There are very few places or platforms for young people to come together and work towards social change in Bahrain. Luckily, Manama Global Shapers Hub, part of an initiative by the World Economic Forum, provides just that. To learn more about the Shapers and the work they do within Bahrain, we spoke with Shaheen Shaheen , the Curator of the Manama Hub and here’s what he had to say.


Could you tell us a little about the Global Shaper Community and the Manama Hub specifically?

The Global Shapers community is an initiative by the World Economic Forum (WEF), to basically empower the voice of the youth and to engage them with policy making and decision making that tackles the global challenges.

The initiative was launched in 2011-2012 globally and the Manama Hub was established in 2014. Our objective is to help the Bahraini community in tackling the socio-economic challenges and trying to play a collaborative role with all stakeholders to help shape the future of Bahrain.

We have worked on various projects with semi-governmental entities, mainly relating to youth empowerment. We are also trying tackle variety of issues such as disabilities, mental health, and closely looking at shaping the future for the fourth industrial revolution, which is a global theme now.

What projects and initiatives are the Hub currently working on?

We are focusing on what is needed by the youth to ensure that the country is ready for the fourth industrial revolution. With exciting trends in the rise of technological development in robotics and artificial intelligence there stems various challenges, mainly the challenge of bridging the gap between the technological development in the world and the local talent we have. Is our local talent ready for such a shift? To tackle that we need to raise awareness on the subject and the impact of the fourth industrial revolution not only on the tech sector but also other sectors like health, finance, education, among others and how the local talent can be empowered.
So we are currently planning to launch hackathons with big corporations and semi-government entities to help tackle challenges across multiple sectors.

We have also launched our first project ‘Khibra’, in partnership with Tamkeen, which is youth empowerment platform that will provide services like business mentoring, career coaching and it will also serve as internships platform, both locally and internationally. Last year, we had facilitated a roundtable with HH Prince Charles, in collaboration with the British Council, and brought together a group of active young Bahrainis from different fields to discuss the different community initiatives in Bahrain and presented them to HRH’s Prince’s Trust. Some of these initiatives are currently under implementation as well. We have also collaborated with the Royal Charity Organization (RCO) on events.

What is it like being a Global Shaper in the Manama Hub? What opportunities and networks are available to Shapers in the Bahraini community?

There are various opportunities available to the Shapers, one of them is being able to connect with more than 6000 Shapers globally. I myself had the pleasure of meeting community leaders from all parts of the world and being exposed to different mindsets and perspectives, which is very rare to find elsewhere. You also get to meet and interact with world leaders, ranging from Prime Ministers, Presidents, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and academics at annual events and conferences. You get to learn how policies are made and contribute to the process of decision making and share your viewpoints. That really does make you feel like you can actually make an impact and gives you a broader outlook. When you go and approach industry leaders at events or conferences and mention that you are a global shaper, they actually want to hear from you. There definitely is a strong reputation in the global community and this is something we take pride in.
The government of Bahrain is luckily one of the strategic partners of the WEF, so being part of an initiative that was launched by the WEF definitely gives us even more credibility. But at the same time, the reputation is strengthened by the Shapers themselves as a lot of them have already demonstrated within their entities and the communities positive impact.
Another thing is that you’ll be able to contribute directly to your own country and community. It is a great platform for someone to learn, implement and to lead initiatives using the connections and support provided by the Manama Hub Shapers. The opportunities are unlimited, it’s up to the person himself on how they make use of the opportunities and how much effort they are willing to put.

How does being a Shaper impact your career and personal growth?

I can speak for myself, one of the things I gained from being a part of the hub is being able to look at things from different perspectives and opening my horizon to global issues. Being in investment management industry, I constantly and closely monitor international markets and major global developments, but the thing is when you are just reading the news you don’t get a lot of contexts. The Global Shapers community helped me connect with people from different regions and countries that helped me put things in perspective and provided me with context.
Another thing is to be a Shaper one must either demonstrate or have the potential to be a leader, therefore, we have a pool of very talented Shapers. As the Curator of the Hub, I have to sometimes lead these leaders and this definitely helped me in terms of learning how to lead, how to manage different projects running at the same and managing myself.
Also, because we all come from different backgrounds, we all get to learn from one another. We conduct periodic workshops as well, to facilitate the co-learning and sharing. You get access to a very resourceful network and have the opportunity to connect and collaborate with like-minded people. The global shapers community is also very big on the startup scene, so you get to meet a lot of entrepreneurs that you can learn from and share your experience with, this has proved to be very successful to some of our members in the Manama hub.

What does it take to be a Shaper? What should someone know before sending in their application?

What it takes to be a shaper is either you have demonstrated or have the potential to be a leader within your community, and your passion and commitment towards making a positive change in the community.
Another thing is dedicating your time, all we need is somebody’s time.
And obviously, we need fresh initiatives and ideas that would tackle both local and global challenges. So basically, time, passion, drive and being able to lead and implement is what it takes.

How can someone who’s interested join the Shapers’ Community?

Currently, we are about 20 Shapers, from across different fields and backgrounds, in the Manama Hub and we have also opened our applications for membership as well. The application is open to anyone living in Bahrain, or mainly active in Bahrain, aged between 20 to 29 years old.
The deadline for the applications is December 25th. We are looking for people who want to engage in the community and have leadership potential and have initiative they are willing to implement and share not only in Bahrain but also the world.
I’d take the quote from the WEF, being a shaper means ‘Committed to improving the state of the world.’ Through that we are looking to improve the state of our community, this is as simple as I can keep it.

Najma Ghuloom

A curious mind and a wandering soul, in love with the idea that learning never stops. Constantly on the lookout for stimulating ideas and transformative thoughts. A great believer in the potential of enlightened human lives and currently trying to make that happen through Majra.

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