This summer, the Calgary Hub of the Global Shapers Community will host SHAPE North America, a summit of young leaders from across the Unites States, Canada and Caribbean. As a founding partner, Coca-Cola supports and engages with Global Shapers at regional SHAPE events around the world.

SHAPE North America is shaping up to be the largest SHAPE ever held. It is taking place July 24-27 and will be an inflection point in the growth and influence of the North American Global Shaper Community.

Global Shaper Japman Bajaj is no stranger to shaking up business. The award-winning entrepreneur and community builder founded Gen Y Ottawa, a network of emerging leaders in Ottawa, which has created significant economic impact over the past five years. He is also the founder of Soshal, an industry-leading user experience and technology firm in the higher education space. In 2010, Japman was honored as Social Entrepreneur of the Year and in 2012 was named one of Ottawa's Top 25 Rising Stars.

Now in Calgary, he is a member of the Calgary Stampede Volunteer Committee and helped develop the City of Calgary's five-year Economic Development Strategy. In early 2015, he successfully exited his startup and is in the midst of developing his next initiative, a nonprofit organization in the education space. We spoke to him recently.

What is your vision for SHAPE North America?

I believe that SHAPE is an incredibly important part of the Global Shapers experience. We are working very hard to make this gathering as accessible as possible to as many Shapers as possible. We’ve taken a concerted effort this year to view SHAPE as our version of the Olympics. This has many implications. Firstly, the sports at the Olympics never change, only the venue. Therefore, the content at SHAPE is going to be universally relevant, and the Canadian focus will have limited impact on the program. That’s not to say you won’t be treated to amazing Albertan food, traditions and themes. It simply means that we recognize that SHAPE has to be a destination for every single Global Shaper in the region, and that SHAPE in general needs to become a central piece of every Hub’s schedule and agenda every single year. The best way to do this is to make the programming actionable and applicable for every single attendee, and to maximize the interactions that Shapers have with each other.

Why is the theme of 'Colliding Energies' important?

Alberta often gets seen as a one-trick pony. We’re a top-tier energy superpower nestled in the prairies of a global middle-power. There are incredible advantages and disadvantages that come with this. In addition, the past 12 months have seen incredible strides in North America, ranging from economic issues like the Keystone Pipeline’s viability and effects, socio-cultural issues like the events in Ferguson, and infrastructure conversations like Elon Musk’s growing Tesla superhighway network, among many others. At the Global Shaper’s Annual Curators Meeting last year, Professor Schwab reminded us that we are inheriting a world of problems that were created by the generation before us. So, as I’ve been asking every Global Shaper I’ve met over the past five months, if we don’t talk about these problems, who will? SHAPE is meant to have these conversations, and to create actionable leadership and change.

What do you hope to accomplish through this meeting of Millennial minds?

The SHAPE North America core team (which includes Kassie Burkholder, Ashlyn Bernier and Mustafa Ali from Edmonton, and Eric Termuende and Priyanka Karuvelil from Calgary, and many other Alberta Global Shapers) has big designs for this year’s SHAPE Conference in North America.

Inwardly, strengthening the bonds between Global Shapers and Hubs is of paramount importance to me. The members of our community feel much more engaged and empowered after meaningful interactions with other members. We need to create that type of experience and figure out how to create more of these opportunities so that our region is the strongest Shaper region in the world.

Cross-collaboration has also been a topic that has come up often in my travels through North American Hubs this year. If we are the best and brightest of our generation, which I truly believe we are, then the positions, actions and stands that we can take as a unified group are going to cause ripples for our leaders of the day.                   

Ultimately, we know that creating a life-altering experience through action and interaction is what’s going to bring us to these goals. Our community is ready for a major shift, and SHAPE North America 2015 is going be its driver, and the reaction from hubs around the region has echoed that sentiment. We’re expecting more than 200 Shapers this year, and there’s still lots of room for Shapers and organizational partners to be a part of it. 

How has being a Global Shaper impacted you? Why is this community of young leaders important?

Being a Global Shaper serves as a constant reminder that the world is mine and ours and therefore, we need to take care of it and its inhabitants. Inspirational people like Terence Steinberg, who focuses on environmental issues and ethical buying habits, remind me about the potential we have to directly impact our future. Global Shapers expand my mind, my responsibility, and my professional network. 

Being a Global Shaper has drastically changed my life and I would argue it has set it back on course. It's reminded me what people are capable of, and what I'm capable of, and that we have to work collectively and cohesively to maximize our positive impact on the planet. 

In Geneva this past summer, one of the Global Shapers from Washington, D.C relayed a great story about what it means to be a member of this community and the platform it provides us to excel and create impact. She then posed a question to us, making reference to the idea that by being Global Shapers, we are "Standing on the shoulders of Giants". She then asked us "For Whom Are You Preparing Your Shoulders?" That has been a strong theme of my life since Annual Curators Meeting, and it has become the embodiment of the spirit that unites and aligns us around the world. 


Japman Bajaj is a Global Shaper in the Calgary Hub.