By Meaghan Gonsior

The Treehouse Institute, located in Portland, announced on December 3, 2015 the selection of the city’s “inaugural class of Global Shapers;” an international community of millennials founded by the World Economic Forum in 2011. Portland has been added to the list of over 450 other vibrant city-hubs to implement innovative community-based efforts that aim at solving local economic issues.

Adam Burk, co-founder of The Treehouse Institute and director of TedxDirigo, was chosen by WEF to found the Portland hub. After reviewing applications for Portland’s Global Shapers, The Treehouse Institute chose 20 dynamic leaders under the age of 30 to get the Hub off the ground.

Portland’s Hub members come from many facets of experience, but share a spirit of public interest, entrepreneurship and a desire to work directly with communities,” said Burk.

“All of Portland’s Hub members adhere to the highest standards of moral and intellectual integrity while bringing a holistic perspective to their work.”

Among those chosen, USM freshman Muna Adan is the youngest member at age 19 and the only student. Adan immigrated to the U.S. from Ethiopia as a child with her family. While small in stature, her stage presence is a force to be reckoned with. Adan was featured as a TedxDirigo speaker in 2015, where she recited a spoken word poem detailing her struggle to find acceptance in America as a black Muslim woman.

According to Burk, Adan was selected because she “is a thoughtful, passionate, and engaged Portland citizen. She was chosen on these merits first, and secondly her position as a student was considered to add diversity to the Hub composition.” Burk stresses the importance of the hub members taking on the role of student, as well as “teacher and colleague,” as they set out to make a difference in the community.

This new team of young activists will kick off their endeavors at this weekend’s retreat, where the group will begin the process of brainstorming project ideas.

“We will share research on five topic areas: housing, sustainable communities, diversity and inclusion, millennials (engagement, retention and attraction), and being the best place to raise all kids,” explained Burk.

Other Global Shaper Hubs have taken on service projects that have included building a health center in Nepal, a solar community-owned garden in Minneapolis, and constructing libraries in Manila. At the retreat, the members will also decide how they will go about recruiting new members going forward. Burk adds, “Coming out of the retreat we will have a challenge question to develop projects using design thinking and other innovation methods,” An example of a challenge question is ‘How might we reduce food waste in our school cafeteria? The Hub will be announcing community opportunities to engage with this process soon.

Portland’s Hub is on its way to meeting a $30,000 fundraising goal. “If you are someone that understands that an inclusive and diverse community is a pre-requisite for creativity and innovation, if you are someone that understands that young people must have the opportunity to both see and have the chance to create a place for themselves here in Maine,” said Burk, “then investing in the Hub will be fulfilling.”

Stay tuned to www.thetreehouseinstitute.org for more information on community involvement or to donate directly to the cause.

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