Chhavi Breja: Open Ended Communication through Discussions

The world is rapidly changing, but there are some areas in which constancy is maintained. Asking “have you heard Jesse McCartney’s new song?” is just as relevant today as it was in 2004. Aucklanders complaining about the traffic is just as prevalent, if not more, than it was a decade ago. And the OECD Forum, despite having different focusses and speakers, was just as inspiring, fun, and thought provoking as it has been in the years past.

I’ll provide a more thorough break-up of the last 1.5 weeks in a later blog, as this one will be dedicated to the Forum itself, now that it has ended. This was the third conference we attended during our time here, and I can honestly say my expectations were surpassed. I was particularly happy to see technology was integrated very well, in keeping with the digitalisation aspect of the conference. There was a diverse selection of speakers and panelists, all of whom were rich sources of knowledge and expertise in their respective fields. Following is a (brief) summary of each session I attended (please feel free to message me if you’d like to know more, in the interest of words I’ll keep it short and to the point here), to give you an idea of what goes on at a conference with approximately 3000 attendees from government, the private sector, and civil society.

DAY ONE - 29/05/2018

Session 1 - What Brings Us Together - This was a general overview of the conference themes in the form of a panel discussion, with a heavy focus on technology and innovation.

Session 2 - The Truth About Vaccines - An informative session on the culture of misinformation surrounding vaccines and the need for an evidence based approach.

Session 3 - Women In Tech: Take Your Career to the Next Level with Practical Advice and Inspiring Stories - An inspiring session with Tarah Wheeler, author of the book the session was named after, and her steps to success and the need for collaboration and sharing of privilege to achieve true gender equality.

Session 4 - Healthcare for All: Homelessness, Mental Illness, & Addiction - An interesting perspective on the need for interventions to decrease and eventually solve homelessness.

DAY TWO - 30/05/2018

Session 1 - Women & Development - an invigorating and humbling session with Akiko Yamanaka from ASEAN on the power of gender difference in regards to development

Session 2 - Disrupt Aging: Finding Innovative Solutions Together - This was an informative session around the use of VR and AI technologies to disrupt the ageing process and facilitate rehabilitation for 50+ year olds and other patients with a demonstration of the aforementioned tech.

Session 3 - World Class: How to Build a World Class 21st Century School System - A panel featuring Andreas Schleicher, Director, Education and Skills; Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary General, OECD

Session 4 - Building Networks to Help Youth Realise Their Full Potential - A reaffirming session about youth engagement, talent, and involvement

Session 5 - Post Truth: How Bullsh*t Conquered the World - A talk with James Ball, author of the book after which the session is named, detailing the events and aftermath of a particular 2016 election.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that there were many, many, other sessions on that sounded extremely interesting, but due to various things (ie. Emmanuel Macron’s semi-impromptu visit, limited space in the audience, and purely logistical reasons) I couldn’t attend all the ones I wanted to. The ones I did attend though, appealed to me greatly, and I found myself asking each panel/ speaker a question during the session, something which had been a goal of mine from the beginning. This may seem inconsequential, but I have some solid personal reasoning.

I feel like coming from New Zealand to Paris and sitting alongside various high level diplomats, interns, and industry leaders can be very intimidating. It becomes easy to forget that you too have a voice and something valuable to contribute. This was one of my major takeaways from the panels. The content was for the most part very engaging and when speakers opened the floor I would naturally come up with questions I’d like to ask them, so before I could talk myself out of it, I’d put my hand up. It’s amazing the kinds of connections a bit of confidence can produce. The energy in the room would always shift slightly when I or one of the other delegates would mention we’re from NZ, as I feel like there’s something to be said for being from one of the OECD countries which is cooperative, generally liked, and insanely far away from Paris. We met some Kiwis (and Aussies!) along the way, and honestly, asking those questions enriched my conference experience and allowed me to get more out of it from a personal standpoint.

The Networking

I have to preface this by saying that although I haven’t attended any as big as the OECD Forum, I am not a complete novice to conferences. So I was surprised when I felt a little bit daunted at the prospect of networking, because it was with people who, in my mind, were far more experienced, established, and exceptional than myself. What I found out though, was that people love talking about things they’re passionate about, and love hearing the same from you. So it didn’t matter if the person I was meeting was the Director of an OECD directorate, or a university student from Sciences Po, because at the end of the day we all have things we care about, and we love (or should love) speaking about those things. I spoke from my perspective as a psychology student, Deputy Chair of a Youth Council, Reablement Volunteer, and UN Youth member, and received a range of perspectives and viewpoints in return.

Most notably, our delegation connected with other youth delegations from all around the world. This was one of my favourite aspects about the conference. We liaised with delegations from Brazil, Australia, and Canada, and met other independent youth delegates and interns from all over the place, which was a positively affirming and enjoyable experience, especially getting to chat more informally after the Forum itself. We were impressed, inspired, and invigorated after our time with the other delegates and can truly say we will miss them, but look forward to seeing the amazing things they are doing and will go on to do.

My final message is: If you are reading this and are between 18-30 years old, please do consider applying for any future OECD Forum delegations you may see. You will meet amazing people, visit a uniquely vibrant city, and learn more than you could have ever imagined. Quite simply, it will change your life.

All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences.