Zimbabwe to Amsterdam and on to Switzerland. Arriving in Geneva, the language barrier had me walking around in circles around the train station, until I heard a few South African accents. Instantly there was a connection with these two blokes (who lived in Southern Africa at some point), and they guided me to the right train, insisting on taking me to my hotel. The Novotel was close to the red light district, and coming from Harare, where that line of work is more of a hidden profession, it was alarming to see the "business as usual" flaunted on streets right next to family coffee shops. Now onto the Global Shapers Curator's meeting…
What do you expect when you get 200+ leaders in their 20’s from 190 nationalities across the globe coming together for four days in the city of Geneva? Our number one goal: improving the state of the world. Everyone at this 5 day event is doing something crazy: whether it's being part of a start-up, feeding million's of underprivileged children, making organic cashews in Indonesia, or advising presidents of nations—this group of 20 year olds was not normal.
One might say that it’s a gutsy plan, and an irrationally idealistic way of doing things. Aren’t they too young? Well Coca-Cola doesn’t think so (the lead sponsor of this event), and neither does the World Economic Forum. People in their 20’s think that anything is possible. The blinders of bureaucracy and red tape haven’t had their effect.
In the words of Professor Klaus Schwab, the big dog founder of the World Economic Forum, “If you don’t engage the younger generation, then you’re not really changing the world.”
In two years, the team at Global Shapers has created over 250 teams of shapers in the world (and it's a force to be reckoned with).
I was impacted by the overall love, adrenaline, and passion that fellow "Curators" (leaders of a Global Shapers' Hub in our respective cities) have to do big things. The theme for this Annual Curator’s meeting was “Finding Our Rhythm.”
Breakout sessions at the World Economic Forum headquarters and the Grand Kempinski Hotel pulsed with energy, debates, and solutions on world wide issues. There was no dictatorial, “talking head,” or board meetings telling us what to do. Guidelines were there, but our teams were entrusted with creating the future of what we were apart of.
How do we, the people on the ground, do bigger things collaboratively to make the world a better place?
Everything was on the table and the Global Shapers were the ones coming up with ideas and solutions. 45 minute sessions resulted in solid suggestions on how the Global Shapers worldwide could be more collaborative and cohesive in addressing different sectors of society—sectors ranging from politics and government to environmental stability and internal culture.
Beyond the sessions (which filled our days), many of the Curators did not retire to their rooms (as serious, reasonable people might do). Most young shapers found places to talk and connect till early hours of the morning until getting kicked out of local bars and restaurants. Then people retired to the meeting room to carry on. I'm pretty sure most people ended up clocking in 3-4 hours of sleep a night, only to have a 6:30am rise the next day. I handled this with large doses of vitamin B and coffee (of course).
Of all the theme songs that pumped continuously through the speakers of the World Economic Forum headquarters one of them was “On Top Of The World” (video) by Imagine Dragons. The atmosphere was nothing less. Ego's seemed to be put aside and there was a genuine interest in "who is the guy next me."
It was the theme that rang in everyone’s hearts and then flooded into our activities. Our large group participated in activities like “Clean up Geneva,” where shapers connected with local city leaders and picked up cigarette buds, bottle caps, and litter off the beaches of Lake Geneva. Others translated French books into English. Everyone served with their hands and demonstrated the culture of the Global Shapers community.
I asked a city counsel member something about the famous fountain. He must have understood some of what I said, but when he spouted off in French (which I don't speak) all I could do was nod considerably well in respect hoping that his comments called for a "yes" response.
This Curators meeting changed my life. It made me believe in unity.
The immediate effects are obvious. There are better plans, more clarity on what our hub in Harare, Zimbabwe can accomplish. But I think the intangible results are worth more. The face to face relationships that created lifetime friendships from different races, culture and backgrounds will echo forever. There’s no telling what will happen all over the world for the next 50 years because of these five days of “getting the rhythm right” in Geneva. I literally have new friends in 50 cities that I didn't know before this. Thanks to everyone at the World Economic Forum, Coca-Cola, and the solid leadership team of Global Shapers.
The bonds between the world's future leaders will only continue to intertwine as we all strive to improve the state of the world—starting first in our home cities. I think that the Harare Hub is in for some collaborative projects with different cities from around the world in the near future. Our 15 member hub are people committed to improving the state of our local community one life at a time.
The bottom-line: people that want to have a huge impact on their local communities don’t stop to hear the reasons why they can’t; they just do it.
(photo via jp)
Posted on August 26, 2013
by Tim & Tommy filed under