A cross-section of Sub-Sahara African Shapers
I would easily describe the Global Shapers Annual Summit as an immeasurably life-changing moment. This event inspired me in profound ways.
Weeks after, I am still finding the right words to describe how immensely powerful and liberating it was to be amongst over 500 diverse young people from across the Globe. Let me put it in perspective, under 30 leaders who were Asians, African Americans, Europeans, and Australian were adequately represented under one roof.
I received an email from the World Economic Forum (WEF) inviting me to attend the Global Shapers Annual Summit in Geneva, Switzerland. After more than two years, WEF opened up the summit for physical participants at the Forum Headquarters. Of course, this was an opportunity for shapers around the world to have a chance to connect, learn and plan to make a difference in the year ahead.
The summit served as a favourable time for us to develop an understanding of our communities and what they truly stand for. We were also expected to test new ideas, skills and tools to lead change in today’s unique context. Of course, my role at Connected Development as someone who leads and coordinates some campaigns across Nigeria has availed me with numerous opportunities to work directly with marginalized communities while understanding their context and exploring possible solutions.
As I sat through the opening plenary at the United Nations building listening to Klaus Schwab Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum speak about the dimensions of leadership and how best these principles can be applied, I swiftly took a glance at the people sitting next to me. It was at that moment I realised that indeed diversity opens up fresh, unexplored avenues of thought and avoids myopic views, which is critical in our world today.
Diversity is beautiful. Diversity gives us strength. Diversity makes life interesting. Diversity propels us forward. Diversity inspires unity. I could feel the power in the atmosphere.
Global Shapers bonding during climate-related conversations
I was born and raised in Nigeria; arguably one of the most diverse countries in the world. Despite colonialism, today, we boast over 500 unique languages and rich cultural heritage. However, We struggle to accept one another. I would rather refer to my neighbour by their tribe or religion. Tribalism has eaten deep into the flesh of Nigerians. Forgetting that we are all Nigerians, and in our differences lies our strength. I could certainly feel the energy.
I bonded with a number of people on the first day. We spent hours talking about the various challenges we faced in our countries. Particularly, the shaper from Pakistan mentioned how over one-third of his country was underwater. This was a result of increased precipitation and glaciers melting fueled by climate change. Pakistan contributes less than 1% of the global greenhouse gases that warm our planet but its geography makes it extremely vulnerable to climate change. He delved into the root causes of terrorism, which occurs due to a lack of law enforcement, poverty, and unemployment. I could instantly relate because Nigeria is faced with similar challenges and we are working tirelessly at Connected Development to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. We must keep playing a vital role while anticipating the necessary evolution.
Most of us spread across all the continents of the globe are constantly thinking of ways to make impacts. We remain bound together by the desire to facilitate change and that is the epitome of diversity and inclusion. Change-makers from across the world move together as a team, yet spread from pole to pole of the planet earth.
As the days progressed, I shared the work done by my hub while exploring areas of collaboration and partnerships. The most recent was the Climate reality project incubator which the hub won $3,000 to carry out a Gender-inclusive Plastic Recycling Action within two schools in Abuja, Nigeria. The summit had various breakout sessions under the community’s main impact areas. Areas like Protecting the planet, Creating inclusive communities, Strengthening civic engagement, reskilling for the future, Delivering basic needs and Improving health and well-being.
While we networked, learned, relearned and unlearned, we had tons of fun. We never hesitated to dance or sang during breakout sessions. We spent the night looking for fun activities and most importantly, afro-pop concerts on the heavenly streets of Geneva.
Lf- Natalie Pierce head of Global Shapers Community Rh- Hyeladzira James Mshelia Abuja Global Shaper
This life-changing experience has deepened my understanding of the importance of diversity. Indeed, a multicultural exchange of ideas reinforces richer ideas, better impact and comprehensive solutions to perhaps, the global challenges we face in our world today.
I am thankful to World Economic Forum for this opportunity that I now hold so dearly to my heart.