Voices of Empowerment

Conference participation entails long hours, an inspiring but very challenging overall task, and sometimes demanding social interactions. Taking in the full breath of it all, my hope is that the participants will leave the conferences as trained democracy entrepreneurs with broadened knowledge, strengthened visions, enhanced network capacity, and new friends. In hindsight a little bit more than three months after the conferences, I reach out to the participants and ask them to share their personal reflections. To inspire them, I send along questions capturing the six overall themes Excitements, Challenges, Contributions, Progressions, Success factors, and Conference one-liners. Reading these reflections is touching and gratifying since, above all, they embodies voices of empowerment, personal growth, and steadfast visions about the future.
Urban Strandberg, Managing Director / Co-Founder


“The whole conference was exciting to me. However, some moments did stand out. I was astonished to see how many influential people were really interested in our ideas. I did not expect such an interest from them in our ideas and it really surprised me that they devoted a lot of time to provide us with feedback.”

“The most exciting was the opportunity to talk and discuss our ideas to experts in the fields, as well as the presentations. I consider the connections between youngsters and current politicians and business leaders the biggest added value of IYTT.”

“Discussion after a long day of work and a very nice dinner were amazing. It was those time when we were able to share our lives, cultures, stories all together. My favorite part of this conference was to get to know incredible persons with amazing and inspiring stories to share.”

“It was very exciting to meet people from several countries with totally different backgrounds and personal stories. Some of these stories taught me again, how thankful I should be for growing up in peace.”

“It was exciting to meet people from other countries but with similar political interests. We had many exciting discussions about the world and what might be done to fix them. It was also exciting to meet, in person, important decision makers and to take part of their insights on our topics.”

“I just love being surrounded by people who are engaged and care about what is going on in the world. I had that in Lüneburg, where I lived in Germany, a lot but really missed engaged people in Karlstad. So that was definitely nice.”


“I must say in full honesty, that I pretty quickly became a bit disillusioned when it comes to our capabilities as a group to deliver one, specific vision. As the horizon of our goals, aims and the raport started to become broader and broader I must admit I felt a little bit overwhelmed and instead of having it easier to choose my part of work and I wanted to comprahend the big picture. In this I think I failed and got scared.”

“I have been challenged during the team building. I was used to “regular” team-building exercice, but in Gothenburg, we took part in an innovative team-building where we had to create a piece of art, altogether. I have been challenged in my creativity but also understanding of everyone diversity of expression.”

“I believe that the most challenging part was how broad the topic of open society is. The process of narrowing it down and tackling the parts in which the members have developed the most knowledge and where we could apply our own experience. (I understand that not directly answering the question, however, this was something I saw us struggling within the beginning of the conference.)”

“I struggle with public speaking and communicating my thoughts effectively so for me a challenging experience was speaking up in front of such intelligent engaging people. I gradually became more comfortable with speaking with the group but I did find it difficult even at the end of the conference when I had become acquainted with the group fully. I will continue to work on this but IYTT allowed me to challenge myself and push myself outside of my comfort zone.”

“The hours per session were long which meant I became very exhausted, but very much necessary as we needed time to constantly evaluate our ideas and come to a consensus of what policy we wanted to create. In addition, once we had decided what particular area we wanted to centre our policy on, we needed to research and apply theory. At times, I did find it hard to think of policy ideas and being one of the youngest in attendance, it was sometimes overwhelming as many already were studying politics in depth at university. However, I was able to learn so much from my peers and even carried out personal research to clarify my understanding.”

“There was an age gap between some of the contestants, some were still in their last year of high school. Youngsters who were further into their academic journey like myself sometimes felt like we needed to tune down and adapt to the knowledge of the young contestants.”


“Absolutely. We worked the propositions as a group, but we also made sure to listen to what everyone had to say. Working together really meant to acknowledge and make use of each individuals specific skills.”

Partly yes, partly I felt like the time was quite short and I was not always taken seriously in the economics group. I felt like people did not like to think that much out of the box questioning our current systems so finally we sticked to capitalist market patterns which was a bit frustrating to me

“I do believe as being active in the Swedish and European young civil society, I could contribute with a perspective on issues, challenges and already tested solutions and thereby also use them as a way to improve the final outcome of the conference.”

“One of the most memorable and important things that I’ve noticed was the fact that every voice was heard. All of the 31 participants had their opportunity to speak up, share their ideas and somehow contribute to the final outcome. We were a team and we worked as a team and that is something that I truly liked. I believe that every person’s voice, expertise, values, etc. were brought to the table and somehow were positively used in order to create the final report and presentation. There was the proper environment and space in order for everyone of us to feel open and comfortable to express ourselves.”

“Absolutely. I took part in several simulational conferences before, where it was key to formulate easily understandable and straightforward phrases. I could use these skills at the phase of writing down our solutions.”

“I definitely do. Or I hope so at least. I got to write a lot and to revise my group’s section of the final report, and I believe that writing is one of my strengths. Also, I literally love debating with other people, so basically every moment of the conference was an occasion for me to put something personal on the table and share it with other participants. As for values and ideas are concerned, I found the topics discussed very much interesting, as they let me state my positions but also understand others’. After all, there were no great differences between the ideological stances of participants, which eventually helped reach a more mature result overall.”


“I think I developed my skills surrounding mediation a lot and making sure that the team were working together constructively. Furthermore, I learnt a lot about thinking critically as to what was beneficial and positively contributing to the discussion and task ahead, and what could be considered an inefficient use of time – something that I hadn’t really had much of an opportunity to develop before.”

“The conference affirmed my will to seek career opportunities that allow for significant and innovative contributions to advance, enhance and promote a sustainable future for our world.”

“The subject of democracy has always interested me. By conversing with some of my peers at the conference I managed to add another facet to this interest; add the concept of data to democracy. I realized I should pay more attention to the combination of these two.”

“The conference definitely solidified my interest in politics and has fuelled me to become more engaged in economics , particularly focusing on the economics of LDCs and politics of such countries. Other participants inspired me to become more grateful for democracy in my country, but also empowered me to speak up when I’m not satisfied with policy’s and take proactive steps to do as much as I can to contribute to effective change whether locally or nationally.”

“The conference gave me a platform to express my thoughts. This gave me an opportunity to gain more confidence in my abilities and what I can (or cannot) do. The discussions and opinion sharing allowed me to lear new things that added value and a different perspective on my current ideas and opinions. In the future, I will be more willing to participate and foster the development of various think tanks that align with my own beliefs. “

“The conference taught me to rethink some of my positions and values and made some values even stronger. Furthermore, I got a lot of inspiration what to read and what would be interesting to learn in the next years.”

Success factors

“Although we came from different backgrounds, we listened to each other and truly cared and tried to understand the others’ positions. ‘United in diversity’, right?”

“The participation did not make me discover new facets of my personality, however, I am feeling a strong motivation of a more active participation in the political life of my country since the conference.”

“I think it was the fact that the conference did not only adress youth issues, but also put young people in the front when discussing contemporary societal issues as well as it was the sole determination that young voices matter.”

“The stimulating commentators from different backgrounds I felt a great respect for, the timely chairing, the excellent environment where the preparation and the conference took place as well as the fact that we actually had the chance to present our concrete propositions to a wider audience and receive relevant feedback.”

“I think the introductory session of writing prompts on sticks for me was really critical to the conference because it taught me a lot about open mindedness and made me feel as though it was a safe space to really explore yourself and your motivations behind being at the conference – which in turn helped me collaborate better with my peers when I understood their motivations. I also think just how genuinely nice and passionate all the selected attendees were, and how over amazing food we could share stories and bond.”

“I think, like I said, the conference can be described as guided fluidity. I’ll use a football analogy. Jose Mourinho is an excellent manager because he tells people where to be on the pitch, tells them a rough objective and then gives them autonomy over how to do it. The objectives bring the team together, the autonomy gives the team fluidity. This idea isn’t new, but has been brilliantly implemented here.”

Conference one-liners

“I took home a shared vision of what changes we believe would influence the EU in a positive way. I took home inspirations and ideas I did not know earlier. Concepts I did not think of. And finally I took home friendships with like-minded people who I believe will last for a long time.”

“The conference brings together young people from different backgrounds, who share their understanding of open society and allows them to apply their specific knowledge and experience in order to develop ideas on how to improve our current environment to foster reciprocity and understanding. IYTT allows individuals to share their discussion with current experts in economics, politics, and business in order to root the proposals in reality and gain insights into real-life workings of individual’s topics of interest. Participating in IYTT has been beneficial in broadening my perspective and share my ideas with my peers. “

“Recently, I was in contact with someone who didn’t get accepted to the conference and I explained to her that the conference was ‘enlightening’ to hear the opinions of others about how we can try to maintain an open and democratic society. However when asked again, I will say that it was a privellege and definitely once in a life time and really educational.”

“A challenge, an adventure, a team who turned into friends, an opportunity to see myself working in a real-life environment and a long-term opportunity which did not just end after four days but continued intriguing, stimulating and inspiring us. It was a dream for me to come to Sweden and I never thought I would have the opportunity. But coming to Sweden for the first time for such a purpose – me contributing to the first International Youth think Tank – was far beyond my wildest expectations.”

“During 4 days, you will meet with 31 international young people. Together, you will have the power in your hands to show European decision-makers that the youth can be a force of proposal, by writing a report advocating for the democracy you wish to live in. Your differences will actually be your biggest asset as it will allow you to cover broad topics while foreseeing very diverse consequences of the policies the group is believing in. It is a challenging experience but also an extremely inspiring one that you will never forget!”

“I’d say IYTT allows you to discuss the status quo and gives you all the tools necessary to understand, how can you bring about changes. Its a place of exchanging ideas, engaging with others and understading your own points of view. And the participants are just amazing and I guarantee that should you go, I can approach a random person in the conference and you will gain some valuable insight.”