Ella Robertson McKay reveals how One Young World develops its essential partnerships


Nelson Mandela once said, “To the youth of today, I also have a wish to make: Be the scriptwriters of your destiny,” and that’s exactly what Ella Robertson McKay is putting in motion with One Young World​.

The global hub for young leaders has made a difference in the lives of 41.56 million people since its inception in 2010. Through community action and its annual summit, One Young World is changing the way up-and-comers conquer today’s challenges with tenacity and wisdom.

“I think we’re probably one of the most inclusive of the leadership forums. We’re very proud of our work with the corporate sector,” says Robertson McKay, who is One Young World’s managing director.

How One Young World Pairs With Potential Partners

One Young World has the largest corporate network of any charity. Some of its partnerships over the years have included United Way, Ikea Foundation, Z Zurich Foundation, BMW Group, BP, Audi Environmental Foundation, Deloitte, and dozens of others.

“We really believe that big business has the power to make an impact and that most of the research technology and innovation required to address, for example, climate change, is sitting within big businesses or certainly being financed by big businesses,” Ella Robertson McKay adds.

“That’s not to say that businesses aren’t required to ensure that growth is more responsible and sustainable in the coming decades than it has been to date. We try and hold business leaders to account through our community of young leaders: We are the only forum in the world where business is gathering at scale in the same room as activists for meaningful engagement.”

While the dialogue can get intense at times, the youth leadership advocate says the toughest conversations are where the real progress is made.

“Yes, it’s an uncomfortable dialogue, but we hold that tension, and we believe that the solutions are in that tension rather than two separate rooms each preaching to their respective choirs,” Robertson McKay explains. “We are really proud of all of our partnerships and how inclusive we are. We have the biggest corporate footprint of any European charity, but we’ve also doner immensely impactful work with USAID, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [and others].”

Representing all angles involved is part of One Young World’s ethos. Through partnerships like the one with Deloitte, One Young World is able to offer life-changing scholarships to shape the mentors of tomorrow. For the One Young World Summit in Montreal this September, Deloitte One Young World Scholarships 2024 will allow young people leading climate change initiatives to attend the Summit with all expenses covered.

“One thing I’ve learned through Deloitte is that a small action can make a big difference,” Maeve Murray, an analyst at Deloitte and a One Young World 2023 ambassador, said in a video. “Go and find an activity that you enjoy and make it work that it gives back to the people around you.”

Last year, Murray said she planted trees to represent each delegate at One Young World’s Belfast summit.

Ella Robertson McKay notes that One Young World’s most significant partnerships have been sprinkled throughout the world.

“I think probably the partnerships we have with our host cities year on year [are the most significant],” she says. “So every year we’re in a different city and being in somewhere like the Hague, we were able to work really closely with the International Criminal Court, Europol.”

In keeping with the spirit of leading the charge for change, Robertson McKay adds they were the “first non-U.N. event to have an event at the International Court of Justice.”

She says it has put an even brighter spotlight on One Young World’s mission.

“And now you see the world’s eyes have turned to the [International Court of Justice] in recent weeks,” Robertson McKay shares. “To know that we really were in partnership with them is a real honor.”

And that’s not the only way One Young World has been pioneering the pressing issues of the day.

With summits over the years in Zurich, London, Pittsburgh, Bogota, Colombia, and beyond, One Young World is making tomorrow’s dreams a reality today. In many ways, it’s a wake-up call for youth to speak up and let their voices be heard.

“Other than the Olympics or the World Cup or those kinds of events, we are the only event that’s really welcomed by a city in that way,” Ella Robertson McKay describes. “And the pageantry and the visual elements of the event are incredibly important, but also we are then able to work with the brightest and the best young people in those cities to leave a lasting living impact.”

Ella Robertson McKay says One Young World is proud of its partnership with United Way, one of the world’s largest community-based organizations.

“[It] really shows the breadth of our appeal because all of these organizations, new or old, whether they belong in the global north or global south, international or domestic, care about young leaders and rely on young leaders to drive them forward,” Robertson McKay emphasized. “And so we are the ultimate forum for them to be a part of.”

Dora Palfi, a One Young World delegate speaker and ambassador sponsored by Deloitte, says the opportunity to work with the organization opened new doors.“I got to attend a session with the other Deloitte delegates, where senior leaders from Deloitte were present,” Palfi stated on oneyoungworld.com. “When you’re a young founder, you don’t really get this big company experience. So for me, actually, it was kind of unique to be able to have a look inside how senior leaders at a company think. We have had customer relationships emerge from having been at One Young World.”


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