THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

You CAN make a difference!

The European Summit for Global Transformation in Rotterdam calls!

My friend, Rebecca Self, personifies that which she promotes: leadership as a way of being, and "If not me, who?" It wouldn't be too far off to say she's Rebecca Self-less. A self-described "catalyst" for leadership, Dr. Self has been behind a lot of leaders finding each other, in of all places, Rotterdam, at the European Summit for Global Transformation. Self is one of those people who can be out in front, or in the back, or in the middle... but always leading. Not many leaders are facile in that way. Although it always takes more than a village to do anything, I want to focus on Rebecca because she was the connector for me to attend my first ESGT last year. Something very special has to be happening to get me to travel anywhere in the winter, but especially to Rotterdam, The Netherlands... in December. BRRR. Yes, cold and dark. But warmth and light drew me and I will never be the same.

Because of Rebecca, I met and have made friends with a man who exemplifies a noble and new masculinity: Bill Liao. When I first embarked on my life as a women's rights activist, I was bereft over the scarcity of men who stood shoulder to shoulder with me in the mission to bring women and girls into full participation in life. I firmly believe that men stand to gain as much from women's liberation as women do. Mr. Liao is a true partner to me and other women in the world. He presented at last year's ESGT and will be there again. His accomplishments are too many to do justice to in a short blog post, but check out and order his new book, "Stone Soup: Making Something from Nothing" due to launch in January. (Disclosure: I wrote the foreword.)

Liao will be speaking about his new role as special envoy to St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as his passion for re-foresting the planet through WeForest.com.

The ESGT started when a small group of friends asked, "What would happen if we got together everyone we knew who's up to big things on the planet?" The results have exceeded everyone's expectations: TED Fellows, Huffington Post authors, entrepreneurs, educators, authors and activists meet in Rotterdam for an action-packed weekend. "There's a movement on the planet for sustainability and social justice," Self says on the ESGT web site.

Several trends are apparent at the summit: global transformation is up to like-minded individuals who "step up to the plate" if you're into baseball metaphors, or "step up to the stove" if you're into cooking analogies. Whatever your frame of reference is, there are people who you'll relate to at the European summit. There's an array of people who range from young to old, western and eastern, northern and southern, female and male, almost every juxtaposition that you can think of. The fields of the arts, internet, computers, social work, socially responsible capitalism, and yes, even the military has a place at this particularly inclusive "round table" of commitment to social justice and sustainability.

Particularly exciting this year: participants from Nepal, including Maggie Doyne, a 23-year-old from New Jersey who is currently taking care of 27 Nepalese children. There's Subhash Ghimire, a student at St. Olaf in Minnesota, who tracked down the organizers of the ESGT. He'll be in Rotterdam to network with others who have taken the initiative as private people to address social needs in a real way. Ghimire has already built a kids' camp, library and foundation for kids in Nepal.

I was particularly inspired by the gender equality last year. I am often disheartened at the conferences that I have attended that address worldwide issues. Men have been missing IN DROVES as attendees, but ironically the keynote speakers are often predominantly male. Last year, the ESGT keynote speaker was Ms. Lakshmi V. Venkatesan, cofounder and head of the Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST), an award-winning organization providing mentoring and financing to promising, underprivileged, young entrepreneurs across India. She wants her mentees to create jobs, not just hold them.

And then my vision of young female leadership came true in the person of Esra'a Al Shafei, 22-year-old Bahraini creator of Mideast Youth and winner of Harvard Law School's Berkman Award for Internet Innovation. Imagine: Esra'a is a young woman in the Mideast leading thousands via the web; she created Mideast Youth in a dormitory room in Switzerland. Thanks to Rebecca, who was her professor, thousands more of us know about Esra'a Al Shafei and her work to bring free speech and freedom to her part of the world.

If you are called to make a difference in the world -- and you know who you are -- the ESGT is a good place for you to find other people like you. I answered the clarion call and participated last year with my husband and Tech Daddy, Ken Gruberman, by performing my show "Now That She's Gone," a feminist love letter and ode to my mother and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If you have a drive to make a difference and want to network in an intimate yet profound way, get outrageous and book a flight to Amsterdam, then take the train to Rotterdam in time for this year's summit. It begins on Saturday, November 21st. You'll be grateful you did.

And tell them Ellen Snortland and her husband sent you. Then give Bill Liao, Rebecca and her hearty team hugs from us.