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Uniting People Around a Shared Identity and Common Agenda

Every fortnight, we hand over the blog to one of the London Shapers, to give you a flavour of what they do, how they think and what's really going on in our hearts and minds. Today's piece comes from Alvin Carpio, who is Founder and Chief Executive at The Fourth Group.

Nationalist populism has upended society and is strengthening as a movement worldwide. The Global Shapers respect and welcome people from all backgrounds and viewpoints. The World Economic Forum's mission statement says, "We believe that progress happens by bringing together people from all walks of life who have the drive and the influence to make positive change." Our strapline is "Committed to improving the state of the world".

A problem arises when these values of the Forum and Global Shapers is attacked. The values of global citizenship, collaboration and friendship with folk no matter their background, and the belief that we are stronger together - these are being chipped away by actors and movements which seek to criticise and break down the things Global Shapers stands for.

The rise of nationalist populism can be attributed to many issues debated by leaders, commentators, and the everyday person. Some blame it on the impact of growing inequality, the existence of poverty, and perceptions of unfairness based on events such as the 2008 financial crisis and the increasing wealth of the elite. Some put this down to the self-interest of looking after one's compatriots, and also the desire for independence and sovereignty. Others point to organised efforts to stoke up fear of immigrants and the other.

What we know is that, for example, identitarians and so-called Nipsters (neo-Nazi hipsters) in Germany - organised via the Alternative for Germany (AfD) - are using symbols to unite people against Muslims. Steve Bannon's The Movement - as shown in the documentary "The Brink" - has sought to create flags and icons to unite right-wing populist movements which stand against the values of Global Shapers.

But then there are the movements and initiatives which have sought to unite people globally around addressing global problems. Most recently, Extinction Rebellion's extinction symbol was created to represent the planet and the stylised hourglass is a warning that time is running out for many species. History is peppered with other prominent examples such as the white dove used to represent peace, the crucifix to represent Christianity and the idea of sacrifice, and rainbow-coloured flag for the pride movement. Again, more recently, there is the hashtag #MeToo which became a symbol for speaking up about sexual harassment. In terms of building regional and international identities, we also have the flags and anthems of the European Union and the United Nations. Finally, we have the use of emojis. Whilst this might seem, on first glance, trivial, emojis have been used to express and influence people's moods on a global scale often on a minute-by-minute basis. All of these examples show the power of an image, an icon, a symbol, to shape the world.

One conclusion is that we must not doubt the power of a symbol or image or iconography in bringing people together and inspiring action through creating a shared identity and meaning.

The London Global Shapers have very recently voted to explore this specific issue. The question we will investigate and address this year for our hub project is: "How do we unite people around a shared identity that stands for the values of Global Shapers and others?"

We hope you are inspired by this. To get involved, email us.

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