Sunday, 17 March 2013 15:54

We Are 1!

Written by 
We are 1! We are 1! Michalis Strouthos

Today was meant to be a special day... Exactly one year ago the Cypriot Enterprise Link (CEL) opened its arms to the world via our Facebook page (now on 700+ likes and rising)! The reaction received was and continues to be encouraging; and at times, absolutely amazing! CEL began when a group of young, highly motivated individuals set out with the simplest and purest of goals: to provide a platform for connecting the young leaders of the future and to explore how the fate of our little island can be transformed and improved through collaboration, creativity and innovation.

Away from political extremes, manufactured truths and social status quos, CEL set out to disrupt ‘the way things are done’ not because we considered ourselves rebels or ‘know-it-alls’, but because we appreciated that talent in Cyprus is under-utilised. We know for a fact that there is abundant talent on this island; talent that can and should have a say in how our future is shaped. It is CEL’s aim to finally bring this talent to the forefront. God knows it’s long overdue... CEL’s first and foremost objective has and always will be: to empower youths to transform the Cyprus that they live in.

That’s how CEL started, how it was envisioned and how the ideals it wished to convey were developed. The bigger question however should be where is it going? How is CEL relevant today and how will it bring about substantial change in the future? Why should you care?

At a time were fiscal and financial crises are flourishing, banks are collapsing, unemployment is rising, and unprecedented deposit cuts are being implemented; now more than ever is the time for Cypriots and adopted Cypriots to take our financial and economic fate into our own hands. The time has come to stop rallying in the streets or aimlessly playing the blame game like we so often do. It’s time to act! Some would say it is the job of policy-makers to revive the island, and they wouldn’t be wrong; but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us should sit on our hands and wait for change to miraculously land on our laps. It doesn’t work like that! Isn’t it about time we started taking serious, collective action to sustainably grow and haul our country out of this nightmare by ourselves? If we want change, don’t we have to be the ones to drive it? We – the Cypriot generations X and Y – are going to have to work extremely hard, and that’s ok because our parents did it beforehand and succeeded; but we also have to start being smarter, by developing the kind of long-term game plan that will give this country a fighting chance in the future.

Consequently, there are two ways to view our current predicament; a) as a disaster which will send the country back 10 years, or b) as a once in a generation opportunity to significantly alter our macroeconomic DNA in ways that will sustainably guarantee ours and our children’s futures for decades to come.

Today our GDP is driven by three key drivers: Financial Services, Tourism, and Agriculture. For a nation with one of Europe’s highest third tier education levels as a proportion of total population, that is a pretty unimaginative array of revenue streams. We have over 300 days of sun per annum and a huge natural gas field potentially worth a few billion sitting right below us. Where is the industry built to harvest this Energy? What’s more, with over 50% of our students graduating with applied sciences degrees, where is the focus on Research and Development and subsequently Technology? And why if (as so many people say) we are a nation naturally skewed towards entrepreneurship, have we not invested in facilitating young start-ups in the way that Israel and so many others have done? Why are these industries of the future not contributing more to our GDP? Why are we not making the right decisions which will dictate our prosperity? There are many gaps which can be exploited as long as the right decisions are made by those in power, but also crucially, by the public as a whole.

Talking of decisions of the general public, we agree that consumer and investor confidence in the Cyprus and European banking system has justifiably plummeted; but that does not mean the only option is to transfer our money abroad and bleed the country dry! Most of us will do it to an extent – and spreading your risks is actually a very good strategy for avoiding repeating these harsh realities in the future – but even domestically there are smarter ways to invest your funds which not only diversify away your own personal risk, but also contribute more to long-term growth for the whole country. Rather than saving in banks, why not invest some of your excess money in equity for creative Cypriot start-ups? Why not encourage young leaders to innovate our stagnant industries? Why not give our youths the chance they deserve to be the change this country so desperately needs?

My point is the country is in a bad state; but that should not mean that we have no options. We do! Each and every one of us needs to start believing in change, progress and our own mini-evolution. We can be better, but we have to make the decisions that give us the tools to be so, now. We HAVE to believe we can change, because frankly we won’t survive if we don’t.

This potential for change is there; driven by an ever-growing, youth led movement. A movement where settling for public sector jobs and sitting on the fence while lesser men and women govern our fortunes, is no longer acceptable; a movement where mediocrity, procrastination and show-boasting is no longer the norm; a movement where dreams, ingenuity and a ‘roll-up-your-sleeves’ attitude are inter-connected...  This movement is yearning for change, in fact, it demands it. CEL is at the forefront of this movement; of this ideology dedicated to innovation, progress and empowerment. Most importantly, it leads this movement with an unwavering desire to make a positive impact on our suffering community, and asks for nothing in return.

We have all taken a hit to our confidence with recent banking sector and government failures, but that does not justify our current self-defeatist attitude, or a reflex urge to flee. The energy is still there, bubbling beneath the surface, and it must be harnessed! There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come; and CEL, its values and what it represents, are that idea. People young and old have embraced this vision. Perhaps for the first time, Cypriots and adopted Cypriots are beginning to realise that they are not compelled to settle with being mere spectators to their fortunes. They CAN and SHOULD have a say, not merely by voting in a president and a house of representatives, but by becoming active citizens and together positively disrupting the system with their dreams and aspirations.

These people are creative, collaborative, and champions in their given fields; they are networkers, dreamers and purists; they are unafraid of taking responsibility, they work hard not because they have to, but because they want to and yes they are exactly what this country needs! CEL does not belong to me, or the rest of the organising team, or any single individual whatsoever. CEL belongs to these people. In fact, CEL is built on and for these people, and these are the people who will grow the idea of CEL into the force to drive us forward. They are the core of CEL and you can be too! CEL needs you if it’s going to survive. Get involved and help realise a change that you want to see!! Find a group of like-minded individuals and form your own node – however niche it may appear! No matter how small/creative/’out-there’ your dreams may be, you are not alone; there are others with similar principles and CEL will help you find them! You will decide what this platform can do for you and for your ideas! You are the ones who will grow this network, and together we will transform our country for the better...

Do not lose hope. Do not wave away your right for progress. If anything, now is the time to take it into your own hands! Of course it’s going to be tough, but there is plenty left in our people to re-ignite our home. All the tools are there but somewhere along the line we allowed ourselves to forget this. We let them tell us we couldn’t dream for ourselves. Perhaps it’s time to remind them. Then maybe, just maybe, by the time we come to CEL’s second or third birthday, we may finally be on our way to living in a Cyprus that we all WANT to live in, not just one that we get by in.      


Read 22287 times Last modified on Sunday, 24 March 2013 18:05