What does it take to get top corporate and government leaders and more than 100 organizations from nearly 50 countries together in one placefor three of the hottest days of the summer, including a Saturday? Fortunately, we seem to have found the answer. Send out an invitation to individuals and institutions around the world who are deeply committed to improving the prospects of today’s young peopleand who recognize the urgent need to do more. Tell them we are bringing some of the best global thinkers and most experienced local practitioners in youth development together to talk about how best to address the needs and aspirations of today’s young people. And they will come.

This meeting was inspired in part by a paper IYF recently releasedOpportunity for Action: Preparing Youth for 21st Century Livelihoods. Commissioned by the Microsoft Corporation, it details the educational, employment and civic engagement challenges facing today’s youth in six regions of the world, and concludes with a global “call to action” to work together to bridge the opportunity divide. This week’s meeting was a response to that call.

I’d like to share with you just a few of the insights and inspiring moments from the last few days. Chris Nassetta, the CEO of Hilton Worldwide and a new member of the board of IYF, opened his keynote address by talking about his most important jobbeing the father of six daughters. Then he added: “We all share a world with 1.3 billion young people about to enter adulthood. Nothing could be more important than making sure they have opportunities.” The travel and tourism industry accounts for nearly ten percent of global employmentand Mr. Nassetta said he will help build corporate support within that sector to help young job seekers prepare for decent first jobs, then enterprising careers.

Throughout the sessions, members of IYF’s global network of youth-serving organizations talked about their successes in the fieldbut also about what was not workingand what they learned in the process. They also wrestled very honestly with some really tough issues: how do you meet the needs of both youth and employers (what we call the “dual client” approach)? What does a successful job placement program look like? How can we better support at-risk youth such as ex-offenders, gang members, and former child soldiers?

These events remind me of the rich diversity of our network. Our corporate partners run the gamut from the hospitality sector and global IT solutions to heavy machinery manufacturers and retail. Our government leaders are global bi- and multi-lateral institutions like USAID, the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, as well as local city government officials and education ministers. And our young social entrepreneurs work on issues ranging from peace building to saving the environment to teaching children about human rights through games. Yet we all agree on one core strategy: working in partnership, across different sectors, languages, and cultures is the only worthwhile approach to getting things done, and doing it with scale.

In fact, the entire conferencenoting the current youth” bulge” has the largest cohort of teenagers in historyconcluded that anything short of scale and systemic solutions will only lead to tragedy.

The past few days also re-confirmed for me, and hopefully for our partners, that the way we workas a global network that is both virtual and horizontal, globally focused but locally rootedis a business and development model that works, particularly in this day and age.

By joining forces (and resources) we have improved the lives of 16 million young people over the past two decades. But we recognize how far we have still to go. Peter Woicke, a former Managing Director of the World Bank (and member of IYF’s Board) used blunt terms in referring to the Opportunity for Action paper. “The findings in this report are shocking, and a real wake up call to rethink how we deal with unemployed youth,” he said during the opening session. “We must go beyond what we’re doing now.  We need long-term, sustainable solutions, and we need them now."

Naadiya Moosajee, a YouthActionNet® Fellow from South Africa who participated in the youth panel, had the last word. “There’s been a lot of talk about needing more youth voices today,” she said. “We already have voices! We just need people to listen to us, and we need champions!”