Expo 2020 Dubai: Empowering young sustainability champions through storytelling

Adam Pensotti
Adam Pensotti

Canon Young People Programme Lead

Looking after the Canon Young People Programme across EMEA, means I was able to offer speaking opportunities to a selection of young changemakers and global activists at Expo 2020 Dubai. Together, we were able to reach a new audience, discussing our work, passion and dedication towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As the world’s largest event showcasing and promoting global action toward sustainability, it was a pleasure to attend the grounds in person, where I saw great opportunities for learning and collaboration for those present. Now we’re over one month after the closing ceremony, I’ve taken some time to reflect on my experience in Dubai as I look forward to what comes next for our social impact work at Canon. 
Expo 2020 Dubai was held in a part of the world that is filled with potential. The visitors and speakers showed an extraordinary dynamism and passion for change. This was echoed in every detail of the event grounds, from the futuristic feel of the designs. I engaged with many panel sessions, talks and workshops and I came away from Expo with an overwhelmingly positive feeling towards driving sustainable change.
I found it really refreshing that the event wasn’t just a stage for leaders and organisations to have their say. Unlike many formal meetings, younger activists were given the opportunity to speak out to a global audience. Many different perspectives were shared around shaping a more sustainable future and contributing towards the UN SDG’s (sustainable development goals). As someone working on youth programmes. I think its important younger voices were platformed, because I believe diversity is needed to find solutions to make real change.
In my role, I work with young people from around the world who are passionate about driving positive change through storytelling – with stories about them, their work and their communities. That’s why I jumped at the chance to bring Canon’s social initiatives and our commitment to driving change through our Young People Programme and Miraisha Programme, to Expo 2020 Dubai, so that participants would have a global platform to share their stories and experiences to inspire others.
Seeing Kgaugelo ‘Neville’ Ngomane discuss his work in front of an audience at Expo was a really important and inspiring moment. A 22 year old photographer from rural South Africa, he had the opportunity to connect with new people from across the globe and speak about his work in highlighting the issue of poaching as part of the Wild Shots Outreach wildlife conservation initiative. 

Neville and Adam on stage at Expo 2020 Dubai

Neville was one of the many passionate young people at Expo 2020 Dubai. Their desire for change echoed around the event, driven by people meeting together to share their ideas and perspectives.

Another previous YPP participant and keen photographer, Hassan Raja took part in the World Majlis panel session ‘Bridging the Divide: Bringing Bold Changes with Wisdom’. Along with other young speakers from a range of backgrounds, Hassan discussed the importance of using technology to drive greater collaboration between different generations and cultures in order to deliver bold solutions to the world’s issues. This was his first time speaking to such as large audience and although he said it was nerve wracking in his blog here, it was fantastic to be able to give him the chance to discuss these issues on a global stage. 

Bridging the Divide: Bringing bold Changes with Wisdom panel

As you’d expect, a huge topic at Expo was around SDG 13: Climate Action. Protecting the world we live in is top of the agenda for young people and they have a real ambition to see companies and countries commit to hitting Net Zero with carbon emission goals set to stop the devastating impacts of global warming.

That’s why we also invited last year’s Canon Young Champion of the Year Under 16 winners, brother and sister Mishal and Mir from the UAE, to join us at Expo 2020 Dubai. Recognised for their involvement in campaigns that address recycling, food waste, and deforestation among others, they spoke with Aishwarya Ajit and Tom Urquhart at Studio Expo about their mission to inspire more young people to look after the planet. They penned a blog here about attending and described speaking at Expo as a “dream come true”.  

Mishal and Mir being interviewed on Studio Expo

The feedback from the individuals we invited to join us at the event was truly amazing. At Canon we feel an enormous responsibility to provide the participants of our sustainability social programmes with skills and tools to further their creative education and give them a voice through visual storytelling. Their passion is underpinned by Canon’s corporate philosophy of kyosei – living and working together for the common good.

Taking part in an event like Expo 2020 Dubai is just one of the many ways we’re empowering young people to make a difference to their futures, and ours, and we will continue in this mission. We know that creativity and storytelling is at the heart of connection, and we need to collaborate for positive, long-lasting change to take place. I’d urge all organisations to play their part in aligning with the SDGs and understanding how they can best support young people as we strive to create a better world for all.