2014 Reflection: 33Fifty – the Commonwealth Youth Leadership Programme 2014

Diary entry/ reflection 2014 

I first heard about 33Fifty whilst representing New Zealand at the Commonwealth Day celebrations at the Palace of Westminster in 2014. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the programme, however, like on Commonwealth day, I found myself surrounded by a talented and diverse group of individuals from all over the Commonwealth.

CW day 2014
A shot taken from the debates held in the house of Commons, Common Wealth day celebrations 2014.

One of the objectives of the programme was to discuss ways to achieve low carbon economies not just in Glasgow and Edinburgh where the programme was being held, but across borders and boundaries around the world. I was captured by this challenge as it allowed me to utilize my environmental background and it acknowledged the issue of environmental degradation and the need for it to be remedied.

On the programme we visited a number of organisations around Scotland and learned how they are operating to help achieve this goal. One organisation that stood out was Viridor, a company which, through technological innovation, turns human ‘waste’ into commodities and renewable energy. It is this type of thinking we need more of to deal with ongoing issues of climate change and environmental sustainability.

One key experience that I took away from this programme is that dealing with global issues such as environmental degradation and climate change requires leaders and entrepreneurial champions that can communicate across different sectors, borders, countries and cultures. The programme put us in this context where young leaders from very diverse backgrounds and educations shared opinions and ideas to attempt to tackle the challenge issued to us. By working together in our diverse groups we began to understand different perspectives, cultural backgrounds and value bases .The diversity of perspectives in our discussions allowed each member of our group to get to know one another better, enhancing our decision-making processes. Despite our varying perspectives, we were able to still unite to generate initiatives to achieve low carbon economies.

The term given to us that explains this scenario is ‘CQ’ or Cultural Intelligence; the ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures by embracing cultural diversity and getting to know and understand each other. Cultural Intelligence encourages innovative thinking and ideas through culturally diverse discussions and decision-making. We certainly put this into practice during 33Fifty, drawing upon the different views of the participants who were all rich in knowledge, experience and were keen to contribute to the discussions.

The connections made on the programme were invaluable. I found it very inspiring to meet so many talented people from my own age group and to hear of their aspirations and stories of success. Overall 33Fifty was an awesome experience, it helped me assess my own thoughts of leadership and to adapt my own traits, but furthermore it gave me confidence in holding fast to my cultural values, as my core beliefs and identity are valuable in contributing to building our future in this interconnected global world.

I look forward to seeing how my peers have further developed since this program and what this program can offer the next wave of leaders coming through.

Here are some clips of our pitches:

More information on the programme can be found here:




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