As a proud Founding Global Partner of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community, The Coca-Cola Company believes young people have an indispensable role in shaping a better, brighter and happier future. This special series highlights the 13 Global Shaper hub projects – the semifinalists competing to win five $10,000 prizes as part of the Coca-Cola Shaping a Better Future Grant Challenge for the Global Shapers Community.

Jamaica is a globally recognized cultural powerhouse. With a population of almost 3 million people, the island’s international notoriety far outweighs it size. This is a phenomenon very few countries can relate to. We are a very proud people and rightfully so, having produced iconic musicians, athletes and more, all of whom represent the energetic the spirit of our island. We are also the home of world-famous Blue Mountain Coffee, Ackee and Saltfish and Jerk Chicken.

On the other end however, for the past three decades Jamaica’s economy has been on the decline and the country has been slow to progress in terms of development. This has left an entire generation of youth eager to maximize their potential, disengaged, despondent and often hopeless. The problem is severe; a recent survey of young people has indicated that over 50 percent would leave the island given the opportunity.

Furthermore, after being the first former colony within Africa and the Caribbean to hold free elections, pioneering post-colonial democracy, Jamaica’s lowest voter turn out of 53.17 percent happened during our last general election. If this number continues to decline it can potentially threaten our country’s democracy.

Kingston Global Shapers

Like many countries, island nations have not done a great job at embracing and empowering youth. The problem is so pervasive that it forced the World Economic Forum to form the Global Shapers Community.

The Kingston Hub has decided to expand the mission of the Shaper’s community to a wider audience with the Speak Up Jamaica Campaign; a multimedia and event platform designed to amplify the voices of youth on issues of national development and increase youth participation in the democratic process.

This project is a game changer because it targets youth in a way that actually engages and empowers them, in a way that only youth can execute because it is our reality, and our responsibility to help in reducing apathy among our peers. 

We are providing youth with an opportunity to get involved with the issues that matter to them by taking action instead of waiting on others. The project integrates social media and young influencers with uniquely curated events designed to build a spirit of civic engagement. Our social media driven #hashtaglunchbag Kingston project has to date engaged over 300 young people and fed over 3,000 of the capital city's poorest and most vulnerable.  We have partnered with globally recognized Miss Jamaica Universe 2014, Kaci Fennell to raise awareness of our mission and the project. It forms a critical part of the Speak Up Jamaica Project, as poverty is one of the major issues we are tackling in addition to education, security, youth unemployment and voter participation.

Speak Up Jamaica will put young people in direct dialogue with power holders and influencers on issues that concern them.

It is important to note that we expect a general election by 2016, making this project timely and ripe for impact. One of our foremost deliverables includes hosting a youth oriented town hall including stakeholders from our two major political parties. By giving youth a voice prior to the election we expect that once engaged, they can be encouraged to convert their voice into a more meaningful vote. 

The best thing about Speak Up Jamaica is that it is replicable and therefore scalable and has the potential for widespread disruptive impact. We don’t have to look beyond the shores of other Caribbean nations for expansion. The project will be made sustainable through the support of various brand partners and the sale of merchandise to our supporters. Youth want to be actively involved in positive change and they are more than willing to where this emblem of action proudly.

Kingston Global Shaper

Kirk-Anthony Hamilton is an entrepreneur from Kingston, Jamaica. He is currently working on sustainable models for tourism and development that prioritize the economic security of local people and resources, providing a lasting alternative to the exploitative, unsustainable models often found in the Caribbean. He intends to fuse his creativity and business acumen to produce lifestyle oriented carbon neutral communities funded in part by local investors. He has created a platform called ‘The Destination Experience’, which brings together local and international business leaders driving further connectivity between the Caribbean and other markets. The hospitality sector is a catalyst for his plans, but Kirk-Anthony is working on ways for a multiplier effect to seep into other parts of the private sector. In May of 2015 Kirk-Anthony was selected as 1 of 75 Emerging Global Entrepreneurs to be honored for their achievements by President Obama at the Whitehouse. He is the Curator of the Kingston Hub and A One Young World Ambassador.