Authors: Karina Perez Jvostova and Veronica Diaz Sosa
The maiden edition of the UNLEASH Ambassador Program was launched in 2021 with a cohort of 40 Ambassadors from 31 countries around the world. These Ambassadors selected based on being highly active UNLEASH Alumni, have worked tirelessly over the past year to increase engagement within the community of changemakers in UNLEASH programs.
From organizing and facilitating UNLEASH Hacks and functioning as experts and mentors in UNLEASH Plus, to engaging with the Secretariat to help scale UNLEASH’s impact, Ambassadors are key actors. Through several workshops, UNLEASH Ambassadors have developed community engagement strategies, learned facilitation skills, and participated in knowledge sharing sessions with UNLEASH Innovation Advisory Board members. Collectively, Ambassadors led 35 events engaging online and in-person invites, attracting 2000+ participants from around the world.
Not all Ambassadors wear suits- Karina Perez Jvostova, UNLEASH Ambassador 2021
What I took with me from the UNLEASH Lab in Shenzhen was a message from Leymah Gbowee, which can be summarized like this: “Be bold; do not be afraid to take up space, let the world see you.” These words resonated with me, against years of socialized and internalized learning about the prescribed role of women.
In late 2020, I saw a call for applications on UNLEASH’s social media to join the first cohort of the UNLEASH Ambassador Program. The idea behind this program was to leverage the creativity and local networks of former participants to continue engaging youth beyond the annual events. Somehow, when I saw ‘Ambassador’, I pictured a bearded man, wearing a suit, delivering a speech in an auditorium. “Very cool, but not for me,” I thought. I decided I was not going to apply. Yet, a week before the application deadline, I was shocked by some statistics that UNLEASH shared on their social media: only 30% of the applications coming in were from women whereas more than half of all Talents worldwide were women!
This brought me back to Leymah Gbowee’s message. Somehow, I had settled into seeing myself as a doer, a participant, and not a leader and a representative. I knew much of it had to do with internalized gender roles, and, clearly, this was how other UNLEASH talents were thinking as well. I decided then, that I will send in an application. I was going to take up space and let the world see me. Twelve months later, I do not regret this decision.
All the Ambassadors- including the women- have done an amazing job representing the interests of the UNLEASH talents in their regions, coming up with ideas and strategies to grow the community, and being powerful representatives of UNLEASH. I hope we all continue to encourage, support, and take space so that women and all underrepresented groups overcome the social and personal limitations to take leadership roles. At least now, when I think of ‘ambassadors’ I do not imagine bearded men in suits; I see a diversity of people, including women that wear embroidered blouses and headscarves; and are unafraid to be bold.
Karina at UNLEASH Lab, Shenzhen-2019
New faces, new talents, more impact!- Veronica Diaz Sosa, UNLEASH Ambassador, 2021
UNLEASH has been a very important player in my life in the last three years. My first contact with UNLEASH was when I was selected as a Talent to participate in the Lab 2019 in Shenzhen, China. I had the time of my life there, experiencing the UNLEASH innovation process, with a lot of hard work and late nights, but also making long-lasting friends.
For more than 7 years, I have advocated for the inclusion of minorities in international decision-making processes regarding water. This passion, coupled with the knowledge that UNLEASH motivates and empowers young leaders to work towards a more sustainable world, gave me a desire to reactivate my engagement with the UNLEASH Community. So, when I heard about UNLEASH’s new Ambassador Program, I did not hesitate to apply. I was super excited to reintegrate myself into the UNLEASH Community when I was selected! I was one of the five Ambassadors from Latin America and the Caribbean, and we just had a blast working together.
I was privileged to be able to organize an UNLEASH Hack in Mexico, and the experience was like a pressure cooker for learning how to organize events! I had support from one other Talent and included some other people that were interested in the UNLEASH experience. We put a lot of effort and time; and connected with so many organizations that expanded our networks. In the end, the event was a success, and we were very proud to see the Talents enjoying the experience, working super hard, and coming up with amazing solutions! Some of these solutions were even invited to join the UNLEASH Plus program!
Now is the end of 2021 and with that, the end of our first UNLEASH Ambassador cohort. It is time to open the floor for new faces, new talent, and hopefully many amazing events that keep on motivating the world to move into more sustainable practices for a better future for us all.
Veronica at UNLEASH Lab, Shenzhen-2019
The Ambassador Program in 2022
The UNLEASH Ambassador Program is going into its next iteration in 2022 with a bigger and more diverse group of passionate UNLEASHers all over the world! A big thank you to all current Ambassadors who have committed to staying on next year, and to Karina and Veronica for their great contributions to the program. We cannot wait to continue joining efforts to drive impact for SDGs in the coming year!