Students & Campus
23 September 2021

Young Leader, Bold Solution at the St. Gallen Symposium

Master student Olivier Flamand-Lapointe wrote and submitted an essay to the Symposium’s annual Global Essay Competition, which challenges young leaders to find bold solutions to pressing issues. His essay, written on the topic of “Trust Matters”, earned him a virtual seat at the event. Here he discusses his essay and the event, and also gives a piece of advice to fellow students. 

I decided to write my essay on something universal, something that is present in our daily lives: food. As our economy is more globalised than ever, so are our food systems. I argued that the growing distance between production and consumption has created a gap between consumers and food. Because of that, people don’t trust what’s in their food, how it has been produced, and by whom. Hence, trust in our food must be rebuilt.

In my paper, I suggest that multiplying short and local value chains around cities is the solution. I presented four themes that appeared key to me: participatory governance, local expansion strategies, digitalisation of sales and financial support to sustainable farming. 

Thanks to my essay, I was selected among the top 100 young leaders to be part of the 50th St.Gallen Symposium. This year’s edition was special as it was fully online for the first time ever. Of course, nothing can replace an in-person experience. However, despite the challenge brought by the pandemic, the organising team did a wonderful job to make the event run smoothly. 

They also succeeded in attracting influential leaders from multiple domains to discuss hot topics. Among those, I must admit that Jane Goodall’s conference on human relationships with nature really struck me. Not that she proposed groundbreaking ideas or new solutions to save the planet, but her message of hope, openness and unity was truly inspiring; it gave me trust in our future. 

If I had one piece of advice to give to other students, it would be the following: apply to the global essay competition. Not only could you get the chance to meet young and senior leaders at the Symposium, but it is also an opportunity to deeply think about solutions to issues you care about. It is definitely worth a try.