Interchange Board at the UN General Assembly

New York. Changing the world of education is an ambitious endeavor with which even the United Nations are struggling. We need to acknowledge that inspiring speeches and spreading awareness is not everything we need to do to solve one of humanity’s most urgent problems. Changing the world of education is a balancing act between academic and statistical research, political collaboration, and fundraising efforts. This is no new finding but drawing attention to the fact certainly doesn’t hurt.

As Initiative Interchange, we do not want to confine ourselves to the latter: As a result of our cooperation with UNICEF on an international level, we were invited to the launch of the UNICEF program “Generation Unlimited” in New York on September 24, 2018. “Generation Unlimited” aims to ensure that every child has access to qualitative education by 2030 as it is outlined in the Sustainable Development Goal #4. The program was initiated by high-level representatives of international organizations and corporations – UN Secretary-General António Guterres, UNICEF CEO Henrietta Fore, President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim, Unilever CEO Paul Polman et al. – and the kick-off event took place at the UN Headquarters during the 2018 UN General Assembly. Stars like UNICEF ambassador Lilly Singh and the Korean Pop group BTS as well as young people from all over the world were present – including Mario Stepanik and Anna Careen Schmid from Initiative Interchange.

The event, whose solemn character cannot be denied, consisted mainly of opening words of the high-level guest speakers. They show a high degree of trust in young people: “You shouldn’t trust anyone above 30 when it comes to education”, says Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank. Representatives admitted that there is more to achieving real change than what lies within the scope of the United Nations: It takes young and energetic people who work on hands-on projects. A sizable number of such social entrepreneurs were present at the event: We met former Interactors from Romania, high school students from New York, and members of different student-led movements.

Anna Careen Schmid also participated in the Women’s Leaders for Girls Reception in New York’s prestigious St. Regis Hotel – a side event of the UN General Assembly for heads of state, royalty, CEOs and other outstanding female leaders. Interesting contacts could be established to pave the way for cooperations to especially foster the education of girls. On the last day of the trip, we visited the UNICEF USA Headquarters to meet the dedicated people who will take the lead in the Interchange–UNICEF cooperation from next year on. Tala Mansi and Michael Grudzinski, who are in charge of the UNICEF cooperation with Rotary International, showed us around the offices and introduced us to Leslie Goldman, Head of Corporate Fundraising. Together, we brainstormed different possibilities to further develop Initiative Interchange and outlined ways in which our organizations can cooperate in a cross-fertilizing way in the future.