The International Political Forum is the home of politically aware young people around the world. Bringing together a diverse group of young people from across the globe, the IPF provides a platform for discussion and debate on current affairs and policy issues that are important to their regional contributors.
Natasha Lipman (@natashalipman) is the founder of the International Political Forum. Natasha grew up in London, England. After graduating high school, she went to Paris, France to learn French and “find herself”. This led her to pursue her BA (Hons) in International Relations from Regent’s American College in London. Natasha is now a Postgraduate student of International Relations at Webster Graduate School.
Asya: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview with Career Geek. Through this interview I would like to present the readers of Career Geek with the opportunity of finding out about how a graduate goes about making their idea a reality. Hopefully you can shed some light on this, as well as get the IPF across to more people.
When did you come up with the idea of the IPF, how did it come about? What was your main goal in setting about realising the idea of the IPF?
Natasha: I came up with the idea for the IPF in May of this year. I was actually taking a semester off of University, as I was extremely ill. In an attempt to keep my mind active and not be absolutely bored to death at home, I started writing for UK-focussed political websites.
It was then that I realised that there was no real place for an international forum, for people from all over the world to write about political and current affairs issues. My main goal when setting up the IPF was to create an online space for politically engaged young people from around the world to come together to talk about the political and current affairs issues that affected them. Getting the stories from people who were experiencing them.
My main goal was to move the debate away from a UK focussed perspective and bring together a global contributor base and audience. So far, it is working!
Asya: How did you go about executing your idea? Do/did you manage university and work for the IPF at the same time? Were there any sacrifices you had to make in order to make your idea a reality?
Natasha: I was unwell at the time, so I had a lot of time on my hands to set up the website. Now, I am back doing my MA, so I am balancing my studies with running the website. I am quite lucky that I have a lot of friends around the world who are very interested in politics, and I knew that in order to start the website, I would need to have a good few articles to start me off.
I approached some friends, and everyone seemed to like the idea (which is important), and were very happy to support the site and contribute. The first few posts came from contributors from Pakistan, Venezuela, the US, Ecuador, the UK and Zimbabwe. I designed the site, solicited content and started social media sites to try and get the word out there.
I have had a much bigger response to the website in such a short space of time than I originally anticipated, and I currently have contributors from over 20 countries. I find it exciting that most of them are not people I know and that have found the site and contacted me. One of the biggest problems I find is when I am in 4-hour classes which happen at the time I want to publish an article, so usually I spend my breaks rushing to the library to upload content! I currently have two fantastic writers who produce the daily news briefings, so that is something that I don’t have to worry about.
Now it’s summer I can focus on the IPF, but I am going to have to have a serious think when the semester starts at the end of August, to make sure that the attention I can give to the site is not compromised.
Asya: Who funded your idea and did you approach many? Did your university help you in executing your project? How did they help? Share the best advice you got in establishing the IPF.
Natasha: Currently the website is self-funded.
There are a lot of ways that I am looking to expand, so I am in the process of looking for funding the website. I didn’t get any help from the University, but the professors I have spoken to about it have been really positive, and think that it is a really good idea.
The best advice that I got came from my mother (thanks mum!), is that there’s no harm in trying. Starting a website is a relatively inexpensive way of putting an idea into practice, so there’s no reason not to try.
I have also contacted some high profile ‘names’ on Twitter, and I am currently in talks about articles or interviews for the website. Again, there’s no harm in trying. Why not ask? All they can do is ignore me or say no. I have learnt that more often than not people are willing to talk and engage with you if you have an idea that you are passionate about.
Asya: What do you think of Universities at the moment? Are they encouraging entrepreneurs or are students being put off by the university burden? Do you think students are motivated enough to realise the ideas they have?
Natasha: I actually have had quite a different university experience to most people. I was never interested in attending a British university, as I wasn’t too keen on the way in which the courses worked.
I have been attending an American university in London (where I completed my undergrad degree in International Relations last summer, and now am working towards my Masters in the same field). For me, the course was perfect, having to take 6 classes a semester, constantly assessed, entirely in a seminar environment, I got to take classes that were relevant to my degree as well as a huge number of History classes, Model United Nations, Drama, Photography and a wide range of other subjects.
I don’t think it’s a question of students not being motivated enough to realise the ideas they have, I feel like it is a question of students not having the support and encouragement to realise their ideas. We are often just told that there are no opportunities out there, that our degrees are worthless and that we are part of a ‘lost generation’.
I know there are times when I hear that that I think that there’s no point in even trying because there are no jobs, no opportunities. I think we need to ignore that. Make our own opportunities, and realise that there are opportunities out there, we just need to do as much as we can, and grab onto them with both hands. I have learn so much through starting the IPF, and it feels great that I can give some people the opportunity to increase their writing skills and be published.
Asya: You take on contributors for the IPF. How can other students get involved?
Natasha: I aim to have a truly international base of contributors for the IPF. I am always wary of having things too UK based, as this is not the direction I want the site to take. However, for those who are interested in contributing, I love to hear from everyone!
Those who wish to get involved should send me an email to Natasha@internationalpoliticalforum.com with a short writing sample, a C.V. and a short description of their main areas of interest.
Asya: What are your aspirations for the future with regards to the IPF? How are you planning on expanding/developing/getting a wider audience?
Natasha: There are a lot of ways that I see the IPF being able to expand.
There isn’t really a place like it on the web, and I feel as though it has great potential to become the online space for engaged young people around the world. There are a lot of ways that I am excited to expand the website, but I am trying not to get ahead of myself as the site is still in its infancy! I am currently working on growing our Facebook and Twitter followers, which I see as absolutely vital in increasing awareness of the site.
Right now the website features daily articles from our contributors and a daily news roundup which provides a quick digest into the biggest news stories of the day. One thing that is currently underway is providing a platform for international projects to share their work – be that youth organisations, political lobbying, green initiatives, youth for youth charity organisations.
I am looking forward to a professional redevelop, to make the site much more interactive and user friendly. This site will include message forums for people to actually talk about the big events, or important issues such as national stereotypes, human rights abuses and the environment. I would also love to launch a video/podcast series, and eventually my dream is to hold an international conference!
Asya: Thanks for the interview, Natasha and we wish you best of luck as you take IPF to greater heights! We like the IPF and are ready to help you in any way we can.