Hugh Young: setting up an international humanitarian campaign

Hugh Young: setting up an international humanitarian campaign


In January this year we reported the acquisition of employer marketing agency Graduate Promotions by Havas People.  Ri5 caught up with Hugh Young, who sold the business to Havas People, to find out about life since the sale.

We know you remain an advisor to Graduate Promotions and its clients since the sale, but what else have you been doing?

Technically I’ve been taking time out, but, in a very good way, it hasn’t always felt like it.  I’ve had the opportunity to do some travel, and then I set up a global for-good campaign, which has been pretty all-consuming over the past six months or so – a bit like doing a start-up all over again.

What is it and what made you do that?

It’s called Equal Future 2018 and it’s raising awareness around the world of the damage that is done when a child or young person is given the sense that to be LGBT is a misfortune or a disappointment.

It’s a cause that has a lot of resonance for me personally, and also in a sense it develops one of the themes I’m most proud of Graduate Promotions for in terms of the help it gives companies with their diversity and inclusion recruitment marketing.  It’s been amazing in a sense to take that forward into an incredibly important global cause that gets even further into some of the roots of a key societal problem, and on such a wide scale.

How did you spot the opportunity?

Before the sale went through, I decided I wanted to take some time out to re-set before moving on to the next professional project.  It seemed like a great opportunity to do some form of ‘good work’.  Then I noticed that the Catholic Church was asking for direct feedback, for the first time ever in its history, on situations where young people, of all faiths and none, face exclusion for social or religious reasons.  This was ahead of a global meeting they’re actually holding right now.  20% of the world’s population are baptized Catholic, so that, combined with their own stated focus beyond the Catholic world, meant it amounted to an extraordinary opportunity to set up a humanitarian campaign to raise awareness of this particular form of exclusion.

What was the next step in setting it all up?

As it turned out, the process was pretty extraordinary.  I went to Rome to do some research and found myself in the archeological excavations under St Peter’s Basilica with a friend of Tiernan Brady. Tiernan had led the marriage equality campaigns in Ireland and Australia with such success.  He was still in Sydney, and I ended up going there for Mardi Gras (and Cher…) in March, so we had lunch and he agreed to be Campaign Director.  An amazing group of people around the world then got involved.  We were lucky to find some backers who believe in the cause on both sides of the Atlantic, and got a coalition together of over 100 LGBT, progressive religious, and children’s groups in 60 countries around the world to support the cause.  The website has also been key – it provides a platform for people to tell their own story to delegates at the global meeting.

And how’s it all gone so far?

Fantastically.  A big highlight is that we got the Pope to issue the first ever positive papal teaching to parents of kids who may be LGBT shortly after our launch in Dublin.  The ex-President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, introduced us to the press, so it was across the headlines as he arrived there in August.  That alone has improved outcomes for kids around the world.  We also commissioned a YouGov poll of views in some of the world’s largest countries, and released the results in Rome earlier this month with an Italian senator and the former President of the Puglia.  The results were phenomenal, showing increasing levels of awareness of the fundamental damage problem, and also that the majority of Catholics in the countries polled (comprising 50% of the world’s Catholic population) think their Church should change their teaching on LGBT to support the wellbeing of children and young people.  It’s been picked up by media around the world.

And how was the travel?  What did you get up to?

Straight after the sale I flew to South Africa and spent the best part of a week doing a kind of philosophical course by the sea.  My phone was switched off for five days, for the first time in as long as I can remember, and it really helped with decompressing and planning the period ahead.  There’s been a lot of travel to do with the Campaign of course, but I also got to take a holiday in various parts of Asia, seeing and doing things I’d always wanted to but hadn’t had the opportunity.  A lot of the time I was lucky enough to be meeting up and travelling with people I really care about, who were living there or also travelling there, and I got to travel solo too.  When I got back, a friend invited me to her birthday party in Jerusalem, so that prompted a trip to the Middle East as well.

So, what’s next?

For the Campaign, the Synod on Young People is ongoing as we speak, and generally we’re active across social and other media channels.  We’ll see what more we can do to help embed the message in the world’s consciousness.  Today the British Ambassador to the Holy See is handing over a letter to the Pope from a cross-party group of British MPs endorsing us.

As for me?  Again, we’ll see.  Before the sale went through, I got some advice from a guy who had recently moved on from his role as Chief Exec of a FTSE-100 company.  It was to spend as much of my time off as possible not thinking about what’s next…  One way or another, I think I’ve done pretty well at following that advice, which is great.  The Campaign has certainly helped.  We wrap up this very intensive phase though in the coming weeks, so it’ll soon be time to focus on the future again.  Watch this space!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

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