Sri Lankan Global Shapers

Hosts Shape South Asia 2019

By Bernadine Rodrigo

In 2011, 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, in act of opposition against what he believed was the undemocratic governing of his country, Tunisia, set himself ablaze in the public streets of his country after having been denied the opportunity to earn for his family. This sparked a series of protests throughout the Middle East and the northern regions of Africa, by people against their governing bodies.

Realising the potential of the youth to invoke widespread revolution, World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab initiated his youth-focused organisation, Global Shapers Community. The Global Shapers Community is directed by a board of directors including Dr. Schwab, Carlyle Group, USA Co-founder and Co-chief Executive Officer David M. Rubenstein, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Executive Chairman China Jack Ma, Global Himalayan Expedition, India Leader – Energy Access Jaideep Bansal, and Boshang Technology, China Founder Layla Dong.

The community is registered in Geneva at the World Economic Forum; however, it is primarily involved in empowering the youth of the world to take a chance and involve themselves in regional, local, and global agendas. In order for the youth to reach their full potential, the World Economic Forum supports them through means of significant financial and in-kind contributions including staff time, technology tools, and opportunities to interact and collaborate with its membership network. Currently, the Global Shapers Community, with thanks to the aid from the Forum, actively works in 153 countries including Sri Lanka with 400 hubs containing 8,585 members.

Sri Lanka consists of two hubs – one in Kandy, which commenced action in 2014 and the other in Colombo, which began in 2012. While a hub is selected to host the “shape event” for their respective region each year, in 2019, the hubs of Colombo and Kandy were both selected to jointly host the event, representing not just Sri Lanka but all of South Asia. The event, an immersive conference, took place from 10-13 October in both cities and saw the participation of young influencers from the corporate sector, public service, politics, start-ups, social entrepreneurship, and various other professional fields. The opening ceremony of the three-day event was held at The Stables, Park Street Mews, Colombo.

The event saw the outgoing of the two curators, Piyumani Ranasinghe and Mevan Pieris, from the hubs of Kandy and Colombo, respectively. Further, the event was graced by Chief Guest Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy and also Global Shapers Community Regional Manager James Forsyth, who was witnessing South Asia for the very first time.

“We are the first generation suffering the full impact of our predecessors,” said Forsyth. “We are also the last generation that can do something about it.” He noted that it could be seen how Global Shapers are truly making a difference, because today, the world is finally looking at young people as a solution and they are no longer ignored.

He said they have come together putting aside all their differences, various members coming from various backgrounds socially, educationally, racially, and nationally, with one common desire to build and indeed shape a more positive, peaceful, and prosperous world. “Diversity is our strength.” He believes that through the work of the Global Shapers Community, it can be realised that there is so much more that unites than divides us.

Dr. Coomaraswamy had much to say to the community. He, with a positive attitude, mentioned that he hopes for greater stability in the financial system of Sri Lanka. He praised the location of Sri Lanka, which is equidistant from Europe and the Far East and is also situated right in the centre of China’s maritime silk route.

Dr. Schwab too had sent a video message for the occasion, wishing them the best of luck and showing his support by professing his firm belief in the impact that can be made by the youth.