to scale up and drinks manufacturers looking to reduce waste and become more sustainable. I was then able to discuss this in detail with one of the scheme's beneficiaries - a company which uses the native black soldier fly to convert food waste into protein for animal feed. Through the financial support and mentorship of AB InBev, the business has been able to rapidly scale and open plants throughout Africa.

Being an ICAEW Chartered Star and attending One Young World has given me the opportunity to bring positive change to my organisation and the industry as a whole. As accountants, we must continue to make strides in key areas, such as achieving net zero, integrating financial literacy into the national curriculum, and promoting equality. The main goal of the summit was to light a fire under attendees and get them motivated. I left feeling that it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something positive.


Find out more about how ICAEW participates in the One Young World summit.

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