Impact Interviews Ciarán Norris, Director of the Youth Diplomatic Services

The 2013 Y8 Summit, organised by the Youth Diplomatic Services (YDS), saw the Old Royal Naval College’s spectacularly Painted Hall filled with ambitious young people from different walks of life. Gathered for the official signing of the Final Communiqué, each person had his or her own story to tell; one woman had just started a new business venture, whilst another man, aged eighteen, was successfully running two businesses without a degree.

The Y8 Summit delegation itself was made up of seven or eight young ambassadors from each G8 country, who had assembled in London to discuss the most important matters in politics. The end result was the production of a Final Communiqué, outlining recommendations for new policies that should be implemented on a global scale.

In light of the success of this year’s Y8 Summit, Impact spoke to the Director of the Youth Diplomatic Services, Ciarán Norris. Inspired by his own experiences as a Y8 delegate, Ciarán spoke of his involvement in the 2013 Summit and how University of Nottingham students can get involved:

Y8 Summit Logo

You’ve gone from spending a year building swimming pools before going to university, to becoming the chairman and CEO of your own organisation. Have you taken hold of every opportunity that has come your way, or did you have a more structured plan of what you wanted to do in your career and how to progress?

I definitely like seizing opportunities, and I guess I have learned the hard way to say no to things.

My intention was never to go to university, the plan was always to take a year out and join the Royal Marines. I went to university with the objective of studying War Studies, and killing three years, before I could have laser eye surgery at the age of 21.

At university, they tried to close my course and make it a politics one, which ironically made me more active politically- to fight the university and keep my course. I won, and that made me realise that if I could do that on my own, then I could definitely do more as the President of my Students’ Union, which is what really made me want to get more involved in politics. Really, I should be thankful that my eyesight failed me when it came to the medical. As far as the Y8 was concerned, that was a lot of me not taking no for an answer, and pushing until I got yeses from people.

What notable international policies have previous summits influenced?

One of the big ones was the Robin Hood Tax: being able to put a minor financial levy on transactions within the financial sector in order to put that money to one side for good causes, not only in the UK, but all around the world. It’s important for us to be able to highlight our successes; otherwise events like these just become a glorified photo opportunity, and an expensive one at that!

So, how do people get involved with the Y8 and Y20 summits? Are you looking for a specific type of person?

We certainly don’t have a ‘type cast’ or a mould that we want people to fit into, quite the opposite. We want to put together as broad a group of people as possible. For example, the guy that I had appointed last year to lead the delegation to Washington, his name was John, he had never been to university, but from a young age he had demonstrated that he could be a strong leader; he was totally committed to his community.

We’ve had people from leading universities as well as those who are just a few years into their career; be that journalism or people working for a civil society. This year, one person was in their second year of university, whilst another was working for Chatham House.

We just want the person to be engaged in global affairs and care about the world beyond their boarders; our key philosophy is having the best person for the job.


For people who are interested in participating in the summits next year, what is the application process like?

It starts off as an application form that you just fill out alongside sending in a two-paged CV, so we can get a snapshot of what you’re like. The application covers things like your motivations and your interest in the world. A selection team then shortlists people for an interview that I would then conduct.

The interview would be conducted over Skype or a phone call, lasting from 20 minutes to half an hour. We ask people why they have chosen their specific role, for example Prime Minister, Defence Secretary or Justice Secretary etc. and then, if needed, we will have a second round of interviews.

As we are growing in profile, we may look at introducing the submission of essays as part of the application process. These could then be published online, so that people have the chance to give feedback on what has been written. This would be a good way to see how prospective delegates respond to criticism of their arguments and defend what they have written.YDS Director - Ciaran Norris

Having done so much yourself, what advice would you give to the young people of today on how to become successful leaders? Not solely within politics, but in all aspects of life?

It all comes down to extra-curricular activities. I cannot stress enough how important taking part in extra-curricular activities is. Even though I graduated with a 2:2, the fact that I was President of my Students’ Union and was one of the first people to set up a Facebook network in a university in the UK, meant that there were very few other graduates in the country that could make that claim.

You have to find a unique selling point, and everybody has the chance of finding one of those

You have to find a unique selling point, and everybody has the chance of finding one of those. Even if you are Social Secretary of the Boat Club, if you can qualify as well as quantify that experience; this is what will set you apart from everybody else. That is what I am looking for, it is what employers are looking for, and it will make you stand out in the job market.

As a leader you need to be honest. I’m not afraid to say I got a 2:2, which isn’t great. When you are applying for jobs it can be frustrating as there are many that have a 2:1 cut off point, and that can close a lot of doors, but personally they are the type of people that I wouldn’t want to work with. As an employer I try not to ‘type cast’ individuals as there is no one ‘type’ of employee; at YDS we want to ensure that our opportunities are open to everyone.


As Impact thanked Ciarán for taking the time to talk to us about the Youth Diplomatic Services, he mentioned that in order to get more students involved, he is planning to introduce YDS in university Student Union’s all over the country. Ciarán added: “If there are people at the University of Nottingham that want Nottingham to be one of the first few universities to have this, then by all means be my guest.”

Belinda Toor


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