In a recent Foreign Affairs article introducing this year's Davos theme, "The Fourth Industrial Revolution," World Economic Forum Founder Klaus Schwab concluded that, "In the end, it all comes down to people and values."
"We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them," he wrote.
It is with this same vision that Athens Global Shapers community founded ReGeneration (ReGen) three years ago, a program that bridges young talent with career-launching opportunities. We founded ReGen to address a youth unemployment problem that continues to plague developed and developing economies alike.
The Grand Exodus: Generation G
Unemployment is a global issue, but what happens when young and educated individuals are trapped in a seemingly dead-end situation? According to a Eurostat report, Greece is host to the largest youth unemployment rate across the EU at over 50% unemployed youth over the last several years.
As a result, the country is currently encountering the highest brain drain in an advanced western economy in modern times. The so-called Generation G -- young, talented and Greek -- first appeared in 2010, and is here to stay.
Interestingly, Greece is well-known for its extremely high caliber human capital. According to a report by The Economist, "the country punches well above its weight globally," as roughly 3% of top scientists worldwide hail from Greece, whose population accounts for just 0.2% of the global count.
"But 85% of these research superstars live and work abroad, constituting a brain drain greater than of in any other euro-zone country," the report states. As a matter of fact, the country is losing its "youngest, best and brightest," a European University Institute study dated March 2014 reports.
By and large, according to a study by Endeavor, more than 200,000 Greeks below the age of 35 have migrated abroad since the beginning of the Greek crisis in 2010.
As Oxford Economics reports, if the pattern continues, ''[Greece] will end up facing a terrible talent deficit by 2020," making it almost impossible to increase GDP, attract foreign investment, reform and eventually rebound and recover.
Meanwhile, according to a McKinsey study, skills mismatch is becoming another burdensome trend, with less than half of Greek employers satisfied by their workforce's skill levels.
The statistics are dismal, and ReGen strives to be the force of change Greece needs.
Responding with a Regeneration:
It feels like yesterday that I was selected to represent the Global Shapers Athens Hub as a member of the first Global Shapers class attending the annual Davos meeting of 2012. There, I participated in discussions on the world's greatest challenges and had the opportunity to moderate a panel on youth unemployment.
To my surprise, I found out I was the youngest Greek ever invited to Davos, and all during one of the most challenging times in Greece's modern history. I was struck by the lack of positive news coming from my motherland. There seemed to be no stories of change I, or any other young person, could believe in.
Four years later, ReGen, the initiative I had promised myself and the Global Shapers community on behalf of the Athens Hub upon leaving Davos, is now a reality. Through ReGen, we've waged our very own modern day Battle of Thermopylae. A best-practice that against all odds delivers measurable, on-going, and resilient impact exemplifying the Forum's values.
ReGen stands out as the first of its kind non-profit, multi-stakeholder paid internship and youth development initiative in the region. A real blueprint of possibility and empowerment, the program offers young graduates a multi-faceted work experience, impactful training and coaching from certified trainers. ReGen also supports multiple opportunities for personal development, like an active one-month involvement with an NGO, for example. Amidst a recessionary micro and macro environment, we managed to attract 14,000 applications for 200+paid internships positions offered by our 50+ hiring partners in just a couple years.
This amazing turnout would be impossible without the overwhelming $2.000.000 support in capital contributions and pro bono services by our 'early adopter' key partner and major sponsor The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC), joined last year by The Hellenic Initiative as well as the rest of our corporate partners and friends. Above all, our collective's shared passion, values, and commitment to a common mission, made this program a sustainable movement that will regenerate the future of Greece.
The Golden Triangle 2.0.
On our second day at Davos 2012, The Coca-Cola Company CEO Muhtar Kent hosted a reception to welcome the Global Shapers class and discuss his "golden triangle" theory of business, government, and civil society working hand-in-hand to do good.
This theory of collaboration may be ideal, but what happens when one of the three pillars cannot offer the support needed to move forward? As trust in traditional institutions and governments declines, and capital markets suffer from unprecedented volatility, uncertainty dominates. Thus, we've seen many questions raised regarding the feasibility and impact these "golden triangle" partnerships can bring about. In turn, these concerns lead one to question the role youth and civil society can actually play in achieving measurable impact on the ground amidst an environment of severe political turbulence.
Set as a strong example, ReGen has shown the world that Global Shapers can effectively act as catalysts for a new collective -- "the Golden Triangle 2.0" (GT2) -- with more civil society-to-business partnerships, and less government involvement. And this is not limited to Athens. Projects and major events from others hubs such as San Juan, Florianapolis, Rome, Turin, Bujumbara, Chennai, Riyadh, Dubai, Doha, Venice, San Fransisco and New York, give testament to the advent of GT2.
The question I always get when I present ReGen is how we maximize impact out of GT2 partnerships. Is mission alignment and funding enough? Absolutely not. The key ingredients to success are (a) to surround yourself with a team passionate and committed to the mission, (b) be in for the long run and (c) establish trust with your stakeholders and make no mistake that trust comes first of all from the personal connections you develop.
What has continued to keep us going as a team is the vision to overturn the opportunity deficit by capitalizing on our generation's guts surplus before it escalates to become a national dreams deficit, which is more than crucial than any kind of fiscal deficit. From all the Forum events I've participated in, there's one thing I am confident to admit - the guts and passion surplus in this community is more than enough to fuel several battles of Thermopylae around the world.
So, to this year's crop of Shapers leaving Davos to head back to the real world: harness that energy and those new connections to bring together the civic, business and government sectors to effect real change. It is your unique power for collaboration that can do so. Gear up, and shape on!
Panagiotis Madamopoulos-Moraris; First Curator, World Economic Forum Global Shapers Athens Hub; Co-Founder; ReGeneration; Member, World Economic Forum Global Shapers Advisory Board on Partnerships.