4 next-generation leaders on the power of collaboration and community

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The Forum of Young Global Leaders is a community of next-generation leaders using their talent and influence as a force for good.

The Forum of Young Global Leaders is a community of next-generation leaders using their talent and influence as a force for good. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Stéphanie Thomson
Writer, Forum Agenda
  • The Forum of Young Global Leaders is a community of next-generation leaders acting as a force for good.
  • The community has helped launch initiatives that address challenges as diverse as air pollution and youth empowerment.
  • Four Young Global Leaders share their thoughts on how the community is helping them innovate for a better world.

When the Forum of Young Global Leaders was created in 2004, the goal was both simple and incredibly ambitious: to create a multistakeholder community of the world’s next-generation leaders who would use their talents and influence as a force for good.

In the almost 20 years since the community’s founding, Young Global Leaders have shown that they can create meaningful change across the globe by pooling their diverse skills, experiences, and networks. We asked four Young Global Leaders to share how being part of the community is helping them build a more inclusive and interconnected world.

Have you read?

‘This community is my gateway to the world’

Jane Burston, Chief Executive and Founder, Clean Air Fund

Image: Jane Burston

The Clean Air Fund was launched in collaboration with a group of Young Global Leaders who recognized that the causes of air pollution are often the same as the causes of climate change, and clean air is vital for both our health and the health of our planet. So it’s safe to say that, without the community, the Clean Air Fund would not exist, and air quality probably wouldn’t be getting the attention it is on the global stage.

Beyond our founding, the Young Global Leaders community has remained central to our work. Ideas developed at a succession of summits have become initiatives with significant impact, both at national and transnational scale. In the UK, I worked with fellow community member Rain Newton-Smith at the CBI to produce a report on the economic benefits of tackling air pollution from a respected source that government would listen to. And Eva Scherer and I worked together with the World Economic Forum to develop the Alliance for Clean Air, a group of multinationals working together on air quality, one that many other Young Global Leaders have encouraged their companies to join.

But the real value isn’t always in the big external initiatives. When the Clean Air Fund started working in Ghana – a country where I had no contacts – Young Global Leaders in Accra arranged a dinner to coincide with my visit. Several of those people have since become involved in our work on air pollution, but that dinner came about simply as a gesture of friendship, community and hospitality. Ultimately, I think that’s the magic of this community. We are all committed to improving the state of the world, but we don’t see one another instrumentally. Collaboration starts with connection and community, and for me, that’s been the greatest gift of being a Young Global Leader.

‘We have shared human experiences and challenges’

Anne-Laure Malauzat, Partner and Head of the EMEA Social Impact Practice, Bain & Co

Image: Anne-Laure Malauzat

Becoming a Young Global Leader means joining a diverse group of exceptionally gifted people who are all the best in their respective fields. This type of exposure to the innovative work your peers are doing naturally expands your worldview, and reinforces your shared human experiences and challenges.

For example, while developing educational programmes in the MENA region, I connected with Young Global Leaders from the Philippines, Colombia, the UK and India who acted as sounding boards and greatly enriched my perspectives on how to prepare young people for the future. We were miles away from one another but our societies were grappling with similar challenges, highlighting our universal bond and the value that comes from intentionally expanding your personal and professional circle.

This was just one of several national initiatives I’ve worked on in the past year that have benefited from the profound expertise of other Young Global Leaders and the cross-border knowledge sharing that the community allows.

‘Young Global Leaders make the world smaller from a place of empathy’

Ronit Avni, CEO, Localized

Image: Ronit Avni

A few years ago, I took part in the inaugural Young Global Leader Impact Lab. I had recently left the media and human rights organization that led me to join the community, and was searching for ways to support students around the world facing high youth unemployment.

From the beginning, other Young Global Leaders helped stretch and refine our team’s thinking, and laid the groundwork for what would ultimately become the company that Localized is today: a social enterprise that connects university students and recent graduates across the Middle East, Africa and the Americas with industry experts to guide them and employers to hire them. For example, being a part of the community has helped open doors for us in countries like Jordan and Brazil. We’ve also been able to draw on the generosity of community members who have shared their expertise with over 100,000 learners.

Being a part of the Young Global Leaders community and learning from such a vast array of leaders has been a personal and professional privilege. Through Localized, we can now extend this privilege to those who may not have access to elite networks but for whom such guidance could be life-changing.

'Fast, creative, and tailored to local needs'

Image: Aminata Kane

Aminata Kane, Vice-President, Mobile Financial Services, Orange, Middle East and Africa

In early 2020, the world abruptly stopped. The COVID-19 pandemic hit us everywhere, and overnight, schools closed, and millions of children had to stay home. In some regions, among them many African countries, it hit harder, as most children did not have tablets, computers, or access to online classes. At the time, I was the CEO of Orange (a telecommunication multinational group) in Sierra Leone, and I knew then and there that we had to find alternative ways to keep children in the schooling system.

Along with fellow Young Global Leader David Sengeh, then Sierra Leone's Minister of Education, we sat down and thought of all the solutions we could quickly implement. We tapped into the YGL network to see what was done elsewhere and came up with a plan to create online courses. We set up a framework to build free-access websites, upload thousands of classes online, record the classes and broadcast them on the radio, and alert parents of the schedules by SMS.

We also supplied thousands of tablets and wifi modems to the most remote villages. For university students, another solace came from the YGL community: YGL alumni from edX worked with us to offer free classes with certificates to students in Sierra Leone. The YGL community’s support was fast, creative, and, beyond all, tailored to our local needs and context. We avoided the disruption and the loneliness of hundreds of thousands of children and contributed to a brighter future for them.

Related topics:
BusinessSocial InnovationYouth Perspectives
‘This community is my gateway to the world’ ‘We have shared human experiences and challenges’‘Young Global Leaders make the world smaller from a place of empathy’'Fast, creative, and tailored to local needs'

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