The vacuum in me that the Brightest Young Minds summit filled

2014-09-15 10:19

The perpetual outcry in the leadership cycles is that leadership summits are a strategic move to amass huge amounts of money for organisers and catering companies through corporate sponsorships. The rationale behind this outcry, at least in part, rests on the fact that these leadership summits are nothing but a series of talk-shops that are characterised by lavish display of: clothes by the attendees, banners of sponsors from corner to corner in the conference hall, a set of round table discussions whose aim ostensibly is to keep the attendees’ lips moving up and down as though there is no tomorrow and inviting guest speakers to talk about what they have done or are busy doing that, provided the summit participants are not tired by then, would inspire everyone to do something for humanity. The critics of leadership summits argue that they offer nothing but a platform for people to boast about the projects or companies that they run as though that is all there is to life.

Talk-shops are good, for the reason that they offer a platform through which ideas are sharpened through critique. The preceding views bring me to the main point of this paper, which is to share with you the void that the majestic BYM summit that was held in Johannesburg from the 29th of August to the 2nd of September filled in me. This is the youth-led summit that was bred in Stellenbosch by young proud and visionary South Africans, who wanted to make their country a better place for all, thanks to the BYM idea South Africa and Africa are slowly but surely becoming better places for tomorrow’s generations to live in harmony. At first I did not know if I should pinch myself or cry for being among one of the country’s future leaders, who will demonstrate that leadership is not about position but action . The first talk on the opening day by Eugene Booysen is the one that proved to me that, unlike other summits I have been to, the next four days at the summit were going to challenge me to be the one who goes out to our communities and be the change agent. I feel confident and better prepared to be a top commerce teacher that I aspire to be thanks to the kind of ideas I got.

The value of collaboration for the common good

It is through this summit that I learned the value of collaboration for the common good. It is through this summit that I learned that it is not so much about the brilliance of an idea that matters, but the belief and conviction that the idea will bring sustainable solutions to societal challenges. The real test of character and tenacity for me in the summit was when we had to design innovative projects for top ten problems that South Africa has been grappling with for some time now.

The idea was to see how collaborative, innovative and persistent can different personalities with different talents be when they are tasked with a problem. That process taught me that when you work in a group you own the ideas that other group members bring forth, even when yours is rejected. In addition, that group exercise taught me that there is no such thing as a stupid idea; in fact, it is those “stupid” ideas that go on to make a huge difference in the world.

South Africa and Africa have had enough of passive social commentators

I realised that the appalling state of education, health care and crime in our country will not be abolished by social commentators who are always on our television sets, cyberspace and newspapers, but by men and women who understand that problems will not be solved by people who always talk and do nothing but rather those on the ground. I understood that “if I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem.” The BYM summit taught me what is possible if you put young and motivated people in one room for the common vision. It is through this summit that I learnt my playing small will never ever change the face of our continent.

Consciousness about the country’s demographics

I come from the university and the faculty that have taught me to be conscious about race, gender and socio-economic backgrounds of people around me. There were a few, and very few, things that were not right in the summit and one of those was an imbalance in terms of women representation. I could not help but wonder why there was only one lady in the panel that was judging our projects? I could not help but wonder why there was no Black or Indian woman in the list of guests who were going to present at the workshops? I believe when you are in South Africa, one needs to be conscious of these dynamics for the reason that the lack of demographic representation in the platforms such as the Brightest Young Minds, communicates to those in attendance that the only capable people in the corporate world are white men and a few white women, who happen to be physically able. I trust in the leadership of BYM that this will be looked into.

Believe in yourself and be open minded

The worst mistake one could ever make when surrounded by equally bright minds is to look down upon oneself.  This life-changing experience also taught me to believe in my abilities and never doubt for a second my unique talents. The truth is, it is very easy to feel intimidated when you are surrounded by young visionaries who have done marvellously well in their fields.

In closing, BYM is not just a summit that would bombard you with loads of information that has no relevance; it has equipped most of us with practical skills and connections that we can use to change our communities and for that I am immensely grateful.

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