The Global Shapers Community is a network of Hubs developed and led by young people who are exceptional in their potential, their achievement and their drive to make a contribution to their communities.

Over one hundred and ten Global Shapers representing 15 Latin American countries met in Panama City, Panama. The name of the event was SHAPE; and shaped us it did.

The main topic of the conference was Rethinking Development in Latin America. There is a general conception that Latin America is a region with great potential for growth and development; but…what is development? What are the bases of development? How can we achieve this status wanted by so many people? Who are the key players in the development process?

In order to help the Global Shapers find answers to these questions so that they can return to their countries and support development, the Global Shapers Panama City Hub created a very diverse agenda, in which the Global Shapers learned, experienced, and discussed their ideas with a wide variety of people who have different ideas of what development truly is and how it can be achieved.

SHAPE Conference

Among other activities, we had the opportunity of meeting with Panama’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who dazzled us with astonishing statistics on how Panama and the region are having incredible economic development. We also met with several local indigenous tribes that live in the paradisiac island of Guna Yala who reminded us that our culture and roots are the basis of development. On Sunday morning we met with members of the Panamanian local community, ranging from age six to ninety, who agreed that education is the key for development. And finally, we had an outstanding, eye-opening, and moving talk with Coca-Cola Executives from Latin America who made us realize the key role that corporations play in development by sharing with us the inspirational corporate social responsibility projects they are leading in Latin America.

As a lawyer and professor, I found this last presentation overwhelmingly interesting. Having the opportunity to learn how The Coca-Cola Company is aiding community development in a wide variety of areas such as: poverty, entrepreneurship, health, environment, and even cultural topics, is truly inspiring as it teaches us that not only NGOs and government offices are helping improve the state of the world. Through the entire conference we learned that Coca-Cola, as well as many other corporations, have been a key player in helping to achieve development in Latin America, and that they will continue to do so as it is in their DNA.

In the end, I believe that entire SHAPE event was a big success, as was proven in our warm closing ceremony where even tears of joy were evident. And, even though we could not agree on an objective meaning of the term “development”, we reached a general consensus that it has something to do with well-being and happiness. I am sure this conference was productive for all of the Shapers that attended and it feels comforting to know that in the future we will see even more positive impact in the region by the Global Shapers.

Gabriel Silva is a Global Shaper in the Panama City, Panama Hub.  He is a lawyer and professor and you can find him on Facebook.