Global Issues Network (GIN)

The Global Issues Network (GIN) empowers young people to collaborate locally, regionally and globally to create solutions for global issues. Each year, thousands of students worldwide engage in GIN-related activities. Their approach centers on the self-funded conferences in which GIN teams from various schools travel to a regional conference to exchange ideas and presentations with other participating schools. They also encourage on-the-ground projects and partnerships with local non-profits and other organizations.

History

The GIN originated in 2003, when a group of International School teachers and administrators lamented the fact that so many students were not participating enough in addressing the global challenges facing the world today. Seeing a ton of potential in their students, they realized these kids just had to be empowered to help solve some of these issues. They decided to use Jean-François Rischard book High Noon: Twenty Global Problems, Twenty Years to Solve Them as a model. In the 2002 book, Mr. Rischard, a World Bank economist first laid out the most pressing issues such as global warming, illiteracy, infectious disease, water shortages and poverty. He then pointed out that the existing international institutions addressing these issues, such as individual government agencies and international organizations, are often hindered by their own lack of insight, bureaucracy or myopia and as a result are ineffective. In order to get around these obstacles and seek real solutions before it is too late, called for flexible and responsive “global issues networks."

Inspired by his ideas, the GIN founders realized that if the international schools were able to collaborate and engage their studentsm they might be able to create one of these "Global Issue Networks" Rischard envisioned. The objectives of the GIN Network, as taken from their website, is to:

  • INFORM: providing students with resources to learn about global issues
  • INSPIRE: coordinating events that motivate students to act on global issues
  • EQUIP: training students with the necessary skills and tools to tackle global issues
  • ACT: encouraging and facilitating collaborative and sustainable action on global issues

Today, the the Global Issues Network has grown rapidly to include students from more than 200 schools across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas; the GIN has also cultivated an active body of alumni in universities and beyond. It is interesting to note that Mr. Rischard has offered his counsel and support to the project.

 

How They Operate

Schools that choose to participate form a team with a teacher coordinating the students participation.

The Global Issues Network is centered on their regional conferences, which bring together teams from participating schools to meet and exchange ideas. They also invite experts, non-profit leaders and guest speakers to enhance the program. These conferences are self-funded and range in size from 100 to 800 participants. They are usually hosted by local international schools. 

An important distinction about these conferences is the fact they focus on cooperation, not competition.  Students are encouraged to take the leadership roles in addressing the social issues, while teachers participate in supporting roles. GIN describes their conference format as "similar to a professional conference, with plenary and breakout sessions led by students, and social activities that promote exchange and collaboration around global issues. Keynote speakers are typically young – from school age to 30 – and offer inspiration and direction for their audiences."

Here is a video summary of one recent GIN conference:

In addition to conferences, schools teams are also encouraged to integrate GIN-related activities into their schools. GIN clubs (similar to Social Action clubs) allow school groups to participate in local or global projects and collaborate with other schools. 

GIN also encourages - and helps - students and teachers form partnerships with non-profit organizations, universities, and corporations in order to understand and address global issues. 

They recently launched a great website which is hosted by the Washington International School (WIS) but is maintained by participating schools around the world. The site is set up as a forum of sorts and encourages collaborative work between participating schools and students.