Meet these movers and shapers

The Chennai Shapers. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam  

They are young. They are passionate. They are inspired. And they are shaping their city. Meet these livewire youngsters who are part of the Global Shapers community, an international network of youngsters who shape their cities and country through community projects. An initiative of the World Economic Forum, Global Shapers is intentionally youth-centric. In fact, this community came into being when Prof Klaus Martin Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum looked around the table at one of his meetings, saw a lot of grey hair and realized that the policies they were making lacked a youth perspective.

In Chennai, currently 17 shapers are creating ripples, and they happen to be from diverse professions and interests. There is Gulika Reddy, a human rights lawyer. Varun Gunaseelan is into healthcare and real estate development. Rohini Rau is a doctor and Asian sailing champion. There is geo-spatial analyst Siddharth Hande, Upasika Maithreya who runs a HR Consultancy firm, Krishnakumar Balasubramanian an actor/director/writer/stunt- choreographer/theatre-person, entrepreneur Rajoshi Ghosh, Siddhartha Nuni, producer/cinematographer at 357 Films, Sonaal Bangera, a user-experience consultant and interface designer, Malvika Iyer, who did not let disability stand in her way to be a motivational speaker and trainer, architect Anupriya Subbian, Aishwarya Manivannan who teaches at the National College of Design, Sidharth Mallik who runs a leather business, Vikrem Vybav of Slum Soccer, Zachary Yerushalmi who is into financial services and wealth management, founder of Team Everest Kartheeban Chandramohan, and Roma Bakshani who is into the garments industry.

No surprises then that the community’s projects are spectacularly diverse. Sample this: Krishnakumar Balasubramanian and Siddhartha Nuni created a short film for the Corporation of Chennai on solid waste management, in association with Harrington Road Association. Varun Gunaseelan’s Himalayan Clean Cook Stove Project provides subsidized stoves to households in villages in the Garhwal Himalayas to reduce pollution caused by cooking on wood fire. Upasika Maithreya’s project spreads awareness to citizens on their rights and duties, on using RTI, the agencies to contact for problem resolution, etc. Roma Bakshani is working to start a think tank for anti-corruption policies and programmes to reduce petty corruption.

While each of these shapers largely handle their own projects, they do help out in each other’s projects. “Our biggest strength is our diversity. With so many projects happening, we get the chance to assist any of these activities. And the fact that we have diverse professionals in our hub ensures that we don’t have to shell out finance for such services required in our projects,” says Rohini Rau..

When needed, these shapers source funds from fund-raising events, micro-financing and corporate sponsorships. There are also financial grants to be applied for. For instance, Siddharth Hande’s Kabadiwala Connect project works with the informal waste economy to minimize waste ending up at landfills. This project has been nominated for the first phase of the prized Coco Cola grant. But most of these community projects rely on manpower, innovation and skill, rather than finance. So then, if you have a bright idea for the city and are rearing to get it implemented, you can apply to be a Global Shaper. “You need to be between 20 to 29 years of age to qualify” says Upasika. So what happens when the shapers grow older? Well, they move out of the community, but the projects stay alive. And there is a limited five-year term that anyone can be a shaper. So, projects are time bound and real-time results are valued.

Shapers across the world stay connected, sometimes collaborating across countries. And this year, Gulika Reddy, curator of the Chennai Hub is attending the Global Shapers Annual Curators Meeting (August 21-25) in Geneva, Switzerland. But being a shaper is not all work though. These youngsters have developed friendships, and they get together at least once a month. And then, there is their annual retreat. Community service is the new cool, apparently.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 2:53:09 AM |

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