Thoughts from a Visiting Global Shaper
By María Fernanda Félix
Global Shaper (Puebla Hub, Mexico), World Economic Forum
One of the best things about being a Global Shaper is meeting other Shapers and being able to collaborate with them. Visiting a Hub in a different city or country allows you to understand the city from the inside: the problems that they are facing, their struggles, their political environment, and of course, the solutions, projects and ideas that are being created. Many of these solutions tackle the problems from a perspective you could never imagine.
A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Canada for personal reasons. The Curator of my Hub in Puebla, Mexico suggested that I visit the Montreal Hub. He arranged a meeting with the Montreal Hub Curator, Renjie Butalid. My timing couldn’t have been better. I arrived during the days of their retreat so I was lucky enough to be invited to join them for their last session on Sunday, February 5, 2017. Their two day retreat was hosted at the Maison Jeanne Sauvé in downtown Montreal.
At first impression, I was astonished. The Montreal Hub shines for its diversity. From the Philippines and India to the Czech Republic and USA; and from women’s issues to refugees, the Montreal Hub is a group of people from different nationalities and backgrounds; with different ideas, projects and interests. But overall, the Montreal Hub is a group of people who are passionate and committed to overcome their differences and work on solutions to change this world for the better.
In countries like Mexico where only around 20% of the population obtains a university diploma, leadership positions in every field tend to be filled by people from similar backgrounds. Many of us went to high-school together or our families were long time friends. And most of us had a smooth and easy path that led us to work on our projects.
The Montreal Hub was the exact opposite. Not only did they have differences in their history and personal beliefs, but many of them had started working on their respective projects because they had personally experienced and overcome the difficulties of issues like racism or the refugee crisis. The group of people reunited in that room could only be compared with some of the best meetings that I have attended in international organizations such as the UN or the World Bank.
The purpose of that session was to set an agenda to work on different topics throughout the year. Refugees, women’s empowerment, diversity, inclusion and combating racism, all these topics led to animated conversations with different perspectives. The Montreal Shapers’ diversity of experiences created a debate on which was the best way to approach these topics. In today’s world it seems that some differences are irreconcilable, that our personal beliefs and experiences collapse with general solutions, separating “us” from “them”. As Michael Ondaatje wrote, “From now on, I believe the personal will forever be at war with the public. If we can rationalize this we can rationalize anything.”
Many people talk about having international experiences or having work in international issues, but that afternoon, I witnessed how an international group of people discussed international issues and took advantage of their differences to arrive at solutions that are strong at the core. Something that was diverse but unbroken and managed to work together all at once.
As I watched the Montreal Shapers compromise to an agenda that will benefit and satisfy all, I understood that these kinds of unions are what makes of Canada such a strong and peaceful country and what makes of Montreal such an extraordinary city.
I hope that in the future, the Montreal Hub and the Puebla Hub can collaborate on projects that benefit both cities, using our differences as a source of strength. And that during these challenging times, Global Shapers around the world can put aside their political ideologies and work together to ensure a better future for those who need it.