From poverty and hunger to climate change and preventable disease, the global challenges of 21st century are vast. Often the approach to addressing these issues is either one-dimensional, focusing on isolated issues in a particular location, or it is an attempt at universalism, without regard to local culture and populations.
The economic, environmental, social, and health challenges we face are both global and systemic and therefore leadership and solutions must also be defined by those terms. Globalization’s complex inter-connectedness has transcended these issues into the global arena. Many argue that globalization is responsible for the world’s ills. However, there is nothing inherently good or evil about globalization; it is a system of social, political, and economic phenomena.
As globalization is not the source of the issues before us, left unfettered, it will neither solve problems nor curb their effect. The extraordinary amount of access available through technology and transportation presents an increased opportunity for influence and scale beyond our borders. This access allows global solutions to have an impact of a size and scope equal to the issues we face.
Global leadership is the product of awareness, critical thinking, and action, and global leaders are those few who are at the forefront of effecting transformative global solutions. We must transcend geographical, cultural, ideological, and religious boundaries. We must begin to address global challenges at their root causes rather than merely treating their symptoms. We must inspire, empower, and develop leaders that will effectively utilize our complex system to create a more just and sustainable world.
David French, Founder of Orbis Institute and Chairman of the Board of Directors, understood that meeting the challenges of the 21st century would require cross-cultural understanding and leadership development. David used his four decades of experience with business and non-profits to build an organization that would effectively realize his vision for globally minded leadership.
In 1996, the first programs began with the help of students from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s President’s Leadership Class (PLC). Together, students launched an innovative training program for globally minded young leaders called the Emerging Leaders Forum (ELF). In its pilot year, ELF brought together participants from ten countries including Slovakia, China, South Korea, Japan, Nepal, England, Israel, Russia, Germany, and the United States.
With ELF’s success, in 2002, the program evolved into World Camp, and Orbis became an independent 501(c)3. Over the years Orbis has conducted 8 World Camp programs in the US, China, and Central Europe.
Orbis currently focuses on three core age groups – high school, college and post-graduate participants. Each program utilizes Orbis’ own global leadership curriculum to foster awareness, critical thinking, and action. Designed to allow students to advance with each level, the graduated approach gives Orbis the opportunity to work with participants and follow them as they grow from students into global leaders.
Orbis Institute’s programs have impacted over 5,000 youth from 35 countries around the world: Afghanistan, Canada, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, El Salvador, England, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, India, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Peru, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Somalia, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, Zimbabwe.