Fellows' Testimonials

“I have participated in a lot of workshops in recent years that from the outside appear to be quite similar to [the YCI Forum], but, this experience is truly unique and mind-blowingly different. The combination of incredible facilitators, an amazing backdrop, and the ability to step away from the day-to-day realities of my work meant that I had a chance to truly connect with other participants and to really evaluate what I have been doing and where I am going. I have seen immediate results in the work I am doing, and am preparing to launch a couple of initiatives that came up in discussions with my peers at the Forum.

Aaron Davis, Adelaide, Australia, YCI Fellow (2016)


At the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators, I formed friendships and alliances. I found courage, inspiration and support. I was educated. My notepad reveals quotes from both the facilitators and peers. During the open space talks, we self-organized into salons and debates, sharing books, thoughts and insight. During the open mic nights, we learnt from one another’s cultures, made each other laugh and inspired one another constantly. I am coming back to Adelaide with a greater zest for the work I do; with added clarity and insight...Though I am sad to leave the beauty and tranquility of the Schloss, I am excited to return home... These friendships will be fertile creative ground for years to come.

Sanja Grozdanic, Adelaide, Australia, YCI Fellow (2016)


 “Three months ago I was elected as a member of the Steering Committee of the Cultural Innovators Network, a non-profit organization whose content of actions relates with cultural projects and products being introduced in an innovative way... I truly believe that the knowledge gained from my experience will be of significant importance for our future transformation and evolvement. This hopefully will result in a viable network capable of envisioning and producing a number of projects regarding intercultural dialogue, cross sectorial partnerships and empowerment of its members to become advocates of change into a more inclusive future, for all societies and beliefs in the Mediterranean region.”  

Lazaros Damanis, Athens, Greece, YCI Fellow (2016)


“The Fellows that participated, as well as the facilitators and speakers who led the plenary and skill sessions, managed to achieve something very difficult; to create a safe space and a uniquely friendly environment that enabled everyone to genuinely be himself/ herself.”

Nafsika Papadopoulou, Athens, Greece, YCI Fellow (2016)


“The trip to Salzburg literally changed my entire perspective. I was able to have the most amazing conversations with incredible artists and cultural workers from all over the world. Everything from the sessions led by the skilled facilitators, to the lush surroundings was perfect. I will never forget this experience.”

Jermaine Bell, Baltimore, USA, YCI Fellow (2017)


“I will look back on Salzburg as the five days that changed my life. It gave me a glimpse into what the world can be when everyone is driven by understanding, cooperation, and social good. Importantly, I left with a plan for action which will take my efforts to provide healing in Baltimore to the next level.”

David Olawuyi Fakunle, Baltimore, USA, YCI Fellow (2015)


“I left Salzburg inspired and motivated by the incredible work being done by my peers in other continents and other cities across the Americas. I meditate on their talent and tenacity daily, placing my own work in a larger, global context, turning it over in my mind to gain fresh perspectives and ideas.”

Maggie Villegas, Baltimore, USA, YCI Fellow (2017)


“One of the most valuable things I learned from this experience, which I started to apply right away, is to embrace action, and not to be afraid of thinking big. Failure is just a necessary step of the learning process. Now I’m not afraid anymore of failing and making mistakes.”

Sebastian Chuffer, Buenos Aires, Argentina, YCI Fellow (2016)


“I am going back home with so many new ideas that I could say I will become a new person... I am already working with that material and changing the original plan I had for a project. This seminar has real and tangible results that I am sure will be reflected in the projects we all doing around the world.”

María José Greloni, Buenos Aires, Argentina, YCI Fellow (2016)


“I brought with me from the YCI Forum, huge and beautiful, the experience of sharing time, space, ideas and hours, with forty people from almost all continents working on projects and organizations in which art and culture are essential tools for social transformation.”

Lala Pasquinelli, Buenos Aires, Argentina, YCI Fellow (2017)


“The YCI Forum was a once in a lifetime chance to learn, connect and grow. This experience was a game changer for all of us participants, in terms of how do we see ourselves, how do we connect and grow networks across the world, and how do we think and reflect about our own and other’s work.”

Mariano Pozzi, Buenos Aires, Argentina, YCI Fellow (2017)


“There is something enlightening in the whole experience that has given me a positive and determined attitude towards my daily actions. I am filled with motivation to [have] influence as much as possible on...the sector.”

Linda Kaoma, Cape Town, South Africa, YCI Fellow (2017)


“I feel like the YCI Forum, unlike many events I’ve attended, has been more like an alchemical lab than a traditional cultural summit. A month after the event, I already know that there is a before, and there is an after the YCI Forum – both for my personal life, and my professional practice.”

Marc Pronovost, Québec, Canada, YCI Fellow (2017)


 “More than anything else, the Forum invigorated me, compelled me to recommit to past goals and redefine ones that had become murky. It was a very valuable opportunity to step outside of my world and focus on myself and my goals, when my day-to-day is spent with all my focus on the organizations and communities I work in service to.”

Nikki Shaffeeullah, Toronto, Canada, YCI Fellow (2017)


“My work in social innovation will only be bolstered by the support and networking that has come from this year’s group of YCI Fellows. The skills learned and the inspiration gained will help me further my mission of creating positive social change through creativity and innovative thinking; I owe Salzburg Global Seminar so much for lighting an even greater fire in my belly.”

Patrick Shannon, British Columbia, Canada, YCI Fellow (2017)


“I found my fellow YCI participants to be bold, outspoken, grounded, engaged and ready to cheer others on. I don’t think I have ever been in a room with so many young professionals who are innovating in the true sense of the word: breaking new ground, disrupting systems, challenging the status quo, elevating the poorest and least empowered in society.”

Helen Yung, Toronto, Canada, YCI Fellow (2017)


“Every time I get together with other YCIs, I realize how universal problems are in each of our cities. It has gotten me to think more about how to leverage the network for learning and collaboration.”

Chase Cantrell, Detroit, USA, YCI Fellow (2017)


 “The seminar enabled time, space and creativity to reflect on my goal to continue to collaborate and support the development of community-minded leaders in Detroit. I am enjoying the continued engagement and activity of the YCIs.”

Shelley Danner, Detroit, USA, YCI Fellow (2016)


“In addition to developing new skills and making global connections, I also left Salzburg with new ideas, projects, collaborations and opportunities for the city of Detroit. Since returning I’m in the midst of liaising with fellow YCIs on ways that we can partner, I’m hopeful that something meaningful will be produced from this.”

Melvin Henley, Detroit, USA, YCI Fellow (2016)


“I brought with me from the YCI Forum, huge and beautiful, the experience of sharing time, space, ideas and hours, with forty people from almost all continents working on projects and organizations in which art and culture are essential tools for social transformation.”

Lauren Rossi, Detroit, USA, YCI Fellow (2017)


“For these past few years I’ve been having this constant dream of being able to answer the question “Where are you from?” with “I’m a citizen of the world”, where States, nations or borders do not really matter. A utopian dream, one might criticise, but I’m glad to have had the possibility of experiencing this thanks to the YCI Forum.”

Kristina Borg, Malta, YCI Fellow (2017)


“For most, it felt like we had been friends for ages – borders, boundaries, judgements inexistent. Brothers and sisters of every background, race, religion – we felt comfortable in expressing our vulnerabilities and concerns, our struggles and ambitions – the world becoming a single family to which we all belong.”

Elyse Tonna, Malta, YCI Fellow (2017)


“Aside from the inspiration, motivation and advice from the organizers and facilitators, it’s the simplest gestures of being human I found to be the most beautiful moments at the Young Cultural Innovators Forum. It created different layers of relationships that I think are the most important element in the world.”

Mark Salvatus, Manila, The Philippines, YCI Fellow (2016)


“I feel less insular and more empowered by a sense of global ‘connectedness’ founded on empathy, respect, need for excellence, and friendship. Following the YCI Forum, I feel that I will be able to do more on the cultural and social endeavors I’m working on.”

Andrei Venal, Manila, The Philippines, YCI Fellow (2017)


“As a woman from Cambodia, I felt so grateful that I can speak and share my heritage, my life, and my Cambodian history with the rest of the world. As I move forward in my professional work, I will take with me all these great memories and experiences to develop my country and the world.”  

Sinath Sous, Mekong Delta, YCI Fellow (2017)


"It was an incredible and fruitful experience being part of the first YCI. Coming from a small country like Cambodia, this opportunity was once in a life time. 
What I took out is the friendship I have built with young change makers and cultural ambassadors around the world."

Dara Huot, Mekong Delta, YCI Fellow (2015)


“What strikes me the most is how my time in Salzburg simultaneously expanded and contracted the world around me. The diversity of people in the group highlighted both immense cultural differences and shared struggles to realize change and innovation.”

Lauren Kennedy, Memphis, USA, YCI Fellow (2016)


 “The experience, although overwhelming in the sheer amount of information, reminded me of my value as a person and sharpened my skills as a leader. I learned new techniques to focus on my weaknesses, and identified areas where I can improve.”

Rachel Knox, Memphis, USA, YCI Fellow (2016)


“Beyond that the skills and personal relationships, my biggest takeaway from the YCI experience is hope. Our differences as YCIs were dwarfed by our similarities across borders and cultures. And it was in those similarities that we all opened up with one another, collaborating through art, design, and community development.”

Ian Nunley, Memphis, USA, YCI Fellow (2017)


“I have been in search of a world city that has intellectuals, artists and those trying to make the world better through their work, I have come to find that unlike the past there isn’t just one place for all these people they are spread out throughout the world and it really takes seminars like this to bring them together.”

Yasmine Omari, Memphis, USA, YCI Fellow (2017)


“Along with the relationships initiated at YCI, there are many people and projects in other countries I would not otherwise have exposure or access to that I was able to relate to and learn from. This helped me not only open my mind to other methods and models of work, but it also helped me understand and focus my own context even further.”

Carla Olukemi Schleicher, Minnesota, USA, YCI Fellow (2016)


“It was absolutely incredible to have the opportunity to really connect with others my age around the world using art and culture as a tool for sustainable and ethical community development. A recurring theme for me - in conversations, sessions, and workshops - was the essential nature of organic, grassroots and holacratic projects, systems or engagement.”

Adam Wiltgen, Minnesota, USA, YCI Fellow (2016)


“It was more than a Forum, I recharged and am ready to continue on my work back home. Knowing that am not alone and my challenges are shared across the world was the most important outcome for me.”

Julius Owino, Nairobi, Kenya, YCI Fellow (2017)


“My experience in Salzburg was transformational. I still don’t think I was prepared for how impactful it would be. Being around such a diverse group of creatives from around the world and sharing such a historic and stimulating space with them was an experience that I know will show its impact throughout the rest of my life.”

Nic Aziz, New Orleans, USA, YCI Fellow (2016)


“The YCI session provided holistic approaches to some of the world’s most complex social issues. Through conversations with people from across the world, cultural exchanges enabled us to share our differences/similarities, and the opportunity to expand our networks globally.”

Atianna Cordova, New Orleans, USA, YCI Fellow (2017)


“Oftentimes, I see a value clash with funding alignment and equity in the arts. Salzburg has really driven me to reflect on my own personal values – integrity, empathy, and courage – and to...better communicate my passion for the arts and humanities and the energy they bring to our lives and communities.”

Sayde Finkel, New Orleans, USA, YCI Fellow (2017)


“I plan to leverage YCI session tools, resources, and networks to enhance several initiatives... Immediate applications include improving our entrepreneurship training program; creating sister city cultural exchanges; and rethinking the scope of our international projects program.”

Alphonse Smith, New Orleans, USA, YCI Fellow (2016)


“I had the opportunity to see my country, my community and the cultural and arts field in it from another point of view and that made me a lot more critical and demanding in terms of why cultural events should be made in Bulgaria and all of the other additional questions, e.g. what? how? when? and for whom? I came to think that a big part of the events in Bulgaria remind me of the concept behind l‘art pour l‘art and can be summarized with culture for the sake of culture.”

Joana Stefanova, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, YCI Fellow (2016)


“The place and organization of all events in the seminar were amazing and very impressive. It was a unique opportunity to participate in it and I believe it will be very beneficial for more young entrepreneurs from Bulgaria. I feel the bond between all Bulgarian participants is becoming even stronger and can evolve into something bigger that can affect the local culture scene.”

Raya Stefanova, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, YCI Fellow (2016)

"The seminar gave me focus, the belief to keep focusing on my long term goals and the practical skills to fulfill [my] ambition. Above all it gave me trust, trust I can take my organization to the next level and find new partners in that process."

Thijs Barendse, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, YCI Fellow (2016)


“On arriving at the YCI Forum we were “thrown” into a week of really amazing, mind-blowing keynotes, experiences and thoughts from the panel speakers. All of the Participants had amazing stories to tell and insights to share as well – and this was even reinforced by the very, very beautiful surroundings.”

David Fisstlhalter, Salzburg, Austria, YCI Fellow (2017)


“Having a space to rethink, critically discuss and refocus is very valuable to stay true to yourself. Getting back to work with a bag of tools, thoughts and inspiration to tackle the challenges we face, means so much to me and connecting with others locally and internationally means that you will not tackle these challenges alone, but together.”

Thomas Layer-Wagner, Salzburg, Austria, YCI Fellow (2015)


“The skills workshops and the working in small groups really helped me to be more self-confident. Now I can present myself and my work in two minutes and feel more confident in being a good leader. I realized that everyone, no matter from which country and working in which particular field within the cultural sector, has the same difficulties to go through.”

Simone Rudolph, Salzburg, Austria, YCI Fellow (2017)


 “The YCI Forum created the sense that I am part of something bigger, of a network and a community. Among many other things I am taking back to my work I want to mention: The importance of embracing failures. How to balance reflection and action and if I feel a need for change, that there is always the option to start with small steps.”

Annelies Senfter, Salzburg, Austria, YCI Fellow (2016)


“[The YCI Forum] naturally broadened my horizons and expanded my understanding of other cultures more than ever through various classes and cultural interaction with the other participants from different cultural sectors, and different countries.”

Dong-hee Cho, Seoul, Republic of Korea, YCI Fellow (2016)


“The time I spent in Salzburg has been one of the best experiences of my life...professionally but also culturally and emotionally...Having the opportunity to be part of this session has given me greater awareness of my own identity and responsibility as a young leader.”

Hyun Kim, Seoul, Republic of Korea, YCI Fellow (2015)


“The sessions have highlighted opportunities and guidance for organizational growth. I firmly believe that the sessions are fundamental of affecting positive change.”

SongSoo Park, Seoul, Republic of Korea, YCI Fellow (2015)


“The most precious part of the seminar was the contact and discussions we have between participants, I think for all participants the encounters during the seminar have been very influential and inspiring.”

Bora Baboci, Tirana, Albania, YCI Fellow (2016)


“There is something enlightening in the whole experience that has given me a positive and determined attitude towards my daily actions. I am filled with motivation to [have] influence as much as possible on...the sector.”  

Kledi Eski, Tirana, Albania, YCI Fellow (2017)


 “From now on, I would like to work harder to realize my mission to nurture the entrepreneurial culture in Japan, and increase entrepreneurs in the rural areas, and stay connected with the people I met in Salzburg.”

Misaki Iwai, Tokyo, Japan, YCI Fellow (2015)


 “This Forum gave me confidence and courage to know that there are people out there that I can connect with, and that people are so thoughtful, understanding and willing to listen even to what I have to say and want to express.”

Yuki Kato, Tokyo, Japan, YCI Fellow (2017)


“The lecturers and Fellows who I worked with...made me realize who I am, what I want to do, and why I want to do what I want to do. It was hard work because I also realize that there are thousands of gaps in between my vision and myself in reality.”

Chika Ogi, Tokyo, Japan, YCI Fellow (2017)


“There are so many things that I’ve learned and thought through my time at the YCI Forum, but first of all the place was super special. We learned and touched the history of the palace and the spirit of predecessors kept us away from the reality in a good way, and made us feel everything would be possible.”

Yu Nakamura, Tokyo, Japan, YCI Fellow (2016)