Young activists share four ways to create a more inclusive world

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(Markus Spiske, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Natalie Pierce, Interactions and Programming Lead, Global Shapers Community, Foundations, World Economic Forum


  • Young people around the world are calling for change.
  • Existing systems too often cause inequality and marginalize communities.
  • Young activists propose four ways to fight for those who risk being left behind.

Exhausted by inaction and inspired by the desperate need for change, young people around the world are speaking truth to power, reminding leaders that we must act now to create more inclusive societies and proposing innovative solutions.

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 that no one is left behind. More than 50 Global Shapers, a networks of activists aged 20-30 who are leading initiatives in their communities, shared this message with participants at the World Economic Forum’s recent Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.

Here are their four powerful messages for creating a more inclusive world.

1. Speak up for the voiceless.

While inequality continues to raise economic anxiety, erode public trust and undermine social cohesion, there is mounting evidence of the transformative results of openness and inclusion.

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.

During the Annual Meeting, Global Shapers spoke to Secretary-General António Guterres on the future of the United Nations and the importance of including diverse voices.

“We cannot discuss issues in silos,” said Arlane Gordon-Bray (Rayleigh Hub). “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.”

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 Sustainable Development Goals.

Inclusivity is critical, said Fatima Azzahra El Azzouzi (Casablanca Hub), who lent her engineering skills to the project. She cited the example of a person with a disability in Morocco and a worker lacking a high school diploma in Venezuela.

“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.

2. Do your part for climate action.

“To young people everywhere – we have so much power,” said Wanjuhi Njoroge, who harnesses the power of storytelling and social media through her #saveourforestske hashtag to campaign against illegal logging in Kenya. “We are 3.5 billion. We must boycott products from any company that does not prioritize people and planet. We must take action.”

For example, 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.

Holly Syrett (Amsterdam Hub) 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 50 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.

“Citizens need information to choose the brands and retailers we can trust, based on our own individual values,” she said. “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.”

3. Listen and have empathy.

“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 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.

“We live in a culture of shame,” said Fatima Azzahra El Azzouzi (Casablanca Hub). ” 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.”

Global Shapers are launching a pilot programme for empathetic listening in 15 cities in 2020, working in association with various experts and partners, to help young people find peer-to-peer support.

What is a Global Shaper?

The Global Shapers Community is a network of young people under the age of 30 who are working together to drive dialogue, action and change to address local, regional and global challenges.

The community spans more than 8,000 young people in 165 countries and territories.

Teams of Shapers form hubs in cities where they self-organize to create projects that address the needs of their community. The focus of the projects are wide-ranging, from responding to disasters and combating poverty, to fighting climate change and building inclusive communities.

Examples of projects include Water for Life, a effort by the Cartagena Hub that provides families with water filters that remove biological toxins from the water supply and combat preventable diseases in the region, and Creativity Lab from the Yerevan Hub, which features activities for children ages 7 to 9 to boost creative thinking.

Each Shaper also commits personally and professionally to take action to preserve our planet.

4. Provide education and training.

According to the Forum’s Global Social Mobility Index 2020, 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 civic discussions with local leaders.

In addition, Global Shapers in collaboration with the Forum of Young Global Leaders and Accenture recently released a white-paper and video defining responsible leadership for the next decade, as well as a responsible leadership academy to prepare next generation leaders to drive positive outcomes for all.

“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).

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