Crossing Boundaries, Bridging Gaps – Insights from the CGI U Meeting 2017
Happening for the 10th time, the annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Meeting took place in Boston from October 13-15, 2017. We crossed boundaries and bridged gaps as we discussed and developed innovative solutions to pressing global challenges with fellow young leaders from many different parts of the world.
written by Nana Ama Beryl Akuffo-Kwapong
Along with Melton Fellow, Ashitha Nayak from Bangalore, I had the incredible opportunity to learn, share and engage with emerging young leaders from around the world. In much anticipation, we stacked our suitcases with our neatly ironed formal wear and neatly polished boots in readiness for this year’s annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Meeting. The prestige of the event was no news and we wore this awarded privilege to attend with pride. We were ready to learn from other attendees, share our personal stories and work as Melton Fellows and also increase our human connections and network.
This year’s CGI U Meeting was apparently no different from the previous years in terms of the opportunity delivery and standard. The three-day event kick started on Friday with a networking dinner where we interacted with other attendees and learned about numerous projects from select participants and the impact made. In that moment, we felt like we were in a space with people who actually have the power to change the current dynamics of human existence. Everyone there would change the world; we hoped.
The networking dinner was followed by a gathering where Bill and Chelsea Clinton gave their opening remarks to officially welcome all participants to the event. They promised an impactful and engaging summit in Northeastern University, Boston. Focused on finding ways to break down the new walls that divide us, the opening plenary resonated deeply with our global citizenship mission in life. The plenary focused on the current political climate in the US and in many other places around the world. We were advised to never normalize hate speech and to always focus on bridging the gaps that have been designed to divide. Their remarks were profoundly refreshing and helped kick start the conference with timely and needed community building and solidarity. This energized us in eagerness for what the next day would bring.
Day 2 offered a variety of panel discussions with resourceful panelists who brought different perspectives on issues such as opioid addiction, diversity, climate change and leadership.Although certain conversations were exclusive to the US context, it was an opportunity for us to also reflect on the problems in our own countries and how to think and design solutions to solve them. Chelsea Clinton, who moderated the panel discussions mentioned words that will stay with me for a long time:
“The stories we tell matter, words matter.”
Inspired by the panel discussions, we spread out to dig our hands and hearts deeper into the matter. Ashitha attended a workshop which discussed how to align one’s degree with their skills while I attended a workshop which focused on ways of overcoming the backlash when dealing with LGBT+. The LGBT+ plenary stressed on intersectionality and the need for allies to raise the voices of vulnerable queer individuals in their various societies. We both felt the Global Citizenship spirit very much alive at the CGI U Meeting and could gather different perspectives on a multitude of topics. At the end of the day we were quite exhausted yet charged for the “Day of Action” to follow.
The Day of Action was the crowning moment of this year’s conference. It was a morning of impact and an opportunity to give back to the Boston community. In teams, attendees worked on projects that involved painting, gardening and general cleaning of specific areas around the city. Although it was a short event, it was a valuable chance for all attendees to engage with local communities while exercising our volunteering desires.
For me, the conference was yet another opportunity to meet people like me and build meaningful connections to improve the future of our world. It was an opportunity to learn how to empathize with problems that aren’t necessarily my own as well as explore different perspectives on an issue. With all the meaningful conversations and these established networks made, we look forward to successfully carrying out our commitment to action.
We would like to thank the Melton Foundation for the privilege to attend, the Melton Foundation staff for the constant support and everyone who helped in making this possible.