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The Time is Now: Emerging leaders implore business to empower young people

July 13, 2021

By Noah Grundy

With increasing buying power—and as the biggest presence in the workforce todaymillennials have a unique influence over the future of business. At this historic moment, it’s never been more important to consider: What are the most important issues among our youth? How can business respond to meet their hopes and expectations? And perhaps most importantly, how can business better leverage their insight and expertise?

Shared value co-creator Mark Kramer joined some of Australia’s most inspiring young voices to consider these questions during a session entitled A NextGen View: The New Mandate for Business at the annual Shared Value Summit Asia Pacific, broadcast live from Melbourne on Thursday 17 July.

Acknowledging that his “generation has not done what we needed to do to set the world up for success” (as part of a presentation on the past 10 years of shared value), Mark shifted the Summit’s conversation to focus on young people’s future aspirations for business; striking at the heart of this year’s theme: The Future We Choose.

Young people, for example, “might have lived experience” that provides “insights that higher level CEOs may not be able to fully appreciate,” said Yasmin Poole, The Martin Luther King Jr Center’s 2021 Youth Influencer of the Year.

As a high school student, Yasmin was a member of the Victorian Youth Congress, during which time she identified gaps in the mental health system for young people. This was only possible because of the lived experience of members; and this, she noted, reemphasised the “powerful opportunity to co-design with young people… that’s how we can create systems that equitably serve all of us.”

Natalie Kyriyacou, founder and CEO of My Green World, said there is a risk of young voices being “immediately dismissed”. “When a certain segment of the population picks up a new idea [it can be perceived as] contaminated…. and there’s an element of that in the environmental movement, which has been largely driven by young voices, women, and people of colour.”

The panelists agreed on the need to acknowledge inherent biases. “None of us can see what we have blind spots about,” said Mark, “and unless we bring in people who have different perspectives, who have lived experience of the problem, we’ll never get different answers.”

Though, for Natalie, we should not put “the burden on young people… to do the heavy lifting. It needs to be driven from the top—there needs to be executive leadership buy-in”.

And, according to Yasmin, that means investing in young talent: “Young people want to be at the decision-making table, but sometimes we might not know how to use the knives and forks; which is to say, we need training if we are going to be in decision-making spaces.”

Training young people is the logical choice for business, according to Kareem El-Ansary, 21st Australian Youth Representative to the UN, who led a nation-wide consultation of over 7,000 young Australians to explore issues of greatest concern to them. “We are the future leaders of your organisations, so if you want to attract and retain talent, it’s really important to invest in young people, to leverage their unique experiences and insights, and create opportunities for young leadership that allows young people to genuinely contribute to decision-making.”

The Shared Value APAC Summit was held on 17 June 2021 in partnership with major sponsor AIA Australia and supporting sponsors IAG, NAB and PwC Australia.

Missed this year’s event? Don’t fret! We’ve launched a first-ever on-demand ticket, to give you access to the Summit’s full program of keynotes, panel discussions and lightbulb presentations for the next three months. Find out more by visiting