Osay Imarhiagbe meets with other Global Shapers in Geneva. Photo: Osay Imarhiagbe
Osay Imarhiagbe wrote these reflections after traveling to Switzerland for the annual forum of the Global Shapers. Upon his return to Atlanta, he attended Global Atlanta’s Consular Conversations event with Swiss Consul General Urs Broennimann. 

As individuals, we view life through our own personal lens and move through life focused on our own well-being and personal affairs. However, as curator for the Atlanta Global Shapers, I have seen that the best chance we have at improving our own individual lives is through collective action that benefits all who share this planet with us.

This reminder was ever so present during my latest trip to Geneva for the Global Shapers Annual Summit, which was hosted by the World Economic Forum Sept. 2-4. As one of the Forum’s initiatives, the Global Shapers community is a multinational network of young people leading the charge on impact-driven projects, initiatives and programs in cities across the world.

Our own Atlanta-based hub was founded in 2013 by Chairman John Hope Bryant, founder and CEO of Operation HOPE, along with former Mayor Kasim Reed and Ambassador Andrew Young as a way to connect Atlanta’s young leaders to an international network. Our local Shapers hail from a colorful array of personal and professional backgrounds and are united by a sense of ambition, drive and a desire to improve our city. Meet the Atlanta Shapers here.

I had the unique opportunity as curator of the Atlanta hub to convene with 500-plus young leaders from hubs across 150 countries – all united by a shared motivation to drive positive impact in their respective communities.

Taking place between the United Nations office at Geneva and the World Economic Forum headquarters, the weekend was filled with learning, coalition-building and takeaways from notable figures who sought to inspire youth leadership in solving pressing global challenges. Remarks were heard from leaders such as Tatiana Valovaya, director general of the United Nations at Geneva; Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer at Accenture; Børge Brende, president of the World Economic Forum; and Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, among others.

In my view, what was most impactful was hearing perspectives from Shapers showing resilience while experiencing significant local challenges. From the war in Ukraine to unprecedented flooding in Pakistan and the refugee crisis in Venezuela, stories from Shapers emphasized the dire state of many global issues.

Despite these challenges, the members of the Shapers community remain committed to addressing many of these issues through strategic partnerships between regional hubs, like-minded organizations and corporate enterprises. Shapers across the world have mobilized to drive initiatives that provide humanitarian aid, promote environmental sustainability practices, improve workplace gender equality, upskill underserved populations, address gaps in healthcare access and much more.

Our city is poised to make similar waves. From its roots as the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement to its emergence as a tech hub and a hotbed for the film and music industry, Atlanta can be an example of what cultural innovation looks like.

[pullquote]Atlanta can be an example of what cultural innovation looks like. [/pullquote]

In reflecting upon my time in Geneva, I took away three key lessons on how our hub can move to have an impact:

  1. Establish meaningful ties to our local community. In our hub, we must cultivate local relationships through service events, participation in other nonprofit initiatives and forums where we invite the public to engage with us in open dialogue centered around local issues, helping inform how we define our priorities.

  2. Cultivate an open mind and a sense of empathy. Part of our mindset as Shapers must be to cultivate a culture of empathy and listening. This allows us to develop thoughtful solutions that truly meet the challenges of our community.

  3. Leverage our professional connections. Large-scale global change cannot happen without the involvement of corporations and government institutions that own broad spheres of influence. Our Shapers have the unique ability to garner support from institutions that have established commitments to social responsibility and bolster our ongoing efforts to develop meaningful projects.

I hope to impart these learnings to the Atlanta hub, and to keep them in mind as we continue our mission for this year. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have shared space with hundreds of motivated youth in a city known as a hub for the world’s international organizations.

While this year’s Annual Summit has come to a close, I am as motivated as ever to continue our efforts in shaping a better Atlanta.

Osay Imarhiagbe is a strategist and community organizer who works as a senior design architect at AT&T and serves as curator of the Atlanta hub of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers. Learn more about the Global Shapers network  here or connect with the Atlanta hub here.