30 January 2020

Annual Meeting 2020 Highlights

50 Global Shapers brought their insights and influence to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020. Exhausted by inaction and inspired by the desperate need for change – they spoke truth to power, proposed innovative solutions and reminded fellow participants along the way, what is means to be truly human.

While their calls to action were wide-ranging, Shapers were united by a common conviction: If we are to sustain the decade of delivery needed to achieve the Global Goals and the Paris Agreement – empathy, empowerment and inclusion must be at the heart of everything we do to ensure no one is left behind.

Here are six powerful messages Global Shapers shared in Davos.

1. Development is not sustainable if it is not fair and inclusive.

When speaking to Secretary-General António Guterres on the future of the United Nations, Global Shapers said “We need to preserve the key values that bring societies together. Finding shared understanding and a willingness to collaborate” is essential if we are to create lasting change, said Yannick Heiniger (Geneva Hub).

Today, we see mounting evidence of the transformative results of openness and inclusion, while at the same time, we see how inequality raises economic anxiety, erodes public trust and undermines social cohesion.

“We cannot discuss issues in silos. Instead, we need to work together. Take climate change, for example. There needs to be more interconnected work around what it means for marginalized communities in terms of equity and inclusion. When we operate in silos, we leave people behind. Only when we focus on the interconnectedness of issues, do we find the best solutions,” said Arlane Gordon-Bray (Rayleigh Hub).

The United Nations launched a global listening tour ahead of its 75th anniversary in September 2020, to better understand the organisation’s role in building the future its member states want. Global Shapers committed to being present in all global dialogues and bringing powerful grassroots solutions to the table.

Global Shapers also supported the launch of UpLink, the World Economic Forum’s digital platform designed to integrate, accelerate and aggregate the innovative spirit of all people to help achieve the Global Goals.

Inclusivity is critical, according to Fatima Azzahra El Azzouzi (Casablanca Hub), who lent her engineering skills to the project. “The goal is to make sure that UpLink, from the beginning, is inclusive of the people we tend to forget and often overlook,” she said, mentioning as examples a person with a disability in Morocco, or a worker lacking a high school diploma in Venezuela. We all have a role to play when it comes to the SDGs.

2. You can never be a true activist, if you are alone.

Wanjuhi Njoroge, an advocate for saving the forests of Kenya, said: “Its important to put pressure on governments because governments have failed on their mandate.” She harnesses the power of storytelling and social media, through her #saveourforestske hashtag to campaign against illegal logging in her country.

“You can never be a true activist if you are alone,” she declared. “You can never move forwards without the people. My call to action is to young people everywhere – we have so much power! We are 3.5 billion. We must boycott products from any company that does not prioritize people and planet. We must take action.”

Wanjuhi and the Global Shapers Community joined the World Economic Forum’s 1 Trillion Trees Platform, to help advance reforestation at-scale. Global Shapers committed to plant 5 million trees to contribute to the 1 trillion trees by 2030 goal. Governments, business and civil society will join Global Shapers around the world.

3. Power is in the purchase and we have so much power.

“Citizens need information to choose the brands and retailers we can trust, based on our own individual values. Power is in the purchase and we can make a big difference,” said Holly Syrett (Amsterdam Hub).

Holly leads Shaping Fashion, a Global Shapers initiative to create awareness for the challenges of the fashion industry and to empower local communities to pursue sustainable fashion solutions. In April 2020, Shapers in more than fifty cities will unite for Fashion Revolution Week to advocate for transparency, fight for worker rights and push for legislation that empowers consumers to support brands that protect people and planet.

“I am extremely optimistic that young people want to do the right thing. Young people don’t want to buy clothing that is made by people who are exploited, who work in unsafe conditions, who are paid unfairly, or that devastates nature. We have a huge opportunity to educate consumers and we can do it,” she said.

4. Listening is at the heart of healing and youth mental health.

“The first line of defence for a mental health crisis is to find a listening ear,” said Sanju Sachamuneewongse (Bangkok Hub). Personal struggle with mental health ultimately led Sanju to create a service to help others in anguish. When he called a suicide hotline in Thailand, no one answered. That distressing incident became his life’s purpose. Sanju created an app called Sati that will provide listening on-demand. He is training people to become empathetic listeners who will hear the challenges of callers without making judgement.

Global Shapers are launching a pilot programme for empathetic listening in fifteen cities in 2020, working in association with various experts and partners, to help young people find peer-to-peer support.

“We live in a culture of shame. We see smiling faces when in reality, young people are struggling with depression, anxiety and sometimes more serious mental illnesses. We need to pay attention to these needs and have empathy for those who are struggling. We need safe spaces to admit when we’re not doing well.” This is the only way we’ll achieve progress, said Fatima Azzahra El Azzouzi (Casablanca Hub).

5. There is a lack of courage and holding people accountable.

“We’re at a point where we need to see real systemic change. We have failures as an international community in terms of communication and in terms of being courageous enough to call each other out for the changes we need to make,” continued Arlane Gordon-Bray (Rayleigh Hub).

The World Economic Forum published its Global Social Mobility Index 2020, and its headline finding was that most countries are failing to provide the conditions in which their citizens can thrive. As a result, individual opportunities in life remain tethered to socio-economic status at birth, entrenching historical inequalities.

In response, Global Shapers joined the World Economic Forum’s Reskilling Revolution, which was launched to provide better education, skills and jobs to 1 billion people by 2030. Global Shapers will take action to restore social mobility by equipping vulnerable populations with the skills required to access dignified work and by advocating for greater worker protections through courageous civic discussions with local leaders.

6. True leadership means standing up for those marginalized.

“Responsible leadership means standing up for the rights of the marginalized, fighting for them to be included and ensuring their voices are heard in meaningful ways,” said Jilly Gokalgandhi (Milwaukee Hub).

Global Shapers contend that there is a growing gap between traditional leadership and public expectations. While business leaders value remaining at the forefront of innovation, their stakeholders – consumers, employees and community representatives – value long-term vision, strong ethics and authenticity.

Global Shapers in collaboration with the Forum of Young Global Leaders and Accenture released a research study and video defining responsible leadership for the next decade. Together, we also launched a responsible leadership academy to prepare next generation leaders to drive positive outcomes for all.

These are just some of the ways, Global Shapers will work together to drive the decade of delivery needed to improve the state of the world. In more than 400 cities, teams of Global Shapers self-organize to create initiatives that address the needs of their community. We believe that if we all make small changes, and ask our neighbours, government and business leaders to do the same, together we can make a big difference.

All live-streamed sessions can be found on the World Economic Forum Website.

Also check out the official Photo Library on Flickr.