Shaping Youth Through Global Women’s Leadership

gwln-globe.jpgShaping Youth has been on a two week blog hiatus to leapfrog into the future via global human connections.

I’ve just graduated from the Women Leaders for the World intensive boot camp for visionaries…Where 2007 global leaders from various countries, races, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, and political leanings unite through the power and promise of the internet to lead change and transfer knowledge from one woman to one world.

I’m admittedly still reeling a tad…GWLN founder Linda Alepin and her team (heavily backed by Cisco and SCU) transformed my thinking beyond mind-candy and mental floss into full tilt plausibility. They debunked the barrier myths of naysayers and dream squashers and fueled my purpose with positive energy.

I was able to move from possible to probable, and from dedicated to definitive by week’s end.

Inspired by fellow participant Lucky Chhetri, the first woman mountain trekker of Nepal who is literally guiding women out of poverty by training female trekking guides for ecotourism, (BBC news story here) it became readily apparent that moving mountains would become an ongoing theme here. After all, GWLN is about personal and professional transformation, using the global network to amplify our visions and invoke sustainable positive change.

At first I dismissed all the mountain top analogies as “go team, rah, rah” leadership hooey…

…But after evidentiary hands-on curriculum exercises, I eventually embraced the notion that if you learn how to view the future of your own organization from atop a scenic peak, you can then see the gazillion trails used to get there.

GWLN helped me visualize multiple paths to climb toward the same end goal, (even seeing crisscross and switchbacks clearly) with the analogy that those routes just aren’t evident until you reach the top and look down.

Instead of slogging through a global ‘uphill battle’ focusing on the daunting climb, it really does shift one’s thinking to lead change from the future looking backwards. By retracing your own steps of how to get there, it opens up opportunities for support and action.

It’s a leadership style that correlates with the way youth share their visions too.

Children are uniquely gifted in the art of challenging unexamined assumptions. They’ve got an intrinsic “why/why not?” go-for-it style that I love. They may hear “it can’t be done” but they generally don’t accept it.

Many American kids haven’t had those ‘hard knock life’ rocks bop them on the head yet, nor have they lost their footing and faltered, so their goals have a purity of undaunted zeal.

Conversely, my exposure to my colleague’s work with HIV/AIDS orphans, human trafficking, and girls banished from education due to poverty/practice opened my eyes wide to my fellow leaders’ struggles to use the future-forward concept to infuse kids’ souls with the boldness of possibility.

The challenge for us all is to resurrect our most pristine vision of ‘what can be’ by casting off the baggage of self-talk and limitation due to past experiences that have left their ugly scars.

As GWLN leader Barbara Fittipaldi voiced,

“What we already know is strangling us.”

Uh-huh. You got it.

So how do we fully “live the questions,” get comfy with uncertainty and relearn what we THINK we know by interrupting our own internal filters to break the grip of the past to move our visions forward and on into the future?

GWLN leader Camille Smith reminded me with a gentle shoulder shake:

“Leaders create what isn’t yet.”

It’s profound in its simplicity. Yet it took me awhile to grant my ‘impatient’ self that factual detail. (see the success of 2006 leaders on the right sidebar video, titled “hear their voices” here) Yep. They created what didn’t exist…

Another favorite?

“The conversations you dwell in determine your future.”

Hmn. That sure made me dismiss the paradigm of “not enough.” (funding, staff, technology, support for Shaping Youth’s massive vision)

I learned to LISTEN carefully for possibility…SPEAK the opportunity clearly…and ENROLL others in our quest to achieve breakthrough results and a healthier worldview for children.

That one teensy tweak of mindset (among many ‘aha’ moments gleaned from fellow worldwide leaders) enabled me to shift my thinking away from VC funding entrepreneurial must-haves, donor dollars and foundation support.

I crystallized the fact that my passion has already taken Shaping Youth half way up the mountain, even though I had absolutely no idea how I’d get here!

Sure, I may not have the best ‘gear and gadgets’ for mountain climbing SAFELY, but I’ve never questioned leaving base camp for a nanosecond.

Risk to me would be NOT taking that first step, for as the Ovid quote says, “Venus favors the bold.”

Between my recent online authorship in The Age of Conversation to the internet’s ability to unite women through technology and purpose, I can see patterns uniting form and function of internet presence, reinforcing my path for Shaping Youth.

This, of course, brings me to another GWLN ‘aha’ moment…

Shaping Youth is my passion embodied.

So I’ll admit I wasn’t sure at first what exactly I’d get out of the global leadership program, since boldness of heart comes easily and execution of vision is a strong suit…

People can get so locked “inside the box” that their most daring act might be to simply step out of it.

And since I step out all the time, I wasn’t quite sure what GWLN would foster in me other than focus. (Um, yes, I’m eating that cardboard box of assumptions about now 😉 Here’s what happened…

The concentrated leadership training enabled me to not only step out of the box, but to unseal it…take the duct tape off the box, dismantle the thing altogether, and shift the structure into an entirely new form and way of thinking!

Now, united by the inspiration of these incredible women from Uganda, Pakistan, Turkey, Rwanda, Peru, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Nepal, Kenya, Zimbabwe, China and Korea via the U.S….I have an even stronger, supported vision, feeling that I could ‘dismantle that box’ time and again on a worldwide scale and morph and manage just about anything on the global stage.

Mind you, my creative enthusiasm is tempered by over-intellectualized analysis, so Cisco Systems became a key player in validating my hunches and giving me a reality check.

Cisco provided genuine support, warmth, and tangible ‘Human Connection’ (true to their tagline, thanks Melanie, Meg, Joan, Bev, et al!)…but they also demonstrated concrete viability of taking technology into a global platform to make it happen.

Who would believe we could have 22 global leaders sitting in a conference room linked on a satellite call with close to 50 women on the phone line from remote, hinterlands all over the world?

One woman from a village in Kenya was patched in via cellphone as a baby cried in the background, and it drove the point home that we are one…united through technology and purpose.

As GWLN’s self-funded vision emerged, their tagline, “whole woman, whole leader, whole world” became much more than a branding blurb to me.

They succeeded in developing leadership capacity in women who dare to change their organizations, communities, and the world itself by selecting an eclectic group of women yielding some unusually close-knit pairings.

We tapped into each others’ successes, connections, and resources to further our mutual goals, and shared new ways of viewing global challenges collectively far beyond any one of our own countries.

We sent a delegation with our GWLN declaration to the United Nations when U.N. Chief Ban Ki-Moon was in S.F., but equally important…we taught each other from our own life experiences bringing together leaders on the forefront of change in economic, political, education, health and well-being arenas…

We not only developed our own leadership capacities, we helped develop each other.

From Wujing, who is developing the nonprofit sector in the villages of China (her double PhD firepower became even more surreal when speakers kept using the phrase, “you don’t have to be a rocket scientist” countless times before Wujing disarmed us with comic timing, “Um, actually, I AM a rocket scientist”—ba-da-bing!)

…To my dear roommate, Debbie from Uganda who launched ASHOKA in East Africa as a self-help champion of social entrepreneurs…

…To wise Jin In who vaulted sage zingers into the room, one of which was just picked up by thought leader Ron Beckstrom, “Everything in life happens because of passion, every right thing in life happens because of compassion”

And to all the rest of you wonderful women that I’ll write about soon…

…I am simply humbled and honored to share the planet with you.

There’s amazing power in the ability to align with positive people that believe in you, leaving the shoulder shrugs behind.

And now, PulseWire (social media currently in beta) is providing GWLN a way to expand and share our global resources this fall so we’ll always remain connected. Yay!

Thank you, GWLN and Women Leaders for the World for selecting me as a U.S. representative, and for giving me a new global team of energy and trust…or as we say in my Hawaiian background, “ohana”—extended family.

I’ll be writing about each of you leaders and your visions to help youth see the promise of what can be…for YOU are the kind of role models we want to put forward, not the Paris Hiltonization of designer jailcell togs and vapid values of sad celebrity crash and burns…

I’m committed to doing my small part to inspire a planet where children are not defined by the media before they can even define themselves.

Now, we can ALL use the scalability of the internet to bring meaningful messages of self-worth and hope to even the most remote locales. Special thanks to Cisco Systems for showing us all the way…

Now if we could just “clone” Cisco Systems’ corporate social responsibility elsewhere we’d have more change agents that “get it.”

We’re all ready to bootstrap, implement and replicate a healthier worldview for us all. Wanna help? GWLN offers big bang for your buck, by supporting leaders on the cusp of big ideas so please get involved and help support GWLN any way you can!

Meanwhile, you can make a difference yourself by raising awareness, getting involved, and helping us shift the way media and marketing are “Shaping Youth.”

Ping me via comments with your main concerns and areas you want to see tackled. We’re ALL Shaping Youth…especially the peer to peer actions of youth themselves!

In addition to GWLN’s Linda Alepin and all the trainers/coaches, a heartfelt personal thank you to Maureen Simon who encouraged me to apply, Tanya Bunger who kept on my tail to turn in the application on time, gender specialist Bonita Banducci for her tireless leadership hosting global leaders and my angel investors/VC sponsors Carol Sands and Paula Beroza, for helping Shaping Youth emerge as a sustainable organization, gearing up for a massive movement toward the positive.

To Chen-Chen at Wharton Business School, Carrie at UCSC, and the others that approached me after speaking at the Global Women’s Innovation Dialogues about youth interns, we’ll be in touch…I need you!

As I quoted Thornton Wilder in my horrifically nervous closing speech,

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” I am VERY conscious…and you are ALL my treasures.

Now let’s make this happen!

Visual Credit: Image Zoo Illustrations, FotoSearch



  1. bill daul says


    It was great to see you get acknowledged for your work and passion. It was also great to hear how this experience connected you to more women (people) on a global scale doing socially good work…down right AMAZING work. Don’t forget to tell your friends about “Cow Shares” :-).


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