Grand Challenges, The Next Generation - by Ellen Chisa '10

When we talk about Olin, we spend a lot of time talking about what our careers are. Until last month I was a Program Manager for Microsoft, and starting in December I'll be a Product Manager for Kickstarter. I've loved both of those roles, but like most Oliners a lot of the work I do is things outside of my "job."

One of the things I do outside of work is participating in the Global Shapers Program.  This program was established by the World Economic Forum in 2011 to be a "network of city-based Hubs developed and led by young leaders between 20 and 30 years old who want to develop their leadership potential toward serving society. To that end, Hubs undertake local projects to improve their communities." It reminds me remarkably of one of Olin's initiatives- the Grand Challenge Scholars Program.

The Grand Challenge Scholars Program focused on giving engineers all the skills they need to attack complex issues (like personalized learning). In contrast, the Global Shapers Program focuses on bringing area experts together to share their insights to the same types of big problems. Just in Seattle, we have Hub members in engineering, nutrition, finance, and facilitation, and many more.

The great part of the program is that it isn't just our little group in Seattle. This August, I had the pleasure to fly to Geneva for the first-ever Annual Curator Meeting (ACM) at the World Economic Forum headquarters.

(c) enrique pardo -- at World Economic Forum.

The ACM was a meeting for answering questions, evaluating what's happened in the program so far, and establishing community standards. Even more than that, it was a chance to meet individuals from 160 different cities- bringing160 different perspectives.

The meeting started with a series of lectures. A highlight for me was hearing Professor Schwab talk about his visions and goals for the program. We learned more about the work The Forum does- like the various reports they create regarding risk assessment and management, gender equality, and the Global Agenda Councils. This helped set the scene for the problems we wanted to address as a group.

We also heard from different Hubs that have focused on a specific area about their successes. This included areas like "how to pick a project," "how to set up a governance structure," and "what types of gatherings to have for your hub."

After setting the scene, and seeing where we were as a group, we spent most of our time rotating through small discussion groups.  

We talked about how we wanted to address issues like education, financial risk, and security on the internet.

(c) enrique pardo -- at World Economic Forum.

Each of these sections resulted in a report out, a small group discussion, and a visual representation of the conversation, so the output could be saved for after the event.

(c) enrique pardo -- at World Economic Forum.

While, two months later, I don't have a firm recollection of all of our opinions, I do have strong memories of 160 people coming together to talk about the issues that mattered most to them. I know that I'll be bringing some of these lessons back to my Hub, and to other projects I am connected to in my personal and professional life.

Posted in: A Broader World View, Alumni Speak, Because I Wanted To, Just Plain Fun, Making a Difference