On Sunday 10/13/2019, I joined twenty-two emerging leaders from around the world and the United States for the week-long prestigious 2019 Global Leadership Forum in Charlottesville, Virginia.  We later learnt that this highly competitive forum had attracted 300 applications from global emerging leaders, and therefore was so excited to be part of the selected twenty-three. Participants included seven IREX Community Solutions Fellows, seven Atlas Corps Fellows, five J-1 Exchange Visa Participants, three Rollins College students, and a Global Links Graduate Assistant. Together with these talented emerging leaders, we delved into the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically, goals number 2,3,5,8 and 13. 

The Global Leadership Forum themed “Collaborative Solutions for Social Impact” was hosted by the Presidential Precinct and the University of Virginia (UVA). The Presidential Precinct is a Charlottesville-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage and inspire emerging leaders from around the world to address the most pressing challenges in their countries.

The forum was highly interactive and informative, boasting of seasoned and highly accomplished facilitators, professors and speakers hailing from various organizations such as Tupperware Brands Corporation, University of Virginia, United Nations Association of the USA, Global Links, Rollins College, Y-Center and ChildFund International among many others. The forum was structured in way that involved facilitation, panel discussions, round table discussions and site visits to organizations tackling SDGs in Charlottesville . 

The forum also involved fun and social activities such as horse riding, drives around the farm, football and home hospitality dinners where we dined with friends of the presidential precinct in their homes to experience a typical American home hospitality and meal. The hosts were extremely courteous and we were treated to scrumptious American home-made meals. 

 Lastly, we had the honor of being part of an exciting creative story lab workshop. We were split into groups that involved Story-telling, Video making, Play writing and Song-writing with experts from the industry. We connected these activities with the specific SDGs and the results were amazing. I still can’t believe that we came up with a song, a play, a children’s story and a short video all in under four hours. 

Aside from the great networking and lessons learned and shared, I believe I created beautiful and lifelong friendships and alliances with the amazing people I met in Charlottesville, I will forever cherish this experience. 

Special shout-out to Nancy Hopkins and her team for the amazing and life-changing experience.

I will end with the words of Steve Zausner who facilitated the session on financing social impact, “There will always be people who believe in what you do, your job is to find them.”

Asante!