Thursday 27 June 2019

Clara Kelleher welcomes thousands to improve the world

Businesswoman Clara Kelleher tells Anna Coogan how she got hundreds of young world leaders to meet in Dublin for a chat

WELCOMING THE WORLD: Clara Kelleher has organised a summit which will bring 1,300 young people to Dublin for the One Young Wolrd Summit. Photo: Gerry Mooney
WELCOMING THE WORLD: Clara Kelleher has organised a summit which will bring 1,300 young people to Dublin for the One Young Wolrd Summit. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Anna Coogan

Clara Kelleher isn't mad about being described as a serious young woman, yet she concedes she is highly driven, and that her default setting is 'naturally hardworking.'

The young digital advertising executive is about to bring 1,300 young people - aged between 18 and 30 years, and from 194 countries - to Dublin's Convention Centre to discuss workable ways to make the world a better place.

"Myself and my colleagues originally thought we'd bring the One Young World Summit to Dublin in 2016," Clara says. "But the organisers convinced us to make a bid for 2014, and we'd a month to get our proposal in."

Chances are they had picked up on Clara's enthusiasm, as she was convinced the One Young World Summit - a global forum for young leaders to network- would be perfect for Dublin, having attended the summit in Pittsburgh in 2012 as a young delegate herself.

"I came away thinking delegates would get the same warm welcome here as they had in Pittsburgh," says 29-year-old Clara. "I knew it would work in Dublin because our population is so young, and because young people here have become so creative and resourceful during the recession," she says.

Headline speakers at the summit - which runs from Wednesday to Saturday, and during which discussions will be streamed online for the public - will include former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former President Mary Robinson, Bob Geldof, and Dr Martin McAleese.

No doubt about it, but a story about Clara spending time in France, and on a supposed sabbatical following her time in university, goes a long way to explain how her rivals never stood a chance when it came to her and her colleagues Valerie McGrane and Bob Coggins winning the bid to bring the summit to Dublin in 2014.

Following a masters in human rights law from the University of Nottingham, Clara decided to head off to work as a bar girl in Val d'Isere in France "as a break from all the pressure I had put myself under during my years of studying."

Yet it wasn't long before she found herself in the job of "brand event manager for a large company which had venues across the French Alps, and which was very high pressured and demanding."

"The experience showed me that I liked having a focus and being under pressure," Clara says.

The experience set the tone for the young Dubliner's professional career, and today she works as a senior account executive with the digital advertising company Eightytwenty and uses her flair for communicating and campaigning on behalf of her clients.

She also continues to put her energy behind her interest in advocacy for a better world, and has actively campaigned on behalf of Amnesty and Doctors Without Borders.

Clara says, "My friends would describe me as a workaholic, as I always have at least two jobs on the go, and I'm naturally very hardworking and driven. I get it from seeing my parents work so hard when I was growing up."

Her father Professor Dermot Kelleher is a former vice-provost for medical affairs at Trinity College, and is currently dean of the faculty of medicine at Imperial College, London. Her mother, Dr Jean Holohan, is a former CEO with the Asthma Society of Ireland.

The young singleton has no plans to join her parents in the UK, and describes herself 'as a real Dublin girl' who lives near the city centre and who loves everything about city- centre life.

"I love so many of the start-up programmes around Dublin at the minute, such as Street Feast which brings communities together around food, and Foodcloud which gets excess food from businesses and redistributes it to charities," Clara says.

"I think young Dubliners are very good at coming up with ideas and seeing them through, and it's something which convinced me that the One Young World Summit would work well here," she says. Spreakers at One Young World Summit also include ethical businesswoman Ali Hewson and disability activist Caroline Casey.

Sunday Independent

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