Reflections on being a Curator with Gurugram hub of Global Shapers Community
Hi, I am Dhara Shah. I am the outgoing curator of the Gurugram Hub 2021-2022. In this blogpost, I’m documenting my curatorship journey and sharing my perspective in the hope that it will be helpful to other curators/ shapers.
My curatorship application
The Gurugram Shapers Hub started in 2019. In the initial two years, the Hub was in the direction phase with centralized leadership. For my curatorship application, I built on this diagram on the Global Shapers Guides website.
I wanted to take a deterministic path towards helping the Hub mature towards a decentralized leadership. This would put the Hub on the right path not just for this year but also lay a strong foundation for future curators.
I focused on three clear areas — processes, projects, and people.
One of the first things I did was to bring structure to hub outputs.
📌 Why it matters: Every Global Shaper volunteers while working a full-time job. Hence, everyone has limited time and bandwidth to give. Yet, we’d like our work to add up to something meaningful in the long-run.
🎯 Focus on the long game. The year before my curatorship, I had already set up narishakti.in, a vertical media site on gender. Within NariShakti too, I had consolidated it’s information architecture into four clear buckets:
- Learn contains all projects that focus on upskilling women.
- Grow would focus on projects that help women get jobs or improve their businesses.
- Responsible has initiatives that would help women be responsible for their choices, community, and society in general.
- Finally, Live focused on helping women achieve work-life balance.
A meta-structure like this helps shapers to build on prior work, quickly launch a project, and contribute towards a long-term body of work. This year, I decided to double down on verticals.
🌐 Build the Hub’s digital presence. As a young hub, it is critical to establish credibility with our partners early on. One way to do that is to document everything we do in one place. Hence, we launched the shapersgurugram.com website.
📘 Governance. As a volunteering-first organization, it became critical that we spend as little time as possible coordinating and as much time as possible on projects. Hence, we adopted Notion.so for documentation and weekly agenda-setting. We also updated our hub charter:
- We opened up two new roles in the hub — communication officer (for external hub communication) and people officer (for hub engagement) to get more people involved and give them more avenues for leadership.
- We updated the leave or sabbatical policy to handle more scenarios
- We added a conflict resolution mechanism section
- We started documenting all our project impact and activities in Notion. Special thanks to our IO, Aashraya and Communication Officer, Tanya and Niharika for driving this.
- Finally, we introduced membership fees for financial sustainability of the hub
Projects with partners
For projects, there are 3 key criteria of selection – what are you passionate about, do you or your hub have the right skills to execute and is it a local problem that your city faces. Basis this ,within the narishakti’s responsible and live categories, the Hub launched three projects:
- narishakti.in/responsible/she-leads-green: In the She Leads Green project women climate leaders from two knowledge partners and seven outreach partners conducted skill-building workshops. Led and driven by our shapers Anurit, Aashraya and Piyush. We got some local coverage for our work in a notable, independent digital media publication: thebastion.co.in/politics-and/achieving-sustainable-development-by-accelerating-gender-equality
- narishakti.in/live/outdoors is a collection of 50 or more uncommon locations and places one can visit when in the mood to explore Delhi NCR which can help you reconnect with nature, improve wellbeing and push for more sustainable cities! Led and driven by our shaper Aditi.
- narishakti.in/responsible/fempanel is our attempt to move the needle on manels. Fempanel is database of women experts across industries bringing gender diversity to events. Led and driven by our shapers Harsha, Raashika and Shorya.
Along with NariShakti, the team expressed interest in launching a health vertical. To pilot it out, the team launched the Breathe Gurgaon project, in which shapers along with The Tree Box Initiative fundraised Rs. 35,000 to plant 100,000 trees in Gurgaon. Led and driven by our shapers Ankush, Manan and Anurit.
Finally, we hosted training sessions for hub members to help them leverage Toplink and connect with larger communities globally. 30 Shapers from 6 Global Shapers Hub (Managua, Jaipur, Indore, Kathmandu, Yaoundé, Gurugram) participated in the session. shapersgurugram.com/toplink
Volunteering with Global Shapers is all about people building.
⚙️ From profile-first to skills-first. Each project had a very specific need in terms of skills/ areas they lack. Hence, for the first time, we did skill-based recruitment looking for specialists instead of generalist. It was a tough process to find candidates with relevant skillsets but we managed to get around 30+ very high quality applications. More on it here – shapersgurugram.com/join-us/
👨👩👧👧 Expanding inclusivity. Taking a step towards building a more inclusive hub, we selected seven new members coming from diverse age groups, gender, skills, socio-economic background.
👋 Structured onboarding. To help them learn more about the hub, we paired them with a buddy shaper. This way each new member gets an opportunity to connect with the team and build deeper bonds. This effort was led and driven by our people officer, Prishta.
🤝 Back to basics. As Covid restrictions eased out, it became critical that we start rebuilding the personal bond amongst Shapers beyond their projects. We cautiously started with quarterly meetups, which we are gradually moving to monthly. Finally, this month in July 2022, we will do our first hub retreat since the existence of hub. This effort was led and driven by our vice curator, Prabhu.
By this time, most of the founding members had left. Only Priya Prakash — our founding curator — and I remain.
I built my curatorship on the assumption that helping young shapers successfully execute meaningful projects would help build the second rank of leaders who can take the hub forward.
However, I failed to take into consideration the strategic impact of Covid-19. As the restrictions eased and life restarted, many of the Hub members were facing health issues, decided to take a switch in their careers and thus decided to switch jobs, study further, or move to their hometowns.
As a result, candidates for curatorship election dropped off and hence we had uncontested elections.
What’s next for the Hub
We’ll rebuild the Hub and bring in fresh energy, ideas, and people. We will soon start hiring again! Check out this space for more updates shapersgurugram.com/join-us
So… here’s some advice for incoming curators
🇮🇳 Build a local board. Running the Hub wasn’t easy. I had immense support from Priya Prakash, our founding curator and Anomitra, our outgoing curator.
🌍 Build a global board. I constantly kept sharing updates and seeking inputs from Karen, our Community Manager and Jaideep, our Community Champion.
💬 Be ready for tough conversations. Many of my fellow Shapers are my good friends too. But once I became the curator, I had to let some of them go as per the charter when they did not contribute.
💙 Leverage the community. Your biggest support system is going to be the Global Shapers community itself. Build on it. I started my curatorship by connecting one-on-one with 50+ curators across 20+ countries to learn from them and understand their perspective. This laid the foundation for the coming year. I highly recommend doing this!
Here are some takeaways from those conversations:
- Victor Ertl from the Munich Hub shared a very well structured template to organize hub information — like building a database of all shapers(existing, alumni), membership status (active, not active, frozen), attendance in meetings, diversity in gender, nationality, age, project topics.
- Chloe Ling from the Kaula Lumpur Hub emphasized the importance of not just documenting things but also ensuring people follow it. She also shared interesting ideas on hub engagement (eg: celebrating shaper’s birthday)
- Kananelo Sebati from the Tshwane Hub shared how to handle difficult conversation when shapers are inactive and not contributing. Ask one simple question — “What was the purpose of joining the hub? Is it achieved? If not, how can I support you?”
- Sakari Teerikoski from the Stockholm Hub shared how two of their hub projects eventually became independent platforms and not-for-profits. I see this as a long-term goal for narishakti.in
- Lin Shi from the Los Angeles Hub shared a very important learning on building leadership skills. Often, people in leadership positions impose their ideas and plans but do not understand what are the motivations of other hub members.
- Karthik Rampalli from the Yokohama Hub shared how he wanted to focus on partnerships and cross hub collaboration and work very closely with other Japanese hubs.
- Ayushka Nugaliyadda from Colombo Hub shared how her hub is very strong in on-ground project implementation and were struggling with digital engagement post Covid . She also shared her experience of organizing SHAPE events.
- Ondela Mlandu from Cape Town Hub shared her challenge with hub engagement and how her hub has taken a very different approach to doing projects. They focus on one issue at a time and all shapers handle different aspects of that one big project.
- Amine Aitoumeziane from Lyon Hub shared how to get more shapers to use Toplink by showing them trailers and getting them hooked by exploring together projects that other hubs are working on but on themes that their hub is interested in.
- Gaurav Sharma and Avi Aggarwal from Jaipur Hub shared best practices on how they are trying to make their hub financially sustainable by charging minimum membership fee/ contribution. They were also in the process of getting the hub registered as an NGO so that financing can be better managed with increased transparency.