Precious Listana, a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, learned about the Global Engagement Summit (GES) through a friend she had met at another social change conference. She came to the summit, which brings together students and leaders to discuss social change, to focus on her project Youth Incubator. Listana says her goal is to build an online platform that connects young activists working for social change with corporate responsibility teams of big businesses. These companies can help provide monetary or human capital to make social projects a reality
"I believe that having students collaborate with working professionals at that age will empower them," Listana says. "They can take ownership on this project and also develop mentorship relationships with these people that they're working with. Together, they can build community and solve problems in their community."
Mentorship, connectivity and community are key components of GES. This year, from April 12 through April 16, 40 delegates from 13 different countries participated in the Summit. The delegates are student leaders with projects that address social change and social justice in a variety of fields. Despite myriad backgrounds, they all face similar hurdles: focusing their project, acquiring funding and making connections with influencers. Their projects range from affordable prosthetic hands for war-torn countries, to GPS embedded into jewelry in areas where kidnapping is rampant, and to entirely new approaches to education on increasing school quality.
"We are interested in social activism and social entrepreneurship," co-Director Allie Baxtor says. "You're going to fail if you can't communicate your idea. Part of the summit's success that we're measuring is have we given them a chance to become better at social entrepreneurship."
At around 100 people, GES is about one-fifth the size of typical conferences, which Baxtor says leads to a more intimate and collaborative experience. Listana agrees – by the end of the four days, she says most people at the summit know each other by name. Each year, several delegates also return to the summit to continue workshopping their projects and receiving feedback. Others entirely change their projects as a result of the insight they gained from the summit, says Weinberg senior Amanda Stephens, co-chair of content.
This is where the Summit's intensely crafted programming comes in. Each day from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., delegates participate in workshops covering topics such as how to run successful marketing campaigns, network effectively and select the appropriate business models. Each day starts with a small group session, where delegates meet with three or four of their peers to discuss the prior day's programming. The sessions run at an average of an hour and half each, which ensures delegates leave with as much information as possible. Stephens says the ultimate goal is to provide delegates with tangible skills that improve their projects once the summit ends.
"I think that at the end of the day, if at least one person has learned one thing, we've accomplished the job," Stephens says.
The Outcomes staff on GES offers takeaways for the delegates after the summit, the most tangible of which is a mentor or professional in a field related to their project. Listana has a weekly check-in with her mentor to hold her accountable and make sure her project progresses throughout the year.
"Our vision is to help delegates strengthen the foundations of their projects and then expand beyond that into networking into how to actually implement it," GES Co-Director Allison Hurst says.
On the fourth day of the summit, Listana stood at the front of the Rock Room in Norris with 20 other delegates and staff members. She was one of three delegates participating in the pitch competition, a Shark Tank-like event, judged by established business professionals and professors. The winner walked away with $500.
After the pitch competition, one of the judges approached Listana and offered to mentor her on her project. "What's really valuable is people investing their time into what they believe in and in the work I want to achieve," Listana says. "I've seen myself grow in just those five days because of the conversations in that space."