Updated: Sep 23
Dave Hanley, CEO of Tomorrow, is leaving his mark on a global scale. His work in global activism earned Hanley a seat as a young global leader attendee of the World Economic Forum. This forum is an annual meeting founded on the idea that there are problems too big for governments, businesses, or multilateral organizations—such as the United Nations—to solve on their own. The forum connects young leaders to successful CEOs, Head of States, and other prominent individuals and academics who can assist them professionally and financially. They work together to address the big problems—such as climate change and world humanitarian needs.
Hanley describes the forum as an opportunity for himself and other attendees to shift their focus from making money to making a difference. While every rising professional may not have the chance to attend the World Economic Forum, most still want to make an impact. The question is, how can they do it? To them and anyone seeking to make a difference, Hanley offers three fundamentals of global engagement—see problems first-hand, foster passion, and say yes to opportunities.
While looking for ways to make a difference, many fret, “I want to help, but I don’t know how.” According to Hanley, discovering how to help starts by seeing problems first-hand. Living in Bangladesh and India gave Hanley “a view of the context of those massive markets of people and what their needs are.” He experienced for himself areas in which opportunities to make a difference occur. He saw “what it’s like to travel and hitch-hike and ride on the tops of busses and trains,” allowing him to “[understand] what constraints can be there.” He advises that those seeking to expand their reach to the global sphere should go see what problems exist in other areas of the world.
Not only does seeing problems first-hand offer global leaders an understanding of how they can help, but it also instills in leaders the empathy necessary to genuinely help others. Hanley believes his experience living abroad gave him such empathy. He asserts, “in the United States—in North America—we live a very segregated life socioeconomically. We’re typically only with people of our own socioeconomic level and we very rarely have a front row seat to true poverty.” However, “when you go abroad you actually get that empathy and you realize, ‘oh wow, people are really struggling.’” This recognition comes most profoundly through personally witnessing the struggles. Seeing problems first-hand allows individuals to understand, empathize, and genuinely collaborate with others to make a difference.
Once individuals understand the problems that exist in the global sphere, they must foster passion around those issues and around their route to solving them. For Hanley, the path involved fostering his passion for startups. He says, “I really enjoy the work of companies, startups—I love creating, tuning, launching.” By pursuing this passion, Hanley has gained a level of experience where he is trusted to advise and sit on the boards of many organizations, making a difference particularly through non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—what people in the United States call non-profit organizations. For example, Hanley advises one Chinese water NGO that educates millions of children about how the products they consume impact water purity.
Passion naturally comes from where people put their time and energy. To foster passion around making a difference, Hanley instructs individuals to “take time out… to provide emotional support or professional support to these amazing social entrepreneurs who are out there doing incredible things.” Dedicating time to develop skill sets and put them to use for good will help young professionals develop the passion necessary to have a genuine influence on the world. However, many individuals working to make a difference struggle to simultaneously make a living. Hanley suggests that this struggle is largely tied to passion. He says, “it turns out when you make money at what you do… you can really innovate your way into creating a business… like what I’m doing now, [referring to his work as CEO of Tomorrow,] which is actually benefitting now hundreds of thousands of families who are protecting their kids with our products.”
At the heart of Hanley’s advice to young leaders is his philosophy that, “the secret to happiness in this life is saying yes.” Hanley asserts that opportunities will arise as individuals dig around and read or see something that inspires them. He instructs, “it’s going to call you to action and you just need to act.” Hanley recounts his own experience being inspired to act after hearing Christiana Figueres and Tom Carnac tell how they orchestrated actions leading up to the Paris Climate Accords. He says that experience made him realize he needed to act both in his personal life and by applying his skills and his network. Emphasizing the importance of saying yes when opportunities and ideas arise, he says, “if… you read the writings of someone or you see a part of the world or a problem that interests you, just go find somewhere to get involved and just say yes to it, because you never know where it’s going to lead.” For Hanley, saying yes lead him to the World Economic Forum. For rising professionals, saying yes to opportunities is key to extending their reach to the global sphere.
Just as Hanley is leaving his mark on a global scale, rising professionals can set their tracks to do the same. Individuals seeking ways to make a difference can start by taking time to discover what challenges occur in other areas of the world. They should find opportunities to see problems first-hand. Young professionals should then work to foster their passions around both global issues and the method through which they can contribute to solving those problems. This means dedicating time to both. While looking for and fostering passion around global issues, rising leaders must say yes to opportunities that come their way. They must say yes when they are stirred to act. Following these fundamentals of global engagement, young leaders can deepen their passion and work towards making a global difference.
For more insights on how to make a difference internationally, view Dave Hanley’s Global Perspectives Summit 2020 presentation here.
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