By Sangeeta Waldron — The World Economic Forum is now in its 47th year. It’s famous for its annual summit in Davos attended by luminaries in multiple industries. But It is also known for selecting and bringing together a yearly community of over 800 Young Global Leaders (YGL)—enterprising and socially-minded men and women, all under the age of 40.
They are brought together to collaborate and encourage each other to change the world for the better, operating as a force for good to overcome barriers that stand in the way of progress. From this group every year, the Forum, with its global partner, search firm Heidrick & Struggles, selects those who are rethinking the world around them. Current and former YGLs now head governments and Fortune 500 companies, win Nobel Prizes and Academy Awards, and become UN Goodwill Ambassadors and social entrepreneurs.
This year’s class is special, with more than half being women leaders who are ready to tackle the world’s most complex and pressing challenges. They been selected from hundreds of nominees via a rigorous selection process, which includes a proven track record of professional accomplishments, a breadth of expertise, a commitment to society and an ability to overcome adversity, among other criteria. They will work together over the next five years on globally meaningful initiatives that include finding a cure for spinal paralysis, tackling water scarcity, creating a global emergency response network and promoting waste-free circular economies.
The bar is high, as are expectations. The hope is that with the World Economic Forum, these outstanding influencers can make big changes, from the tech entrepreneur whose mobile app has helped over 100,000 smallholder farmers in Africa to the Yale graduate who shunned a big-city salary to help millions of villagers in rural China to a micro-insurance pioneer who is providing a safety net for the most vulnerable segments of society.
The six British YGLs are a mix of known names and rising stars, among them celebrated former England and Manchester United football player, Rio Ferdinand, founder of the Rio Ferdinand Foundation and Presenter BT Group Plc. Ferdinand was selected in acknowledgement of his work in tackling youth unemployment by building skills, cooperation and opportunities for disadvantaged communities. Other names include Dan Berelowitz, CEO and founder of International Centre for Social Franchising, an entrepreneur whose not-for-profit is pioneering 'social franchising'—helping high potential social ventures replicate their social impact to scale—and Lisa Walker, CEO of Ecosphere+, a climate change expert, who works on developing the market for carbon assets and sustainably produced commodities generated through forest conservation and sustainable land use projects.
These young leaders are part of the solution to break down barriers, work across sectors, and bridge cultures. They have the skills to get things done in private, public and civil society organisations. This year’s honourees are in good company: Former YGLs include Amal Clooney; former Prime Minister David Cameron; Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba; and Marissa Mayer, chief executive of Yahoo.
Photo Credit: World Economic Forum