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Club news – Embassy 36

Changing up

In the YDL’s 10th anniversary year, newly-elected president Mike Guy tells Elizabeth Stewart of his plans to set the organisation up for the next decade

One word sums up Mike Guy’s ambitions for his term as president – diversification. “We’re trying to do a variety of things this year to boost mind, body and spirit,” says Mike, Second Secretary and Vice Consul at the Bahamas High Commission.

For expanding the mind, the YDL hosts popular Business Breakfasts for its members. “This gives junior diplomats the opportunity to meet top-level policy makers that they may not ordinarily get access to by themselves,” says Mike.

Mind expanding experiences
It’s never been a problem securing good speakers either, adds Mike, recalling a comment made by the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, at a recent talk. “He revealed that when he was starting out in his diplomatic career, he was a member of a young diplomats club and now he has come full circle! I think people accept our invitations because they realise that they may be talking to the ambassadors of tomorrow.”

And they get to meet diplomats from a broad range of countries because the lectures are always well attended – recently the talk by John Whittingdale MP, the chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on the Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee and the phone-hacking scandal was completely oversubscribed.

Other speakers in the pipeline will include Christian Turner, Director of the Middle East at the FCO, who will focus on the Arab Spring, and there are plans to have a talk by a chief justice and an official from the IMF on financial regulation.

The YDL is also introducing a Speaker Series in the evenings at the Houses of Parliament in collaboration with the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP). FCO Minister Jeremy Browne MP kicks off the series and Mike has pledged to land more “big fish”.

“It will also be great to give the members exposure to a different venue, especially one as prestigious as Parliament.”

Good spirits
When it comes to being healthy in body, especially in an Olympic year, the young diplomats will be doing their bit by hosting three sporting events – a soccer tournament in May in conjunction with the Consular Corps of London, a tennis tournament in September, followed by the London Triathlon where super-fit diplomats will run, cycle and swim for charity.

Of course, the YDL’s reputation for raising spirits needs no explanation and the organisation is planning a number of charity fund-raisers: the Black and White Ball, in aid of the Kids for Kids charity, which raises money for destitute children in Darfur; a summer solstice party in June; an autumn fundraiser at Marlborough House (with an oriental theme this year); and the Shiny Party at Christmas, whose proceeds will be donated to the St Mungos charity for London’s homeless.

Their popular quarterly drinks networking events will also be an opportunity to try out new venues and new themes, adds Mike. The first of the year will be the Cigar and Whisky evening in February (see the Diplomatic Diary Planner), co-sponsored with IDS and the Cuban Tobacco Council and hosted by 51 Buckingham Gate on their trendy Cigar terrace.

Then in a first for the YDL, in March members will be able to enjoy a private viewing at the Sumarria-Lunn gallery with the artist, followed by a reception. A historic pub crawl and traditional pub quiz is scheduled for April and at the annual BMW winter chill out in November, expect plenty of fanfare as the YDL toasts their 10th anniversary. The other networking events will have a cultural theme – in May there will be a Southeast Asian event with culture and cocktails from Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, while September’s social will feature Africa, from Cape to Cairo.

Going global
“The idea is the events act not only as a networking opportunity but also a good avenue for cultural experience,” says Mike and he’s delighted that the YDL is making inroads into new regions, with the election of African and Southeast Asian representatives on the committee.

And they’re open to suggestion for events with a Latin American or South Pacific theme too, he adds. “When we go to an embassy with a proposal for an event it’s a fantastic opportunity for them to raise their profile at relatively little cost to them.”

All that means a lot of partying – but it is partying with a purpose, reminds Mike: “The contacts you make at the YDL networking events are invaluable in your professional life. If you need help from a mission, it is so much easier to pick up the phone and call a friend.”

Long-term plans include more trips to cities across the UK who would like to partner with the YDL and possibly more visits to overseas destinations. The group is seeking out ways to connect with other diplomatic associations across the globe too. “These goals keep us moving forward,” smiles Mike.

But for now, he is concentrating on putting systems in place to consolidate the YDL’s future. “I want to leave the YDL strong so it can keep going for the next ten years – and beyond.”

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