How do you eat an elephant? This bizarre question keeps popping up throughout my life, influencing my work, tormenting my thought process, and inspiring me to write these posts. This question best answered when considering the inner workings of the world, and no one else better understands the world’s inner workings than the International Young Leaders Assembly (IYLA).
Some context: Back in December of 2012, the stars aligned and an unprecedented opportunity arose. A chance to strike the vein of potential: a way of relaying pure motivation to influence the world’s youth. The organization known as Global Peace Youth threw together a haphazard yet surprisingly succinct act known as the IYLA, a tightly knit if not chaotic series of events. Should one visit IYLA’s website, they would find everything the event stands for: Amassing “delegates” so that they might bestow them first-hand experience in leadership, and joining them in a “lasting global leadership network,” so that they might build a platform to tackle current critical issues.
Global Peace Youth is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization, as are the Points of Light Foundation, Global Young Leaders Academy, and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. The first IYLA saw these organizations come together to engage youth with forums at the Carter Presidential Center and the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
From there, the ball got rolling. “The second IYLA drew 800 young leaders from over 70 countries for programs at the United Nations Headquarters and permanent missions in New York, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, and the US Capitol, World Bank, Organization of American States, think tanks and embassies in Washington D.C.,” cementing the ideas of true change, propelling the IYLA to become a regular feat. Subsequent IYLAs took place in Malaysia, Thailand, and Paraguay, eventually making its way back to the United States for the latter half of its five-year run.
2017 marks the 10th IYLA and my second year of working with the Global Peace Youth. In 2016, not only did I help put together the IYLA, but I had the liberty of attending the full ten-day program. Being immersed in the Assembly in this way exposed me to the full weight of the world. The achievements, the stress, the victories, the hardships, all necessary when realizing our potential. Eating an elephant is no easy task, nor is adhering to this convoluted metaphor. Truth be told when faced with issues on a global scale, that ball rolling seems to turn into a boulder, careening the wrong way down the mountain, forcing Sisyphus to blindly chase it and return it to the top. Failure, time and time again is apparent, but IYLA refuses to break.
At the end of the day, the IYLA secretariat stands true: delegates are given unequaled opportunities to work with leading institutions in diplomacy, development, policy, and education while honing skills in communication, innovation, and useful tech applications. I’ve seen lives changed before my eyes. I’ve made international friends. IYLA has shown me the world’s problems, revealed my true pessimism, and perhaps most importantly, given me the tools to fix it.