Social Innovation

Innovation Prize: Empowering the next generation of change-makers

The Global Shapers Community, Accenture and the Global Alliance for YOUth, are launching an annual Innovation Prize.

The Global Shapers Community, Accenture and the Global Alliance for YOUth, are launching an annual Innovation Prize. Image: Getty Images.

Natalie Pierce
Head of Global Shapers Community, World Economic Forum
Maria Sol Adaime Gabris
Regional HR Business Partner & Global Alliance Lead, Nestlé
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • In a world dominated by geopolitical conflicts, climate change and inequalities, young people are leading positive change.
  • The private sector is playing a crucial role by creating economic opportunities for youth on the issues they care most about.
  • With that in mind, the Global Shapers Community, Accenture and the Global Alliance for YOUth, are launching an annual Innovation Prize.

Amid worsening global challenges, including devastating wars, a climate emergency, and persistent inequalities – it is critical that the world not lose sight of the power and potential of young people in solution-building.

Around the world, young people are leading positive change as innovators, activists and organizers – igniting social movements and initiatives to tackle the issues that impact their own lives and those of their communities. In the Global Shapers Community’s recent impact report, it profiled the many ways young people responded to disasters, advanced bold climate action and upheld dignity for all – improving the lives of millions of people.

While young people have the passion and desire to effect positive change, they often lack access to critical support and mentorship to turn their ideas into reality – and increasingly, the private sector is taking notice. Companies and executives are stepping up and playing an important role in expanding economic opportunities and accelerating progress for the next generation, especially on the issues that they care about most.

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Launch of annual Innovation Prize

Launching in 2024, the Global Shapers Community, Accenture and the Global Alliance for YOUth are coming together to support innovation. Each year, innovators from the Global Shapers’ network of 10,000 young change-makers in 500 city-based hubs will be invited to apply for support to accelerate their breakthrough ideas.

Young people with the most promising solutions for improving the lives and livelihoods of their communities will unlock access to dedicated upskilling, mentorship, funding and storytelling support. Solutions will focus on topics ranging from protecting the planet to reskilling for the future to building more inclusive societies and beyond.

At the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting 2024, 50 of these change-makers from around the globe will connect with executives committed to ensuring young people's voices are heard and acted upon. Together in Davos, they will participate in the launch of the Global Shapers Innovation Prize and an intergenerational dialogue on scaling existing models of youth engagement.

“When we invest in next-generation leaders, we’re investing in our collective future. It is my passion, and a key priority for Accenture, to create opportunities for individuals to grow as leaders, equipping them with the skills and mindsets to create a more sustainable and inclusive society. The Innovation Prize will accelerate the impact and reach Global Shapers have to drive positive change in our world.” Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer, Accenture.

The Global Shapers Innovation Prize is just one example of how companies are enabling the solutions of young innovators. Companies are collaborating across sectors, borders – and with young people – in a variety of innovative ways to make game-changing impact. Let’s look at several different approaches:

Corporate initiatives making a difference for young people

The Global Alliance for YOUth is a coalition of 25 companies working together to ensure young people find jobs, thrive at work or start companies of their own. In the last four years, member companies have created over 40 million development opportunities for youth worldwide.

Accenture’s Skills to Succeed initiative supports and empowers young people as they prepare for and navigate their careers. In 2023, programs supported by Skills to Succeed reported that 4.3 million people were equipped with skills for employment or entrepreneurship. Accenture also offers a Sustainability Innovation Challenge through partnerships with UNICEF Generation Unlimited's imaGen Ventures and JA Worldwide, inviting teams to address critical social and environmental issues. This initiative reached 28,000 young innovators across 12 countries in 2023.

Nestlé’s Youth Initiative has equipped 5 million young people worldwide with jobs, traineeships and apprenticeships since 2017. This year alone, Nestlé connected people under the age of 30 to 25,000 jobs and 12,000 apprenticeships – and placed a particular focus on building a new generation of agripreneurs capable of delivering the breakthrough solutions our world needs to achieve food security and sustainable farming practices globally.

“We are living in times that require bold and decisive actions. More than ever, the private sector must join forces to build bridges and support younger generations to play an active role in solving society’s biggest problems. In that context, The Global Alliance for YOUth is proud to collaborate with the Global Shapers Community to launch the Innovation Prize, a platform to reward and accelerate breakthrough solutions for youth by youth”. Laurent Freixe, CEO Zone Latin America at Nestlé and Global Alliance for YOUth Founder and Chairman.

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What is a Global Shaper?

L’Oréal For Youth created 25,000 professional opportunities for people under the age of 30 in 2023. L’Oréal continues to combat youth unemployment – which is increasing sharply amid other worsening global crises. According to recent OECD data, young people are 2.5 times more likely to be unemployed than other age cohorts. They are also more likely to work in insecure jobs and face higher risks of living in extreme poverty.

EY is expanding its mentorship, coaching and skills initiatives to help young people find and sustain meaningful work too. EY Ripples is an ambitious corporate responsibility programme aiming to positively impact the lives of 1 billion people by 2030. Almost 500 EY Ripples projects have been delivered so far, including the Green Skills Passport and EY STEM, two online employment accelerators equipping young people with the skills needed to pursue green jobs and careers in science and technology.

Harnessing the power of mentorship, The Adecco Group’s Working on You and CEO for a Month initiatives offer young people immersive learning experiences to gain insights into what it takes to make it to the top. Recent research shows that 75% of executives credit their success to mentors and Adecco is supporting young people with the ties they need to succeed.

Finally, Zurich Insurance Group’s NEXT Initiative is building trust by giving young employees a voice in key business decisions. Emerging talent is offered a seat in formal leadership forums to provide insights on projects, products and ideas that will shape the company’s future as a service provider, employer and corporate citizen. NEXT has support from senior leaders and facilitates cross-mentorship between new and top talent.

Today's biggest challenges call for the diverse perspectives, innovative thinking and fervor that impassioned young minds bring to the table. Organizations have access to resources that can unlock this potential at a time when young people – and our future – need it most. Interested in learning more? Our future generations need you.

Accenture, Nestlé, L’Oréal, EY, The Adecco Group and Zurich Insurance Group are members of the Global Alliance for YOUth.

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