Future Foreign Policy (FFP) is a London-based independent foreign policy institution and charity, whose mission is to enhance and promote young people’s voices in international affairs. They have just launched a national policy hacking competition called Future United. Nextgen chatted with Katy Ho, Co-Founder and Executive Director, to dig a little deeper. Connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.
Tell us about this competition, Future United? Please elaborate the process and what kind of interaction or involvement are you looking for?
With the UK’s decision to leave the European Union last year, the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States and the ever-changing landscape that social media and technology is bringing to the world—fresh thinking and a voice for youth is needed more than ever. Future United’s aim is to bring together young people from across the UK, connect them with decision makers, technologists, innovators, social entrepreneurs and industry experts to discuss and examine a credible vision of the UK’s future place in the world. Unlike other policy competitions, Future United aims to not just generate new ideas but, by facilitating cross-sector collaboration, also kick start action with concrete strategies for government, business, civil society and other institutions. We have just kicked off our application process on February 6 and it closes on March 6. So if you are under 30 in the UK and passionate about generating new ideas for the future of UK foreign policy, you can find the application form online at www.futureforeignpolicy.com/futureunited/.
The competition will take place across three events throughout 2017.
1. An open innovation event to form ideas and research teams across three themes, Future Trade, Future Security and Future Democracy
2. A Foreign Policy Hackathon to refine ideas, combine with innovative technologists, social entrepreneurs and foreign policy experts to build proof of concepts that can help shape the policy recommendations and demonstrate the value to decision makers.
3. A final conference for each of the teams to present their work from the year to decision makers from the public and private sector and a panel of judges who will decide on the final winners of the competition.
Below is a snapshot of the timelines:
In what way can a hackathon like this increase youth presence in diplomacy? Why should young people in the UK, in this particular instance, and around the world participate in this type of activity?
Hackathons are typically activities reserved for the tech world, so bringing it into the policy making process is a bit of an experiment. But we believe that innovative ideas from young people with a knowledge of international affairs, being connected with technology and social innovators, experts from foreign affairs think tanks and non-profits, as well as decision makers from government, can lead to some really exciting opportunities to drive forward real progressive change and inspire young people to engage in that process by making it more fun.
It is also important that young people seize the opportunity to have a real credible voice in international diplomacy, to shape the future they want to see for themselves. By giving them an opportunity to connect with the right people and stimulate ideas around exciting new uses of emerging technologies (such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Blockchain and IoT), or new collaborative international organizations, they can present an inspiring new vision of that future to decision makers with clear steps on how to achieve it.
What happens after the competition?
As the competition comes to a close we hope to have presented some really exciting foreign policy and technology concepts to the UK government. The aim from that will be to pull together a report around these ideas that also explores what approach young people want to see the UK government takes during the negotiations around Brexit and in its leadership position on the world stage. We as an organization, along with our partners and advisors, will also support the winning idea to help take it further, helping them find advisors, potentially securing grant funding and facilitating connections with decision makers.
How is this project different from any other projects that Future Foreign Policy has undertaken in the past?
This will be the first time Future Foreign Policy has combined the idealism of millennials with technology innovators and run a hackathon—though we have been involved in and organized hackatons on the tech side in the past. The exciting thing is that we will be driving foreign policy innovation by connecting leading experts such as Stephen Cave (the Executive Director of the Leverhulme Institute for the Future of Intelligence and an expert in the ethics of AI—his TED talk on Immortality has had over two million views) and Marisol Grandon (the co-founder of Unfold Stories and former Head of Creative Content for the UK Department for International Development, who has a passion for Virtual Reality and worked closely with Google to produce 360 videos of refugee camps in Syria). This type of innovation will offer new perspectives through collaboration, while presenting real demonstrable outcomes at the end of the competition.
Introduce us to Future Foreign Policy.
Future Foreign Policy (FFP) is the first independent international affairs think tank dedicated to giving young people a credible voice in foreign policy decision making. We are a charity based in London, UK. Our mission is to enhance and promote young people’s voices in International Affairs and connect their ideas, research and experiences to decision makers to bring about a more just, fairer and democratic world.
The organization was born on a rainy afternoon when my co-founder Philip and I, having graduated from the University of London, realized that getting into foreign affairs was extremely difficult and it often meant unpaid internships to get the right experience or being drafted into campaigns but not having a job at the end of it. We launched our first website on this backdrop and, in just a few weeks, had over 150 applicants to write for us and numerous organizations wanting to connect from the Carnegie Council in the U.S. to Chatham House in the UK. We launched at the Thomson Reuters building in London, which has hosted numerous high profile speakers from the UK Prime Minister and Chancellor to international leaders from across the world. The goal was simple, to engage young people in a fresh and innovative forum for international affairs and allow them to be part of the conversation and the direction of global diplomacy.
What makes Future Foreign Policy stand out as a youth organization? Where do you take the youth voice that you have? Brag to us about your achievements, please.
Future Foreign Policy is run by a team of young people, from our trustees to our volunteer board, and we are passionate about making real progressive change and giving young people a credible voice in decision making. It is for this reason we have represented them at 10 Downing Street, produced and presented their research reports to decision makers, held events and run competitions in partnership with the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, EY and the UK Parliament. Over the past few years, we have had over 300 contributors writing for us from across the world. We have represented young people’s ideas at all levels of government, have been published in various publications such as UNA-UK’s New World Magazine and in recognition of our work, my co-founder Philip Young was featured in Forbes Magazine’s European 30 under 30 List for Policy in 2016.
We have an advisory board of experts in technology, diplomacy and social innovation that includes Debbie Forster MBE (who was just named in the Queen’s New Years Honors for 2017 for her work connecting young people with technology), Stephen Pattison (the VP of Government Relations at ARM), Jon Davies (the Director of the UK FCO’s Diplomatic Academy), Priya Guha (the former UK Consulate General for Silicon Valley who is now setting up the leading accelerator Rocketspace in the UK), along with Marisol Grandon and Stephen Cave who were mentioned above. We are excited by the growth of this organization and you can expect to see big things from us in the next few years as we grow even further (hopefully into the U.S.!).
Do you think diplomacy remains an attractive field to young people in the 21st century?
Yes absolutely. With the changing political landscape there are always opportunities for young people to contribute their ideas and energy. From our experiences, government departments and established think tanks are increasingly looking to young people to not only understand their foreign policy concerns and priorities, but also for fresh thinking and innovation. We are also seeing some very exciting policy innovations that are harnessing the benefits of emerging technologies, which is an area with great potential for young people to lead on.