Youth Leaders with and without intellectual disabilities at the 2023 Special Olympics Global Youth Leadership Summit in Berlin, Germany, united by a common goal of fostering inclusion and understanding, believed that actions spoke louder than words. They were actively engaged in exchanging ideas and strategies, with the goal of creating a blueprint for a more inclusive future. These young leaders knew that change was not a single event but an ongoing process, and they were determined to take the first step.
More than 100 youth participants, with and without intellectual disabilities, from 45 Special Olympics Programs around the world came together in Berlin, learning, leading and lifting each other up to drive more inclusive behaviors and practices. These youth were led by a Global Youth Leadership Council which helped develop and implement ideas and strategies over the five-day summit.
Those in attendance received educational training and tools as an introduction to youth leadership, storytelling and project management. Youth Leaders cherished this rare opportunity, recognizing it as a steppingstone towards a more inclusive world. For many, it was their first time attending such a gathering, making it a memorable and impactful experience.
This group of individuals “Activated Together” by calling on policymakers to proactively break down barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion in their countries. Youth participants created their declaration—asking program leaders, policymakers, government officials and other young people to drive inclusive change.
It was evident these Youth Leaders grew and learned from one another. The exchange of ideas during social interactions and program discussions proved invaluable. Each participant personally shifted their perspective, becoming more enriched in the process. They acquired a wealth of knowledge, eager to apply it in their individual communities.
As they reflected on their journey, they recognized the importance of hard work and dedication. They were ready to take what they had learned and continue to develop their skills. The summit had equipped them with essential tools, necessary to implement inclusion in their communities where it was lacking.
Their shared vision was to raise awareness, not just about integration but genuine inclusion in every aspect of life—be it at school, work, or within the broader society. These young leaders are committed to pushing boundaries, breaking down barriers and creating a world where equal opportunities shine for all. The summit had ignited a passion in them to advocate for a more compassionate world, showing that understanding, empathy and action could light the path forward.