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202 in the rearview mirror

Putting 2020 in the Rearview Mirror

When COVID-19 decided to lay claims to 2020, every organization on the planet was impacted. As we search for the light at the end of the tunnel (and hope it is not an oncoming train), we are all faced with the question, “what now?” 

I am sure many of us during this pandemic have felt like Ving Rhames playing Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction when his character was asked by Butch (Bruce Wallace) “Are you ok?” The entire clip is on YouTube if you haven’t seen it.

Butch Coolidge: Are you okay?

Marsellus Wallace: Nah, man. I’m pretty f* ckin’ far from okay 

Marsellus Wallace: Nah, man. I’m pretty f* ckin’ far from okay

“Ok or not,” we have no choice but to move forward, and while a lot of us are wondering “what now?” we have an excellent opportunity to rethink and reshape how we do what we do.  

The pandemic has created a new landscape, forcing businesses to reassess and establish long-overdue change; according to EY and Accenture, it is estimated that over 70% of executives plan to completely rethink their business approach to become more resilient. 

There has been a lot of cross-pollination with the use of sustainability and resilience. Some frame them as one and the same, others lay claim to sustainability being a sub-set of resilience, and others claim vice versa. 

I am going to go out on a limb and say that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because we are not focusing on the right area. As long as someone’s resilience comes at someone else’s expense or at the expense of society and the environment, what is the point? We need to rethink our priorities because what we have experienced in recent months that when there is no toilet paper on the shelf, we are all forced to realize just how vulnerable we are to a system in decline.

Do I have the answer? No. Do I have a recommendation to take the first step in the right direction? Possibly.  

I had the opportunity to attend the UN Global Compact Leaders’ Summit this summer (virtually), and COVID dominated most of the sessions in the form of a “Post-COVID world.” There is no “post.” This is part of us now. We have forever changed. In order to take the next best step, we need to assess where we want to go. We can’t try to go back to business as usual because it doesn’t’ exist anymore.  

Moving forward, we have to learn to run (not walk) and chew gum at the same time. We need young people to lead and support them if we are going to be able to regenerate ecosystems while innovating for future challenges.

To start, we need to enact a worldwide ban on the words “that is how we have always done things.” This is why we need youth [and youthful at heart leaders]. 

The resilience, innovation, and empathy that springs forth from the world’s youth are as incredibly inspiring as it is innovative. This is what is critically needed in a post-pandemic world that still has an enormous number of challenges coming. 

Unfortunately, rather than being seen as key partners in innovation and solutions, young people are too often viewed as a problem that needs to be solved.

Often, young people as reckless or self-obsessed – adding a negative connotation with millennials, for example, is dangerous and does a great disservice to the vast majority of young people who are hardworking, solution-oriented, and community-minded.

Even when not being referred to as problematic, young people are sometimes regarded—even in the development space—as passive beneficiaries. The voices of youth need to be included in important decisions that directly impact their future.

Move Forward!

Now the COVID-19 crisis has challenged us to adapt and made painfully visible where we fall short as humanity. It has also reaffirmed the importance of the work change agents like all of you do, whether it be in the public and private sector or civil society. 

Globally, with a population of 1.2 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24 (the largest youth population in human history), the potential for powerful, youth-driven change is unlimited.

We are all living in a world that is more connected than at any other time in history. As we have learned through this pandemic, how quickly a crisis in one country can spread across the planet. That fact made painfully clear that in times of a worldwide health and economic crisis, is why global development led by innovative young people is critical.


Dr. Joel Carboni

Dr. Joel Carboni has over 24 years of experience in project, program, and portfolio management, having led Aerospace, Finance, Government, and Technology initiatives. He has a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Environment, is a Certified Senior Project Manager (IPMA Level B®), and Certified Green Project Manager (GPM®). He is the founder and president of GPM Global and the President Emeritus of the International Project Management Association USA (IPMA-USA) He is a medal of honor recipient from Universidad Autonoma Lisboa, AI Media's Leading Advisor Award 2017, the 2015 World CSR Congress Leadership Award, 2014 HRD Leadership & Training Award, and 2013 IPMA Achievement Award. He has lectured on or taught sustainable project management in 50 countries worldwide.

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