Several weeks ago, I was invited to speak at the United Nations Youth Assembly about my 2010 trip to Australia for the 63rd UN DPI/NGO Conference. I blogged about my experiences in Australia (here), and blogged a lot about this trip inspiring my Pratt MFA thesis. So when I was asked to speak to youth about my experiences at the UN, I gladly accepted! I was nervous speaking to experts in the field about my outside experience in Australia several years earlier but also thought my outsider perspective might resonate with other youth people at the conference. I remember attending a conference like that three years ago (read here) and wanting to connect with the speakers but never really got there. With this in mind, I focused my presentation on the importance of youth and why design matters.
My ID tag, officially welcoming me into the United Nations!
One of the biggest points I made is the amazing potential designers and nonprofits have when they collaborate together. Collaborations between unexpected partners often lead to unexpected and surprising results. One prime example is my experience as a graphic designer at a UN Conference centered on Public Health. Attending this conference sparked my interest in the subject of joy and using one’s skills and abilities to create change in the world. Many of the projects we created in the class at Pratt strove to do just that.
In closing, I wanted to bring focus from design back to YOUth, and end on an aspirational note. On the last day of the Australia conference, Patrick Ip (my roommate for the week) spoke about “What and Why” in regards to youth. He said, “Often youth are defined by WHAT we are; teacher, student, doctor, etc … not WHY we do it. Many of us, no matter WHAT we do, want to help, and it’s important to focus on WHY. For when we define ourselves by WHAT we do, we limit what we are capable of doing. But when we define the WHY, the possibilities are endless.” This really spoke to me on the last day of the conference and is still something I think about today. If there was one thing people took from away my speech, I hoped it would be Patrick’s great words.
A packed house of students from all over the world.
If you want to learn more about designers and nonprofits/NGOs partnering together, check out Pratt’s Project Public initiative. And remember, if you focus on the WHY in life, and not come from a place of WHAT, any door can be open to you no matter what you do in life. Cheers!