Shaping our Future Together

I have had the pleasure of being part of the Global Shapers Community for the last two years. And during this time, it has been an a lot of fun. There is no shortage of colorful characters here in the Hong Kong hub, and together we’ve organized panels, meet the leader sessions, fund raisers, and retreats. Covering topics from sustainability, mental health, asylum seeker-refugees, and basically any other topic in-between. We’ve laughed, cried, and played. And I’ve made friends in this group that I hope will last me for a very very long time.

And unsurprisingly, this extends to the greater community as well. Last month 9,600 Global Shapers from around the world gathered for a 5-day virtual summit, to report, plan, and exchange different ideas on how we can all work towards further improving the state of the world. We heard about the various initiatives covering topics such as Mental Health, COVID-19 response, Diversity and Inclusion, Refugee Empowerment, and Sustainability. This was the first Global Shapers Annual Summit (GSAS), and it was a testament to the power of youth towards making an impact.

Mental Health

Shapers from different hubs are all too aware of the importance of addressing and destigmatizing mental health in our local communities. And this has typically taken the form of separate ad-hoc activities and initiatives started by different hubs. However, this is soon to change. During the GSAS 2020, the Global Shapers Community Mental Health Steering Committee unveiled their plan for a global coordinated effort towards the goal of making it easier to have the conversation about mental health. This plan would involve preparing and releasing peer-reviewed training material on topics such as mental health first aid, destigmatization, and mental health awareness.

This initiative draws heavily on the expertise and experience of Shapers from different hubs, and is serving as an amazing example of how Shapers are able to transcend borders in pursuit of a shared goal.

COVID-19 Response

2020 has not been easy. The world essentially ground to a halt due to COVID-19. Cities went into lockdown, trade and commerce staggered, and we fell into the greatest health crisis in recent memory. As the pandemic continued to shift and burden our local communities, Shapers answered the call for help.

Reported during the GSAS, across our 431 hubs, Shapers engaged in food and donation drives, volunteer activities, information/education campaigns, and public health outreach programs in our local communities. And continue to do so to this day.

Diversity and Inclusion

With hubs in over 400 cities in 148 countries, the Global Shapers Community pride ourselves in our diversity. But as we are reminded with the “Black Lives Matter” protests, there is still a lot more work that can be done. I am proud to say that the entire Shapers community has shown to be very passionate at pushing diversity and inclusion, not only within our hubs, but within the local communities that we operate in as well. Which is why it was an amazing experience to hear from Sarah Kate Ellis, founder of GLAAD, on the strategies that they employ for their diversity and inclusion campaigns.

Sarah Kate highlighted the importance of being able to form a cohesive narrative through storytelling. She also highlighted the importance of collaboration within all sectors of society. With the ultimate goal of applying continued and sustained pressure to facilitate positive change.

Refugee Empowerment

In 2018, the Kakuma hub became the first Global Shapers Community hub to be opened within a refugee camp. The Kakuma hub is comprised of intelligent, passionate, and driven young people, whom were unfortunately displaced from their homes due to conflict and instability. But even then, they continue to work tirelessly to improve the lives of the 200,000 other refugees whom also reside within the camp.

During the GSAS they debuted a music video that they co-produced with Yo-Yo Ma, encouraging everyone to practice positive personal hygiene to help fight COVID and flatten the curve.


The GSAS was capped of with a “Meet the Leader” session featuring Former Vice President Al Gore. His initiative, The Climate Reality Project has been a long time supporter of the Global Shapers Community. They have regularly opened up their training sessions for Shapers to participate in. And for the end of the first annual summit, Al Gore himself shared with the Shapers his thoughts on the ongoing fight against climate change.

During the session, he shared with us the challenges that we are facing, and the need for more urgent and aggressive measures to combat climate change. But he also struck a very optimistic tone about the direction the world was going in. He highlighted how renewable energy was becoming more affordable, and is increasingly becoming a job creator. He talked about how businesses are slowly realizing that it is not only responsible to be sustainable, but profitable as well.

These are the highlights from the GSAS. It was a great experience to be able to interact with Shapers from around the world. While it is not a perfect substitute for true face-to-face interaction, the variety of topics that we covered, the initiatives discussed, and the sheer calibre of speakers more than made up for it.