Jimmy Wales, Founder and Chair Emeritus, Board of Trustees Wikimedia Foundation, USA Class of 2007
The first YGL meeting I went to was in Dalian, in China. It was instantly apparent that this was no ordinary talking shop. The people I met were an inspiration. I don’t know anywhere else where you’d come across such diverse participants. And it’s not just a bunch of people trying to do business with each other – there’s a healthy mix of non-profits, academics, media and government people.
I’ve learned so much, met so many interesting people during my time as a YGL, but more than that, I’ve made friends – people doing interesting, big things as a peer group – which has been immensely rewarding. The formal parts of the programme are great, but it’s the informal, the time spent working with people and doing really interesting things that’s the best. For me it’s not really about projects or initiatives so much as about relationships. I’ve never done business with a fellow YGL. What I enjoy is getting to know people and what they’re working on so as to understand how I can work with them.
Wherever you are in the world, it seems there’s a YGL who can help you, whether you’re having business problems or you just need some help or advice. We’re an extended family – wherever you go, it’s like there are old friends waiting. Once, I was on the way to Santiago, Chile, to speak at fellow YGL Paula Escobar’s book launch, only I had a terribly painful but fortunately minor eye injury. When I arrived, I discovered that Paula had arranged for a top eye doctor to meet with me – at midnight – to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. This is typical of the social aspect of the YGLs. The relationships you forge with others are not just business-based. Many of the people I’ve met at YGL events have gone on to become close friends.
If you are a YGL, I’d advise you to avoid the idea of thinking solely of business partnership and strategic advantages. Think of your peers as human beings who can enrich your life.