5 Skills I Learned at UNA Leadership Summit That Helped Me Turn Passion Into Action

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By: Megan Nguyen, UNA-USA Sacramento Chapter  @MeganKNguyen

“What are you doing after graduation?” I get asked this question all the time and my answer is always the same, “I want to change the world.” But the world is full of questions and problems that lack real answers and solutions. Can one person really change this world? The answer is yes. 

Last week I attended the United Nations Association (UNA) Leadership Summit hosted in our Nation’s epicenter of policy, Washington D.C. UNA is a membership organization dedicated to helping our United Nations help the world.

Here are 5 skills I learned from the summit that I want to pass onto you to help you get started into turning your passion into action.

1. Your story is your power.

Everyone comes from a unique background and has a story to tell. These distinctions can provide your story a unique angle and perspective that makes it special. So whatever your experience or passion is, write it down and share it with the world!

For example, right now there are an estimated 60 million Syrian refugees, about half of them are children. You may hear about it on the news or read it in the paper but how often do we hear a personal account from refugees themselves?

Sana Mustafa was imprisoned with her family and in 2013, her father was abducted and not heard from since. Fearing for their safety, her mother and two sisters fled to Turkey, leaving everything behind. Sana was in the United States at the time her family fled and now she is without a home, unable to see her family, and has no idea where her father could be.

Hearing Sana’s story puts a face to the refugee crisis. It’s personal accounts like Sana’s that separate news stories from a person’s reality. By experiencing a reality through someone else’s perspective, we can better understand each other’s situation and practice a little more empathy towards one another.

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2. Ask questions.

As children we were full of curiosity and questions, but as we grow up, our sense of wonder diminishes and we soon begin to make our own assumptions instead of questioning reality. How often do you sit on a park bench and ponder about why homelessness is still a problem or why some people in America still don’t have access to safe drinking water?

The world’s greatest innovators, philosophers, and detectives all found their greatest discoveries by asking questions. It’s easy to be a global detective, just start thinking about the world and formulating your own questions. Also don’t be afraid to ask for help, you don’t need to solve the world’s problems on your own. You can get you friends involved on your quest or join a volunteer organization that is already doing work in your area of curiosity.

Here are some questions to help you get started. If you don’t like the status quo, can you do something to change it? What local impact can you make? Which city government member has the resources to solve my problem? Are there any local volunteer opportunities I can get involved in? 

3. Build social capital.

“It’s not about what you know, but who you know.” This statement is so cliché but I can’t stress enough about how important and true it is. Building your network is as simple as introducing yourself.

First of all, let’s clear up one thing - Networking does not guarantee you a job. Though it may be a big part of it, networking is mainly about demonstrating that you have the skills and experience to be considered for a job. Think of networking as informal interviews with potential employers or connections. Your first impression is everything and having an elevator speech prepared will help your case. A person you are talking to may not have a job for you, but they might know someone else they could use someone like you.

Your congress representative is another connection you can make and you can visit them at their regional office or on Capitol Hill like I did. During Advocacy Day of the summit, I visited Representative Ami Bera who is the representative for the district I vote in. I told him why he should support the UN Global Goals, Syrian refugees to make sure they have access to education, and UN funding overall.Representative Bera was inspired to see so many engaged youth in his office who were all passionate about the UN.

Another form of social capital anyone can utilize is social media. Yes, we use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for connecting with friends, but did you know that you can connect with your United States Representatives too? If you don’t the opportunity to visit their offices, you can Tweet to your representative about issues you care about and ask them to take actions on them. If social media isn’t your thing, you can send them email or letters. Their offices read and reply to everything.

4. Learn how to effectively communicate across generations.

You’ve also probably been told many times in your life that communication is key. But maybe you’ve experienced an obstacle in communication especially across a generation gap. While it is true that communication is key, you’re going to need a whole set of keys to pick your way through generational locks. 

Phil Gwoke from Bridgeworks spoke to us at the Summit about how generational challenges come in all shapes and sizes but fortunately the solutions to these challenges do too. "Regardless of what generation you're from, you are impacted by and from the generations before and after you."

There are many generations that make up the population demographic of the world. You have Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials. As a result of the environmental factors they experienced growing up such as war, economy, and media, each generation holds a different set of ideals and perspectives in how they see the world.

Unlocking the keys to communication and collaboration across generations will help you understand your colleagues in a professional and personal setting. The important lesson here is to recognize what generational stereotypes keep you from understanding a different generation, and how you can overcome them to help you communicate effectively.

5. Think Globally, Act Locally.

The United Nations has created a set of sustainable development goals referred to as the Global Goals. There are 17 goals that encompass a variety of issues but all relate to three main objectives: end poverty, combat climate change and fight injustice and inequality.

The Global Goals specify targets for each goal that are monitorable and measurable. You can explore targets for each goal by visiting the Global Goals website. Pick your favorite one and apply all these new skills you learned to become a concerned global citizens

Here’s a Passion to Action Plan you can follow to help change the world!

  1. Pick your favorite global goal and tell your story about why it matters to you
  2. Start asking questions – identify a problem and ask what is being done to fix it? Is there something you can do to make it better? Look for real solutions and answers.
  3. Build your social capital – contact your local city council member, state assembly member, United States Congress representative, or local non profit organization and ask how you can get involved
  4. Communicate effectively across generations – whenever you’re working with a diverse group of people, remember that they may hold different ideals from you. Understand these differences and think evolution not revolution.
  5. Think Globally, act locally - apply the UN Global Goals in your local community today!

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