Montreal Hub Annual Retreat

Daniel Tarantino, Montreal Shaper, writes…

The annual retreat of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Montreal Hub was held on November 18th and 19th at the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation House, to whom we extend our deep gratitude for the fantastic space offered to us for the entire weekend.

The recent announcement of the Montreal Hub’s newest Global Shapers marked an opportune moment for the Hub to come together to catalyze its goal for positive impact in the community in the coming year, notably by setting in motion the vision for the Hub established at the last retreat in February. The retreat equally served to get to know one another on a more personal level with the aim of building team cohesion among the Shapers and a distinct family atmosphere.


We eased into the retreat on Saturday morning with a breakfast spread courtesy of the Shapers themselves, and a team building exercise to break the ice.

The game involved replicating an image in which the person putting pen to paper had to rely on hearsay. We split into two teams with distinct roles : drawer, intermediary and observer. Both teams came up with impressive results but ultimately they missed the mark on several features of the original drawing.

Viva and Nirushaa, Montreal Hub curators & Daniel, new recruit, during the first team building exercise

The exercise tested our communication skills and served as an important reminder that the very nature of things as they are have a tendency to be misinterpreted and/or miscommunicated from person to person, often taking forms that are unlike their starting condition. It therefore highlighted the importance of good sources, diverse opinions, second guessing assumptions, and being conscious of the disparity between what is and what appears to be. In retrospect, it was a formidable way to frame the ensuing retreat and the issues we will be tackling.

The retreat followed with a series of bursts to remind ourselves of who we are, what we stand for and the impact we endeavour to have in our community.

We see ourselves as change makers and leaders.
We became Shapers because we care.
We became Shapers because we’re passionate and want to be impactful.
We aim to create change through collaboration and projects.

In the coming year, the Montreal Hub will focus its attention on important and timely issues pertaining to refugee integration, women’s empowerment, islamophobia and other forms of discrimination. We feel strongly about these issues and believe we are well positioned to leverage our collective strengths to use to make Montreal a more inclusive and welcoming place worthy of being a leader for other cities around the world to follow.

With the stage set for an intense weekend, we proceeded to break out into separate groups with the aim of doing a deep dive on each of our chosen focus areas, immersing into the problem and identifying angles to leverage positive, scalable change.

We debated. We mapped. We googled. And ultimately, we came to appreciate the delicate, complex and interconnected nature of these issues.

While we certainly cannot all claim to be experts on these subjects, our diverse cultural and academic backgrounds proved to be critical to allow us to dissect these complex issues. We see this as a critical strength of the Montreal Hub.

Breakout Session : Discussing social inclusion around the subjects of islamophobia and universal accessibility

Deep in thought, time flew by, and alas it was time for lunch. We digested with an entertaining roundtable game of “two truths & one lie”, where we got to know more about one another before resuming with our breakout sessions, continuing to dig into our areas of focus particularly by relating to the Montreal context, potential collaborators, and other attempts to address these issues.

Wrapping up Day 1 of the Retreat

The end of the day was the scene of complex webs, and fruitful brainstorming.


We were greeted with the first snow flurry of the incoming winter season, making for a rather picturesque start to day two of the retreat.

First snow flurry of the year on the way in to Day 2 at the Jeanne Sauve Foundation House

The morning took on a reflective, almost spiritual character as we looked inward. We shared personal stories and insights on life that both celebrated and challenged our paths, in the view of realizing our deepest aspirations and aligning with our passions.

The breakout sessions continued with ideation. The aim was to conceive project ideas, devise a rough roadmap for their implementation, consider their potential for impact scalability, and devise strategies to ensure their long-term sustainability.

Continuing with the aim of building the “family ties” between the Montreal Shapers, we engaged in a rather hilarious game where we broke into two groups to jot down things that were unique to all but one of us. Points were allocated based on the opposing team’s ability (or inability) to decipher who the individual was for each item. What appeared to be an innocent game proved to be an entertaining and friendly way to highlight gender and cultural biases.

Renjie, former curator of the Montreal Hub, tallying the points of our game

As the late afternoon November light crept up on us, we wrapped up thoughts on our breakout sessions with the aim of presenting our findings to one another.

Group presentations to wrap up the Retreat

Several first iterations of projects are on the table for the Montreal Hub. More importantly, our wheels are turning and we have an appreciation for the importance and complexity of the issues we have chosen to tackle. While productive, the sessions were not always easy. In fact, we found ourselves with more questions than answers. Indeed, we have a lot of work ahead of ourselves; however, the foundations have been set to make meaningful progress and establish concrete, scalable, realizable and impactful projects.

Stay tuned!