By youth, for youth: celebrating a decade of action

Two young women and a young man talking and laughing to each other.
Young people are drivers of change all around the world.
Image: UNSPLASH/ Alexis Brown
  • This month marks an incredible milestone for the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community as we celebrate a decade of action.
  • The Global Shapers Community includes more than 15,000 young people driving long-lasting changes for the future of their community.
  • Global Shapers develop local solutions to change the world for the better.

This month marks an incredible milestone for the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community as we celebrate our 10 Year Anniversary. Created in 2011 by the Forum’s Founder, Klaus Schwab, the community represents a scalable network of more than 15,000 young people driving dialogue, action and change in over 450 cities worldwide, from Atlanta to Accra and Zurich to Zagreb.

Our world faces many complex issues, but we believe that our members – inspiring youth leaders – represent what is needed most at this time: hope, empathy and a commitment to develop local solutions to change the world for the better. Here are five ways youth leaders are stepping up to improve the state of the world, one community and one initiative at a time.

Youth leaders are advocating for needed policy-change

Nupur Kohli, Global Shaper, Amsterdam Hub.

Nupur Kohli, Global Shaper, Amsterdam Hub.

Youth activism starts with observing a problem, growing an idea and having the courage to take action. It's about believing that you are never too young to make a difference. Take youth activist Emma González, who survived a mass shooting at her high school in Florida and began a national campaign to end gun violence. In March 2018, Florida lawmakers passed a Public Safety Act, raising the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21. This is evidence that we must listen to young people and engage them in solution building, policy-making and lasting change.

This is what the Global Shapers Community is all about – amplifying the voice of young people and taking collective action. We need 15,000 activists like Emma González creating change together.

Youth leaders are fighting for the future of our planet

Katie Hoeflinger, Specialist, North America and Caribbean, Global Shapers Community.

Katie Hoeflinger, Specialist, North America and Caribbean, Global Shapers Community.

It started with Greta Thunberg but now more than fourteen million youth activists are fighting for our future thanks to the Fridays for Future movement. Young activists are proving that young people are not only victims of climate change but we’re also valuable contributors to climate action. We’re agents of change, entrepreneurs and innovators. Take for example, Global Shapers in Sacramento who are distributing water conservation kits to combat drought. Or Shapers in Ho, Ghana, who are advancing an alternative to coal made from coconut husks. Or Shapers in Auckland, New Zealand, who are integrating Māori solutions into the city’s strategy to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

As COP26 begins, I hope youth leaders are given a well-deserved seat at the table and that our insights, ideas and innovations are not only heard by world leaders – but acted upon too.

Youth leaders are advancing bold and innovative ideas

Chido Mpemba, Global Shaper, Harare Hub.

Chido Mpemba, Global Shaper, Harare Hub.

Africa’s population is the youngest in the world with 60% of the population below the age of 25. This demographic split is considered to be a challenge to the continent’s development by some, but for me, it’s an opportunity. Youth are advancing pioneering ideas to drive transformation. In Zimbabwe, young people – supported by Global Shapers in Harare – lobbied key decision-makers through Presidential Youth Town Halls to create better platforms and promote intergenerational dialogue between heads of state, ministers and youth. As a result, a national youth venture fund was passed into law by Zimbabwe’s Minister of Finance in 2020 to promote youth-driven innovation.

Young people must be given more opportunities like this to develop our skills and leadership capabilities – only then will we, our communities, and our countries reach our full potential.

Youth leaders are driving inclusive change in their communities

Abheejit Khandagale, Global Shaper, Nagpur Hub.

Abheejit Khandagale, Global Shaper, Nagpur Hub.

Extinction Rebellion, Fridays for Future, Black Lives Matter – these are the social movements that have been making headlines for the past two years and they all have one thing in common: young people are leading the charge and demonstrating the need for society to work together to dismantle oppressive systems. In each example, young people have channelled their energy and their anger, and leveraged social media and technology, to amplify issues which are critical for our existence.

Young people are on the cusp of social change. We need more capacity building initiatives to support young activists, especially youth of colour and youth with disabilities, to transform our ideas into reality and to achieve the diversity, inclusion and justice that we want.

Youth leaders are building peace and driving reconciliation

Ana Saldarriaga, Lead, Impact and Operations, Global Shapers Community.

Ana Saldarriaga, Lead, Impact and Operations, Global Shapers Community.

Around the world, youth leaders are leading peacebuilding, reconciliation and humanitarian actions. In Colombia, youth are facing bullets for their beliefs but advocating peacefully for solutions to rising pandemic-induced poverty, hunger and joblessness. In Venezuela, young people are saving lives, without public noise – combating the effects of the region’s worst humanitarian crisis in history. Global Shapers in Caracas, along with a network of youth supporters worldwide, have provided nearly 40,0000 migrants and refugees with access to food, medicine, healthcare and shelter.

Young people are both on the frontlines of change and in its shadows, serving the role of bridge builders and aid providers. Both roles are crucial to establishing a world of peace and cooperation.

What makes a global shaper?

Global Shapers are young people driving transformation in their communities. Young people are central to finding solutions for today's problems and impacting long-lasting change. The youth are shaping the future more than ever before – but there's an urge for them to do so to combat the enormous problems they have inherited.

Born out of the World Economic Forum, the Global Shapers Community is a network of inspiring young people under the age of 30 working together to address local, regional, and global challenges. With more than 13,000 members, the Global Shapers Community spans 448 city-based hubs in 150 countries.

These stories represent five of our remarkable members and mobilizers – yet there are more than 15,000 stories of inspiring Global Shapers around the world. On today’s anniversary, we thank all youth activists past, present and future for your commitment to making the world a better place.

Read the Global Shapers Community’s Decade of Impact Report to learn more.

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