I asked Alex Silverstein, the Young Leaders outgoing President, what he learned during his two years of service. Below are his thoughts about the organization's growth, and his own.
"The Young Leaders Programme was formed two years ago at the IDF World Congress in Dubai. I am extremely proud of the growth of the group from 68 leaders in 48 different countries to 140+ in 74 different countries. It's a true commitment. Each Young Leader has to be nominated and approved of by their existing national diabetes association and they have to fundraise for their flights and accommodation at the World Congress.
I quickly learned nobody has a monopoly on wisdom. On countless occasions I thought I had come up with a brilliant idea that couldnt be topped, however, once I received some feedback from the rest of the Young Leaders my ideas were often taken to a level I couldn't possibly imagine.
Our initial 68 volunteers came from different backgrounds, spoke different languages and had different experience of diabetes, yet each of us shared a common goal to help people with diabetes. Learning from each other's experience, in addition to giving each volunteer the flexibility to choose a project relevant to his or her own skills, and the needs of people with diabetes in their country, helped us all to grow under an umbrella of collaborative leadership. I think this flexibility, along with the mentorship we gave each other, was key to the level of success we achieved, with over 70 projects being completed around the world in the first two years.
Overcoming the challenges of diabetes within our countries can sometimes be a daunting task, yet by working together we felt stronger, and this gave us hope and trust in each other, an incredibly powerful combination for inspiring the leaders of tomorrow. I am particularly proud that through this support I was able to deliver my own project, which was to create a network of over 40+ Young Leaders across the UK and fundraise £100,000 for three projects.
Each young leader has been given education, trust and a family to make a change for people with diabetes. In short, this gives each of us a confidence and positivity in managing our diabetes. And I believe if you maintain a positive mentality you are in a better place to respond to challenges and create strong relationships between all of your relevant stakeholders.
One of the Faculty of the programme, Paul Madden, told me that one of the biggest aspects for behavioural change is Love (Romantic or Platonic love for others, for yourself or for doing something you enjoy). The Young Leaders together as a family provide that love and positivity, which provides a backbone of confidence and hope to be as Gandhi said, that change we want to see in the world.
I'd be remiss if I didn't also cite the support we received from IDF and others. The idea for the group came straight from the top of the IDF with the President, Sir Michael Hirst, as a Co-chair with fellow Board of Trustee member Debbie Jones as Chair. We are supported by the IDF with a dedicated staff member hired to coordinate the programme and an incredible faculty of volunteers from across the Diabetes Advocacy world Then most important is the support of the National Diabetes Associations themselves and the trust they give to send their Young Leaders and support them to deliver projects in-between the IDF World Diabetes Congresses.
Pearl S Buck said that "The Young do not know enough to be prudent and therefore attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation." Given the rise in the level of people with diabetes, climate change, the rise in populations and the difficult economic situation over the past ten years, people are looking at young people more than ever to provide the biggest solutions for tomorrow.
For prevention and successful treatment of diabetes we are going to need investment in the leaders of tomorrow. By forming a worldwide network of inspirational young leaders in diabetes now, whilst some are only 18 years old, the IDF have given the Young Leaders great potential to build long lasting relationships between themselves, our member associations, health care professionals and the public worldwide, creating a powerful and unified voice for people with diabetes to be used for many years to come.