Thursday, November 13, 2008

What do you want to see?

This article original appeared in The National Networker

This is the question being asked by a networking group in London in response to the global financial crisis, war in the Middle East and increasing environmental concerns.

Unhappy at the noise emanating from the media and from politicians, the committee of European Young Professionals (EYP) felt that the time is ripe for individuals to have their say. They believe that networks, backed by modern social networking technology, are best placed to make that happen.

Ronny Ellefson, a founder of EYP and their Creative Director, said,”We launched the We Want to See website as a response to the state of the world at the moment. From the economic downturn, through environment concerns, to the fear of terrorism, we knew that our colleagues, our friends and our families had an opinion on the current issues affecting our world, and thoughts on how to change and improve them.

“By creating the site, we wanted to provide individuals with a platform on which to highlight their ideas on how to solve the world’s current problems. “

Contributors to the site have been invited to post a short video about what they want to see.

So far, the ideas submitted include dreams of personal success ("I'd like to see my name as a style guru in every fashion magazine in the world"); hopes for the global economy ("I'd like to see the end of the credit crunch"); the altruistic ("I'd like to see it be mandatory for private sector organisations to give 10% of their profits to fund projects in disadvantaged communities") and the frustrated sports fan who's already seen his dream fulfilled (I’d like to see Tottenham Hotspur climb off the bottom of the Premier League table").

EYP is well placed to kick-start such a campaign with a wide range of opinions from people originating from all over the world.

Originally formed in Thailand in 2005 to provide networking opportunities for young expats, EYP came to London at the beginning of 2007. The UK branch boasts a membership of young professionals based in London but with nationalities ranging from Australian to Russian, Polish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian and Turkish. In fact, over 700 people from 40 countries attended the launch party in London in January 2007.

Nick Jonsson, a Swede who co-founded EYP in Thailand is the man who brought the concept to the UK.

“When I moved to London in 2006, I saw a similar need for a professional networking group to be set up in London. I found that even though London was filled with networking organisations, none were really focussed on young professionals and met my need to quickly establish professional contacts and friends. Using the model that worked so well in Bangkok and in partnership with contacts I had already made in London, we created a new chapter in London aimed at taking over the local networking scene.

“We launched EYP London at Cavendish No 5 in January 2007 and were thrilled with the turnout. In addition to the 700 people at the event, a further 200 “virtual” visitors attended in Second Life, an online community. We had rented a virtual island and had a launch event running concurrently, which we beamed into the event at Cavendish No 5 bar. It went down very well and we received fantastic feedback from both attendees and in the media.”

Since that launch, EYP has run regular events across London, all with a large turnout and tremendous buzz. James Swanston, EYP London’s Chief Executive since the beginning of 2008, said; “The real purpose of EYP London is to bring together professionals to create social networks and build business links.

“Our vision is to be innovative, supportive, creative, diverse and to offer a unique, valuable networking experience to all members - regardless of where they are from and their age. In fact, one of EYP’s points of difference from other networking organisations is that we have brought together a real mix of individuals from all industries – from banking and finance, PR, IT, entrepreneurs to dentists and doctors.”

With an average age of 30, EYP events take on a very social feel. Typically held in trendy nightclubs and with first drinks often sponsored, people go to their events primarily to have fun and make friends.

James continues, “What draws EYP members together is their strong desire to network and to gain experience – and friendships – within London.”

It is this mix of people and drive to be different that has led to the ‘We Want to See’ campaign. The network was keen to do something to create an impact to support Global Entrepreneurship Week in November and as part of their event that week, which is a flagship event for Speednetwork the Globe. Giving their members a say and encouraging people to speak out about their dreams for a brighter future (or better football results) seemed to meet that aim.

From there, it is hoped that the campaign will become truly viral, with people of all ages and backgrounds worldwide sharing their hopes and dreams.

“We hope that through the site, more individuals will feel empowered to discuss their ideas and views on solving issues within today’s climate,” says Ronny Ellefson. “The site also ties in with EYP’s ethos, which is aimed at supporting our members to make their ideas into a reality.”

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