My Y7 Experience: Louis Bickler
The best thing about the Y7 is that it’s totally open. Each year the meeting table has a different set of issues and a new group of people around it. There’s every opportunity to make it your own.
This is also the biggest challenge for Y7 participants. Unlike other youth engagement or even intergovernmental fora, which tend to have a set structure and an established way of coming to consensus, the Y7 is much more freeform. It’s easy to think that all of the impressive young people in the room will just happen to agree, that those in charge will listen and, more importantly, act.
In fact, success in the Y7 requires structure and discipline, it comes from bringing all the resources together and focusing them properly, refining what you think and demanding –not expecting – that people listen. In this way, the Y7 is like the teenage younger sibling to the grown-up G7 – noiser, more chaotic, more passionate and, unlike the grown-ups, more able to claim the future for itself.
I think the Y7 process can be reduced to two questions: Why are we here? How do we get what we want? The answers to both map onto my experience of the entire process.
The first question should take you through your application to join the UK Y7 team, to preparation for and the first couple of days of the summit. Ask yourself, what is the point of doing youth engagement? There are so many other factors that influence our experience of policy issues - why not have an ethnic minority 7? Why not a rural 7 and an urban 7? If we do want to use ‘youth’ as a category, how do we decide what issues affect all of us, and why does that matter?
The G7 countries, including the EU, represent nearly a billion people, of which just under 40% are under 30. That’s a lot of experiences, but you can find themes, topics and concerns that cut across national boundaries. Make sure that, whatever you choose to fight for, it’s something that extends beyond you and your delegation’s experience. Self-reflection is key. I was surprised by just how much of my experience is unique to me as a young British person, as well as those things that turned out to be universal for all of the Y7 participants.
The answer to the second question – how do we get what we want? - underpins how you behave in the summit and after, when the real work begins. I was really daunted when I found out I’d be leading the UK delegation to the Y7 2018 summit in Ottawa, Canada. I was the dog who’d chased the car and caught it; I didn’t quite know what to do next.
In hindsight I shouldn’t have worried so much, because the answer to the question is obvious. I was successful because I wasn’t alone. I had a fantastic group of people in my delegation who really deserve the credit for what we accomplished. Trust your team, support them and go with them and it’ll work out.
This extends to other delegations as well. Build every relationship! When it’s 2am on the last night and you’re all fighting over what makes it into the all-important final communique, knowing who the person you’re disagreeing with is, knowing why they care so much about their point, and knowing that, when it comes down to it, you’d both prefer to be working together on a compromise than going it alone, is all-important – is how you make lasting change.
Finally, make sure you go with what you know to be right, not what you think will get you points with your government. If I’m honest, I should have done more of this. The teenage sibling might be more annoying and chaotic. Some of their ideas will need polishing. However, they’ve got something that the grown-ups haven’t got, and that’s time. Governments should listen because one day we’ll be in charge, and getting in good books now doesn’t guarantee success later.
Tomorrow ought to be shaped by the people who will live it, not just by those in charge today.
If you’re interested in representing the UK at the Y7 and Y20 Summits, then head on over to our news section to find out if we’re currently recruiting!
About the Author
Louis Bickler is on the UK Civil Service Fast Stream programme and currently works at the Department for International Trade as a Trade Policy Advisor on Investment and Investment Protection. Prior to this, he worked in corporate governance at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and managed a private office for BEIS’s Non-Executive Directors.
Louis’ major interests are in government and policymaking, particularly on the impact of technology on civic society and the state. He previously worked for public sector market research units, focusing on health and social care, procurement and long-term government transformation.
Louis has an undergraduate degree in History from the University of Cambridge (2014) and an MSc in Political Theory from the London School of Economics (2017). His masters’ thesis, currently awaiting publication, explores the relationship between the state and civic society in the political thinking of the inter-war period.
Outside of work, he has toured and recorded with a number of choirs, bands and opera companies. Highlights include recordings of Strauss, Brahms and Villa-Lobos, and performances on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 and international media, at UK and European music festivals. Louis is a keen sailor and completed a transatlantic crossing in 2015, part of a six-month stint as first mate on a sailing yacht.
Louis led the UK’s delegation to the Y7 Summit in Ottawa, Canada, in 2018.