Harnessing the Power of Sport to Empower Young Leaders: the IOC Young Leaders Programme
Reflecting the vision of its founder, Konosuke Matsushita, Panasonic has long had a mission that goes beyond the design and manufacture of great products. Matsushita once said, “We create people before we create products.” In other words, Panasonic’s business is driven by the creativity and skills of its employees, particularly its younger members. This reflects the company’s global brand commitment to empower youth and ensure their well-being.
In the same vein, Panasonic has a long history of partnership with the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and is currently the sole provider of the audio-visual equipment used to convey the excitement of the Games to spectators and audiences around the world.
In 2016 Panasonic became the founding partner of the IOC Young Leaders’ Programme to empower young leaders, one of the tentpole programs that contributes to Olympism 365 which is the IOC’s overarching strategy to strengthen the role of sport as an enabler of the Sustainable Development Goals and to connect people with the Olympic values everywhere, every day.
This programme aims to empower talented young individuals to leverage the power of sport and make a positive difference in their communities. With financial support from Panasonic, the IOC, and a network of mentors, the program has delivered nearly 150 local initiatives across the globe reaching over 35,000 individual participants.
Panasonic directly supports the programme by providing young leaders with internships, marketing training and video production workshops, and by giving them the opportunity to participate in various educational events in Japan and globally.
Panasonic has also created its own “Team Panasonic” featuring world-class athletes such as Olympic gold medalists Nathan Chen and Katie Ledecky, all of whom share the company’s commitment to giving back and contributing to society.
Uniting Team Panasonic and the IOC Young Leaders
Panasonic recently participated in the IOC Youth Summit that took place during October 7–9 this year. IOC Young Leaders from around the world came together in person and online to share opinions and best practices. Team Panasonic athlete and 7-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Katie Ledecky addressed the event as one of the keynote speakers.
Katie is a well-known athlete but she is also a young leader herself, reflecting many of the same values that Summit participants share. She leads her own project for youth empowerment by spearheading an initiative that improves access by young people to education in the so-called “STEM” subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Her STEM Forward initiative is sponsored by Panasonic and supported by Discovery Education, an organization providing educators with innovative ways to design and deliver engaging digital learning content.
The aim of STEM Forward is to motivate and empower Young Leaders to embark on an education that will be personally rewarding for them—those working in STEM fields earn on average 60–70% more than those in other fields—and beneficial for society, given that these fields of study are increasingly expected to yield solutions to world problems. More than 6,700 education providers and 407,000 students have already participated in the STEM Forward program.
“STEM skills are the foundation for the innovation that can solve many of the pressing issues in our society,” says Katie. “They help advance medical research, bolster food supplies and create the infrastructure needed for growing populations.”
Katie Ledecky shares her passion for STEM education
During her keynote session at the IOC Youth Summit, Katie drew attention to the way the COVID pandemic had drawn the world’s attention to other global issues requiring scientific innovation—for example the need for renewable energy. She acknowledged Panasonic’s own long history of innovation and mentioned some of the many ways the company is seeking to address those issues.
Using the field of competitive sport as a reference, Katie emphasized the need for young people to find balance in their lives. “It is tempting for young athletes who achieve early success in their sport to neglect their education.” But, she said, the two are not mutually exclusive.
Katie also stressed how important it is for those in work to continue to pursue hobbies and other interests. “Whatever excites or motivates you, find a way to take it to the next level,” she advised. “Learning should not be limited to the classroom. It’s a lifelong process!” To emphasize the point, she added, “And you don’t just learn from teachers. It could be a coach, a friend, or a family member.”
Katie’s own meticulous preparations for the Olympics Games Tokyo 2020 were disrupted by the sudden postponement following the global COVID pandemic. But she explained how the one-year delay allowed her to re-engage with the world beyond athletics and resume her studies at Stanford University. It also highlighted for her some of the challenges beyond the world of sport, for example the uneven access to healthcare across different countries.
Katie initially feared the COVID pandemic would curtail her STEM Forward program just as it was getting off the ground. “But it forced us to move to a remote engagement model, which actually allowed us to interact with far more students, including some in Japan,” she says, proving that clouds often have a silver lining!
Panasonic hopes to continue to support initiatives like the IOC’s Young Leaders Programme to empower Young Leaders and STEM Forward that provide young people with the opportunity to play a more active and rewarding part in society. These are a natural fit with our brand commitment to empower youth and support their well-being. And Panasonic’s long track record of technological innovation will ensure the talents of the young people who choose to join us will be used to the fullest!