Social Innovation

What does it take to be a Young Global Leader?

John Dutton
Head, Uplink; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Social Innovation?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Social Innovation is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Social Innovation

What can Mumbai slum dwellers teach us about sharing? How might robotics help a paralysed adventurer walk again? Can ethical investors improve the lives of factory workers? Over the past ten years, Young Global Leaders have pooled their creativity, skills and enthusiasm to take on some of the world’s biggest challenges. Since the World Economic Forum founded the community of Young Global Leaders in 2005 as a way of supporting exceptional leaders under 40, it has grown into a thriving global network and idea incubator. As we welcome the class of 2015, Young Global Leaders have moved to the forefront of science, business and social innovation. So what sets them apart?

For one, a proven track record as a leader combined with a willingness to learn. Adam Werbach, the co-founder of giving platform Yerdle, visited a Mumbai slum. Impressed by its sharing economy, he came up with an app that allows US users to give away items for free. Yerdle has already helped its users save $3.5 million while cutting down on waste and clutter.

Other Young Global Leaders stand out for their tremendous resilience and mental strength. Mark Pollock, who is blind and paralysed, is testing robotic legs as part of his mission to find a cure for paralysis. He is using his personal experience of a catastrophic spinal cord injury to ignite change around the world. Ashish Goyal was the first blind trader at JP Morgan and now manages a hedge fund, inspiring millions of others with his success.

For Young Global Leaders, business is about more than the bottom line. Oliver Niedermaier, the founder and CEO of TAU Investment, believes he can transform Asian garment factories through ethical finance. His private equity firm aims to improve workers’ lives and environmental conditions while delivering returns to investors. In the creative sector, Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler has empowered innovators through crowdfunding. Since its launch in 2009, Kickstarter has supported more than 80,000 creative projects from documentaries to public art installations, with more than 8.2 million people pledging a total of over $1.6 billion.

Young Global Leaders continuously question traditional ideas and challenge conventional wisdom. Michelle Dipp, the founding CEO of OvaScience, is pioneering new fertility treatments. Her company uses breakthrough research in egg health to empower women while debunking harmful myths around female fertility.

On top of their individual achievements, Young Global Leaders have tapped the power of collective action. As a community, they have effectively used their collective expertise to respond to environmental and humanitarian crises. Water scarcity is one such planetary concern, with only one-third of the population expected to have enough safe drinking water by 2025. “Thirst”, a Beijing-based Young Global Leader initiative started by Mina Guli, engages and educates the next generation about water scarcity. “Table for Two” was founded in reaction to another alarming statistic: in the world today, 1 billion people are undernourished, while another 1 billion suffer from obesity. Table for Two encourages healthy eating while raising money to fight hunger. Young Global Leaders have also tackled regional crises, for example by providing scholarships for Syrian refugees through the Irada project.

These are just some examples of members who are fulfilling the community’s original vision for global collaboration and better leadership. Young Global Leaders are active in today’s most exciting and dynamic fields, from the circular economy to digital governance. Apart from the annual Young Global Leaders summit, the community includes training and development programmes as well as a multitude of self-organized events around the world. This year we will be holding the first-ever Impact Lab, a three-day, hands-on workshop in New York designed for Young Global Leaders looking to jumpstart new initiatives or refine existing ones. The workshop will culminate in a pitch-competition to a panel of potential funders.

This wealth of transformative projects is just the start. We are excited about the 187 new members joining the Young Global Leaders community this year, shaping the network with their own ideas and priorities. Their talent, dedication and energy will help us take the Young Global Leaders community into the next decade.

For a full overview of the Young Global Leaders Class of 2015 and a 10-year celebration of the Forum of Young Global Leaders, see here.

Author: John Dutton is a Director at the World Economic Forum and Head of the Forum of Young Global Leaders.

Image: Volunteers walk in front of a projection of the globe as they prepare the main stage for the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss Alpine resort town of Davos January 22, 2008. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Social InnovationLeadershipGlobal Governance
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

These 6 social innovators are unlocking value in marginalized communities

Victoria Masterson

April 9, 2024


About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum