Shaping up the Globe: On being a Global Shaper to the World Economic Forum

About a month ago, I found myself on a stage between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Professor Klaus Schwab in Davos, Switzerland. Sharing the stage with me were fellow Filipinos Eleanor “Lynn” Pinugu, Maria Carmela “Pie” Alvarez, and 67 more Global Shapers from all over the world.

L-R Professor Schwab, Lynn Pinugu, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Maria Carmela Alvarez, and Anna Oposa

Welcome to the 2012 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the biggest and possibly most exclusive global meeting of the minds. The WEF is a Geneva-based independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging different sectors of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas. It is best known for the Annual Meeting held in the snow-capped mountains of Davos at the height of winter, which gathers some of the world’s most celebrated movers and shakers. Some of notable attendees of this year’s Annual Meeting were Bill Gates, Mick Jagger, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

So what, you might ask, were we young ones doing there?

Luck was on our side. Last year, the WEF launched the Global Shapers Community (GSC). The GSC is an international network of individuals between 20-30 who “exhibit outstanding leadership and entrepreneurial skills.”

You see, fifty percent of the world’s population is under the age of 27. This astounding statistic suggests that the young generation has great capacity to make decisions for a better future. The GSC is the younger version of theWEF’s Young Global Leaders (YGL) program, which convenes exceptional leaders between 30-40 years old.

The story of the Manila Hub

Sometime in October 2011, I received a text from Jay Jaboneta, founder of Philippine Funds for Little Kids and fellowYahoo! Pitong Pinoy Awardee. He said award-winning broadcast journalist and 2010 YGL Karen Davila was the founding curator of the GSC Manila Hub, and that she needed to meet with young advocates from the country’s capital city. When Karen called, I tried my best to stay calm and collected, even though the fan girl in me screamed, “I’m talking to THE Karen Davila!”

Within three months, Karen, our “mother hen” pooled together nine Global Shapers from different fields to form the Manila Hub.

There’s Jay Jaboneta. When he learned how children from Layag-layag Village in Zamboanga had to swim to get to school everyday, he used Facebook to raise funds and provide boats to the community.

Pie Alvarez is the 24-year-old mayor of San Vicente, Palawan, who aims to introduce sustainable projects in her scenic town that is huge in land but poor in income.

Lynn started an international school for underprivileged children in Taguig called Mano Amiga to provide quality kindergarten-to-12th grade education way before the Department of Education initiated reforms in the basic education system.

Ponce Ernest Samaniego, 21, provides business expertise to nonprofits like the Visayan Forum and Gifts & Graces. He describes Outliers, his social enterprise, as one that “serves those who serve.”

Dr. Bryan Albert Lim is a program consultant at the Asian Institute of Management and also established a festival for films themed on health issues. He is a general physician in San Pablo, Laguna, and is most passionate about bringing quality healthcare to the less fortunate.

Law student Mildred Ople, 25, organizes the youth in her hometown, Hagonoy, Bulacan, to pursue community-based, volunteer-driven local development project.

Alexandra Eduque, 21, has been working with Habitat for Humanity for seven years now and founded its youth council.

Well-loved TV host Bianca Gonzalez takes time off from show business to work for child welfare as a UNICEF Ambassador.

And then there’s me, co-founder of Save Philippine Seas, an online and offline movement to protect the world’s richest marine resources, and Isko Cleans UP, a project to implement waste management in my alma mater.

2012 Annual Meeting

Lynn, Pie, and I had to good fortune of being invited to the 2012 Annual Meeting. We were selected based on application videos we sent (and I assume, a background check on Google).

L-R Lynn Pinugu, Anna Oposa, Maria Carmela Alvarez

The three of us arrived in Davos on January 22 for the private Global Shapers Program the following day. From the get-go, we were encouraged to play active roles in the Forum. At the opening session, we were told, “You are not kids in a grownups’ table. You are here because we want to know what you think.”

We spent the following days immersed in sessions on topics like natural resource management, harnessing the power of social media, the challenges and opportunities in youth unemployment, and capitalism. In between panel discussions, Lynn, Pie, and I met with other Filipinos present during the Forum: Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto, Hapinoy co-founder Bam Aquino and his lovely fiancée, Timi Gomez, Fernando and Kit Zobel, and of course, Karen. We also used our free time to meet with other Global Shapers and Young Global Leaders to pick each others’ brains and explore possible areas of collaboration.

We are often asked what our “Davos moment” is. Lynn, Pie, and I share the same Davos moment.

Towards the end of the Forum, Lynn had the chance to speak about her work in a session called IdeasLab. She and selected Global Shapers presented their work to an audience of about 150 people consisting of colleagues and business leaders. An hour before the presentation, Lynn threw away the script and shared the miracles and stories of transformation she has witnessed in the three years of working for Mano Amiga. To everyone’s surprise, the Good Planet Foundation awarded her with $10,000 to further develop her project!

L-R Anna Oposa, Lynn Pinugu, Nobel Prize Awardee Muhammad Yunus, Maria Carmela Alvarez

Now the work begins

The 2012 Annual Meeting was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But it’s not the end of our work as Global Shapers. If anything, it was only the beginning. The real and more challenging work begins now that we are back home and bursting with exciting ideas and armed strong networks to pursue projects in and for our beloved country. One of the first items on the agenda is to expand the Manila Hub. From only nine, we hope to grow and involve more Filipinos with great potential for future leadership roles in society.

Age ain’t nothing but a number. The site said it best: “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too young to accomplish something. A baby shark is still a f*cking shark.”


Photos by Anna Oposa. Some rights reserved.

Friday, 24 February 2012 12:34 AM Anna Oposa