Fuego Fuego! A Retrospective on Telenor Youth Forum 2016

Blinding blue spotlights swing and salute across the crowds in the dark. The Telenor Arena is packed. Norwegian Royalty and President Juan Manuel Santos of Columbia have taken their seats in the box. It’s time for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Concert. The 26 Telenor Youth Forum delegates sit in two rows along the balcony. Their faces ring out blue and white on the beat. I take a moment to see them this way.

It’s been four demanding days since we met in a hotel lobby. These young people came from all over the world, two from each of Telenor’s 13 global markets, to kick off a year-long program.

After lunch and live music at Telenor Headquarters on the first day, Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke and Nobel Peace Center Executive Director Liv Tørres welcomed the delegates. Then the group received their assigned teams and global goals, and met with the five expert mentors who volunteered to take part.

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Climate Change

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Mental Health

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Unemployment and Social Instability

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Education for Young Refugees

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Gender Equality

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Spark: Stopping Unemployment Before it Begins (2015 Winners)

After a few hours of service design education from Livework, it was time for the evening’s activities. The teams received iPads stocked with challenges and quizzes and raced around sparkling Oslo. Once they’d working up an appetite, it was time for some Norwegian culture. We rode our by-now-familiar bus up the mountain outside the city to a restaurant called Lavvo, set up in traditional Sami tents.

The second day was all about hard work. Livework gave the teams various assignments to spur their creativity, and they began to work on prototypes.

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Another night, another delicious dinner. The delegates and their supporting team dined at Mehfel in downtown Oslo. Sajawal Waseem and Mehroze Munawar, TYF’s delegation from Pakistan, were happy to educate the rest of us on their home cuisine.

Saturday brought some pleasure time for the group. First, the delegates braved the rain and attended the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony. President Santos’s remarks inspired all of us. “It is much more difficult to achieve peace than to wage war,” he said about his efforts to end a war in Colombia that has lasted more than five decades.

After an exclusive reception and preview of the new exhibit on Santos and Colombia at the Nobel Peace Center, the delegates hurried back to the hotel to change into warmer clothes in time to join the annual torchlight parade for peace.

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Several teams worked long into the night with the smell of rainy streets and torchwax on the clothes. The next morning, they polished up their presentations and boarded the buses for their last trip to Telenor HQ. There, they pitched their social enterprises to a panel of respected experts, including Telenor executives. As each team took the stage, the rest cheered heartily. It was more than a climax of effort; it was a catharsis.

Now we sit at the Telenor Arena. American singer Halsey turns her leather-coated back to the audience and reminds the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Norway and the world about the gender discrepancy among a century’s worth of laureates. Marcus og Martinus, Norway’s answer to Bieber, stomp around the stage and sing about girls.

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From here the TYF delegates will continue to improve on the product and service ideas they came up with this weekend. In May 2017, they’ll gather again in Bangkok for a two-day conference and a chance to pitch for funding and partnership. Like everyone else they touched here in Oslo over the last four days, I will be watching their journey. Eagerly. Hopefully.

Colombian singer Juanes gets the crowd to their feet with his guitar, red lights blazing behind him. The TYF delegates shake their hips and sing along. Fuego fuego!

They are ready to set the world on fire.

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