#12, Global Shapers – ‘A global village of doers’

As Mohammad Yunus said, ‘young people have never been as powerful as of today because they have technology’. Created by the World Economic Forum in 2010, Global Shapers is a worldwide community of young leaders who want to be involved in positive change in their communities. Today, it represents more than 60 Hubs in the world. Matsi Modise, who is founding a Hub in the township of Soweto in South-Africa, believes in the power of young people to make a difference.

Interview conducted in March 2014.

Matsi Modise, founding curator of the Global Shapers Soweto Hub.


Why the Global Shapers community was created by the World Economic Forum? 

Matsi Modise, founding curator of the Global Shapers Soweto Hub: “The Global Shapers Community was created because the World Economic Forum is known as a somewhat small elitist gathering of the world’s powers. They have been criticised as a ‘talkshop’ with little actually being done.

So, they introduced the Global Shapers as a community which has an impact on the ground. It is a way to engage young people and get them involved in the World Economic Forum, and get them to implement initiatives on the ground that have social impact.


Today, there are more than 60 Hubs in the world, how does it work exactly? 

“In every region of the world, there is a Global Shapers Hub. In South-Africa, we have got 5 hubs: Soweto, which is newly established, Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Tshwane. Each Hub is a gathering of young people within a certain region or a certain community, and it is about how to implement initiatives that will impact their particular community where the Hub exists.


Is it the first time that a Hub is created in a township? 

“In South-Africa, yes, it is the first time they are creating a Global Shapers Hub. For us it is such an achievement for the World Economic Forum because this is how young people that are leaders within the communities can engage on a global platform. Somebody from a Soweto-type background has the ability now to engage at the World Economic Forum, it is amazing.


So, you are looking for ‘doers’? 

“Absolutely! It is all about doers, not talkers because that is what happens normally at the high level conferences in Davos. Now, at the Soweto level, we have to do stuff, we have to make a difference, we have to identify where the problems are in that community, and we have to do something about it.


Do you have three words to describe the spirit of Global Shapers?

“It is a global village of doers!


Who and what inspired you to be involved in the social sector? 

“Who inspired me is probably my mother, because she has done a lot of work in the social space. What inspired me is the need to let everybody see the world in the matter which I do. In a sense, I just see the world differently most of the time, I see hope where there are a lot of challenges. I am inspired to ensure that people, and especially young people, are able to benefit from what the world has to offer, which is a lot. If you search for it you will find it!


You lead another initiative called the South-African Black Entrepreneurs Forum (SABEF), what is it exactly? 

“It is a non-profit organization to promote, inspire and grow entrepreneurship in South-Africa. Between 50 and 70% of young people are unemployed in South-Africa. The official unemployment rate is 25%. That means that 25% of people in that country are unable to put bread on the table, are unable to be of any influence, they are not able to take kids to school… because they don’t have jobs! One of the solutions is creating a culture of entrepreneurship. As a non-profit, we engage various organizations to participate within our forum. We are a catalyst of activities about entrepreneurship development in South-Africa.


Today, a lot of young South-Africans want to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure to help society, do you have a piece of advice for them?

“Yes! You need to have guts, you need to have balls, you need to be able to be originally, resilient and passionate about what you are doing.


Do you think that the young generation will change the world? 

“I think the young generation has to change the world, because they don’t have the choice. We are the older generations, and we need to start driving change now. Whatever happens now will affect us 10 or 20 years from now. We need to participate to the decisions that are made, young people need to be active citizens, otherwise the problems of today will continue to be problems of tomorrow if we don’t participate in ensuring that the right measures are put in place for the future.