CEO of Oaktree: “We are predisposed to different thinking and to be able to harness that is very powerful.”
Chris Wallace believes you are never too young to change the world.
At age 26, Wallace is the CEO of Oaktree.
Oaktree is an organisation run by young adults 26 and under, who work towards the goal of ending poverty.
Wallace started his journey as a young school boy and has been involved with Oaktree since he was 12 years old.
Third Sector spoke to Wallace to find out more about his unique journey and running a ‘young’ organisation.
TS: How did you become the CEO of Oaktree?
CW: Around 13 years ago I found myself at the launch of Oaktree. The vision of harnessing the power and potential of young people was something that really inspired me. I [have been] involved from that point on.
I had the opportunity to go to India while I was still in school and grew in my understanding of poverty and its horribly unjust nature. I came back [from India] and was involved in fundraising with Oaktree during school and first year University. I finished my study, got involved in community law, and then worked as a lawyer for 12 months in a commercial setting. While working as a Lawyer, I got a call from someone at Oaktree scouting for potential candidates for the CEO of Oaktree. After a lot of thinking I decided that I would apply, and was ultimately successful.
TS: It must have been quite crazy to jump from working for one year in the corporate sector to then being a CEO?
CW: Yes it really was. It was quite crazy to delve in, but it has been an amazing learning opportunity. Half the value of working for Oaktree is that there are incredible leadership opportunities for young people.
TS: Why does Oaktree have such an emphasis on staff being 26 and under?
CW: 26 and under is consistent with international definitions (eg. UN) of youth, however we all look at youth differently depending on our culture. For us, it is about acknowledging that part of our impact is the young Australians who get to be involved in Oaktree. Having an age limit helps us engage as many people as possible – we have a high turn over because of this. I will only be CEO for two years and that way I get this incredible experience and then get to pass it on to someone else.
TS: Do you think that Gen Y can impact the world in a positive way as opposed to an older way of thinking?
CW: We have to. We have no choice. We have some terrific attributes that can have an amazing impact on the world. When you look at some of the challenges facing the world, they really need innovative solutions. Gen Y are predisposed to out-of-the-box thinking and to be able to harness that is very powerful. Gen Y are well equipped to address our challenges and Oaktree is one place where Gen Y can have a crack at solving some of these big challenges like poverty.
TS: What strategies does Oaktree put in place in order to end poverty?
CW: We need change at all levels to end poverty. Practically we work with local partners to provide education to young people that wouldn’t otherwise have access to that. We are very passionate about the power of education. One example is that in Cambodia we have been working with our local partner on an educational reform model. The model [focuses on] utilising resources and is now being adopted across the country.
TS: Where do you see Oaktree in the next 5 years?
CW: I see Oaktree continuing to impact Australians by helping young people to act on injustice and continue to work with local partners and push boundaries.