The interview with Mr. Furrer was published in Excellence Academy Bosnia and Herzegovina Newsletter 2018 that has been delivered to numerous both, international and national friends and partners of the Academy. In this article we present full interview that Excellence Academy Bosnia and Herzegovina founder made with Mr. Philippe Furrer.
Mr. Furrer (Former Head of YOG Learn & Share) worked for International Olympic Committee sixteen years and his contribution and legacy both in YOG and YA/YCM (Young Ambassador/Young Change-Maker) with 42 youth projects around the world lead by YCMs+ in 2019 is tremendous.
The interview that we bring in full here was done on one of the last days in office for Mr. Furrer, on the IOC Youth Summit supported by Panasonic in Panasonic Center in Tokyo (Japan, December, 2018).
It is my honor to be together with You in this interview for our yearly Excellence Academy Bosnia and Herzegovina Newsletter 2018. In the very beginning I would like to thank to IOC and IOC President, Mr. Thomas Bach, YOG YA, now YCM team and to You personally on behalf of all my colleagues because You have «inspowered», supported us to bring forth visions, dreams to contribute to social development world wide through sport and Olympism. Now, after three years of active work on Academy, or even since 2012, when I was selected to be Young Ambassador I can reflect and see day by day how important and significant was Your support to us – young people to be able to express ourselves and above all things, to grow healthy and to learn what means “persistence”.
- Can You tell us, what did You see in 2015 comparing to now 2018? In 2015 we had around 10, now 40+ projects.
We actually started to design the program in 2015 and the first wave was in 2016 with 11 projects, and then we had 19 in 2017 and now we have 42. So, the difference is – first of all – number of projects, clearly engagement, interest and attraction within IOC and Olympic movement. We’ve been very much in an isolated, an anonymous bubble in the start – little bit like a start up. And now, we have gained more momentum, more visibility, more interest from IOC and from Olympic family. The best proof of that is the recent Youth Olympic Games, and “Olympism in Action” Forum where Young Change-Makers (YCM) were highly well featured and praised for their contribution. They facilitated booth on Olympism in Action Forum, many of them had a slot as speaker in discussions and then many of them stayed as volunteers during the Games. So, it was great addition and contribution to the success of “Olympism in Action” Forum and YOG. For me, key success factor was that IOC President nominated seven of these YCMs+ to join the drafting committee of the Forum and one of them was co-chair of drafting committee. She reported the key findings, recommendations and follow up from the Forum to IOC session meaning that she stood before all IOC members – Josefina (Age 24) from Chile was very brave and excellent speaker in front of IOC members, and I think, it kind of shocked the organization and opened eyes to many sport leaders including the chair of the drafting commission, Mr. John Coates who said how impressed he was with quality of these young people. Many people were impressed with these young talents.
- If I remember well, before one of the meetings in Nanjing 2014 word «inspowered» was coined. You like to play with words. Can You share with us Your vision about it. How it came to You?
I think I’ve always had some liking and passion for communications, literature, power of words, power of language, power of speech, power of slogan. I did work little bit in branding myself and I think it is extremely important to carefully choose the way we translate an idea into a paper or video, or whatever the output is. And I loved the idea of trying to condense the vision or the message into one or two words. I believe we should be innovative and flexible in a way we approach languages and where we can merge words or innovate. This was – I think – at one stage indeed in Nanjing (2014) when I was realizing, trying to come to the heart what YOG are. I had these two ideas. One, I had to summarize the position, mission of YOG by “This is life changing factory” – anybody that goes through YOG as athlete, volunteer, YCM, whoever he, she is they go go through life changing factory which means that his life should not be the same after the experience. He, She should be inspired by sport, Olympic values, by champions and more than inspiration, they should be empowered, entrusted to use sport, physical actives, Olympic values to build a better world. So, later on, I designed this sort of this value chain where I see different levels of engagement of young people. The first is awareness and basic communications where people know about something, then you go on inspired people, you turn them into believers, and fans who want to be part of it, and ultimate level of this value scale is empowerment because empowerment is about sharing responsibilities, providing tools to people who are passionate who have talents, skills to be a force for Good and to change society, city or whatever the goal is. And I really see that as value scale and I am strong advocate to go, as far as we can, in empowerment. The world of sport is very conservative environment. So, it was a long battle to convince more people within the organization, within IOC and Olympic family at large, to explain what youth empowerment was about. So it is throughout this long process that I came up with this idea of combining inspiration and empowerment. This is what YOG should be about – inspiring young people and empowering sort of the best talents. The best talents and empowerment are not just for YCMs+, it is also empowering athletes in sort of making sure that they have skills and knowledge to make right choices in their careers. It is about empowering young reporters, lot of young talents, volunteers, staff members and organizing committee to take lot of risk and responsibilities. So, empowerment should be first of all strong value approach. I brought these words, “to inspire” and “to empower” – I came up with the idea “ins-power“. It is about to be inspowered by sport, YOG, Olympic values, champions. We want athletes to be champions in life not only on the field of play, but also off the field of play. Because this inspiration should go beyond just practicing sport and performing.
- Where do You see YCM and their projects in future? What learnings other organizations may take regarding the example IOC set with YCM?
I think that IOC can lead the way, at least in the world of sport, in youth empowerment and my hope is that we can spread the “virus” . So, I would like to see some NOCs, NFs, not to duplicate but to at least get some inspiration of our project and to start a similar attempt, initiative in their sport, in their organization, on their territory. Let’s see if it happens. And where I see these YCMs…I do se an improvement and increase, not just in size because I believe that we have a potential of thousands of young talents around the world who would love to join such a program. We also need improvement and increase in terms of quality, how we support young talents, how we document project, how we measure impact, how we share communication. It is both quantitative and qualitative aspect how we are looking into the future. And I really think we have gained more momentum recently with Buenos Aires which was as a turning point. IOC President has became a very strong supporter of the YCM+ program.
- Do You see similar projects in other branches such as economy, business?
Youth empowerment should be on the agenda of most innovative, leading companies and organizations. If You want to remain relevant in Your business, in Your sector You have to understand young people, engage with them and to empower them. If no, you just miss strategic chance for your brand, purpose and for what ever you do as a company or as governing body. The only way to understand truly young people is to engage and empower them.
- So to keep them responsible, encouragement, trust…
This true in business, academic world and politics. We see more and more movement in this. World Economic Forum leads young leaders, young global shapers for many many years. They understand that they need to invest in training, building, inspiring young future leaders and brand responsible business. And it its true in technology, big brands who do run some contests, competitions etc. They have to try to identify young talents. And I think that what we do in sport, we can learn from other sectors but we can share and inspire other sectors what we do.
- As far as I am informed Your business path soon goes in a new direction. At the same time there are tens of YCM who are continuing that what we have started together. Can You share with all of us – What is the most important legacy that we have made and what we should keep in mind for future?
My view is that, probably, I have learned as much, or maybe even much more than You have learned from me and from what the team that has been doing. We have to look back, acknowledge and congratulate ourselves for the progress we have made because it has been only three years. It has grown in impactful quality and visibility. When I saw quality of discussions today, I was very impressed with diversities of projects. My message is really to keep on inspiring young people. Keep on giving back to sport, keep on growing in sport or through sport because it is amazing school of life. And many of You YCMs+ will become leaders of tomorrow. Both in world of sport as future secretary generals, presidents, chairs of sports organizations and in business, politics etc. I am sure that You will be able to transfer lot of learnings and experiences from YCMs+ journey into your professional, private career and life in the future. Just like professional athlete must be able to transfer his skills and learnings into his transition and his future career. I am sure in ten, twenty years you will turn back and say “Hey that was just an eye opener. It provided me with skills, passion and network of people who think alike.” I think the heart value is to keep network, sort of active as we discussed today. There is potential to leverage on each others strength, knowledge and to call upon others to bring more skills, expertise in different fields because together You can have wind in back. I’d like to say, stay together, stick with the family and keep network running.
Thank You for Your time and willingness to share Your broad experience, time and support all these years.
On behalf of YCMs,
Edin Branković, M.Sc.
Founder Excellence Academy Bosnia and Herzegovina