By Melissa Francis
We sat down (virtually) to speak with Melanie St. James, Founder of Empowerment WORKS and Chief Collaboration Catalyst & Executive Producer for The Global Summit, a series of events taking place every two years in a different global location. This year they are being held online from Tokyo. Recently, we became a Catalyst Partner for The Global Summit Tokyo to promote their important work in solving local issues through global thinking.
What is Empowerment WORKS?
Empowerment WORKS was born from the necessity to create new types of systems for approaching sustainability. The organisation is not an NGO—Melanie emphasises that the purpose is to unite individuals and organisations to globalise communities by “honouring the integrity and uniqueness of their local culture”. Empowerment WORKS was established with the very real limits of our planet in mind. She says, “we’re heading towards the edge of a cliff” in terms of our reliance on outlets like consumerism, a concept that is only exacerbated through outlets such as the media and policy. Empowerment WORKS seeks to support and bring together ‘Agents of Change’ in various localities and inspire others to do their part.
One of the key frameworks used by Empowerment WORKS is called the 7 Steps to Sustainability and seeks to find solutions to sustainability challenges through the following stages:
7 Stages to Sustainability:
- Place-based call to action
- Build a team locally
- Identify the existing resources available
- Define what skills are needed
- Put the pieces together
- Take it to market
- Reinvest and sustain
“It starts with finding what the local call to action is, finding something that the community itself is needing to solve, and then connecting them with what we call Partners in Empowerment across different sectors.”– Melanie St. James
What is The Global Summit?
The Global Summit (TGS) is an annual event series focused on bringing Empowerment WORKS’ sustainability goals to the forefront. While the concept of Partners in Empowerment (PIE) was being generated, Melanie was at the Kenya World Economic Forum where she experienced a lot of “us against them thinking, a lot of frustration”, which she feels ultimately resulted in very little impact per capita.
Instead, The Global Summit presents a holistic solution that focuses on how we can all instill change. It doesn’t try to be an authority on new policy, but rather acts as a “social innovation testing ground”, a sandbox for new ideas and innovations to be brought to life and making change accessible to everyone.
The event aims to move away from the kind of ‘reactive’ thinking that so many people have adopted, and opens up fresh dialogue between parties to turn ideas into action. Melanie highlights the fact that there is no “plug and play solution” for the challenges faced by specific communities. She notes that real change can only be generated from the ground up by locals, using existing and developed resources with a solution based entirely on their unique needs.
Why Host The Global Summit Tokyo?
The Global Summit has taken place every two years since 2008. Every four years, it happens to coincide with the Olympic & Paralympic Games, so given that the 2020 Games were originally going to be hosted in Tokyo, Japan ended up being the natural landing place.
This has been a key way to engage humanity and bring more people into the conversation who may not have considered their own responsibility to make a difference. The original idea was to have The Global Summit go global every year, across 7 continents in connection with the Millennium Development Goals. Melanie has been based in Japan since October 2019 to find and connect local volunteers and partners. Due to the COVID outbreak and questions over the continuation of the Olympic & Paralympic Games, however, the entire format changed to a digital one.
According to Melanie, the top 3 priorities for The Global Summit Tokyo are challenging and advancing the following in Japan:
- Changing norms and perspectives on political, civic engagement, open discussion about the role of government and innovation – tapping into the Olympics theme, with a direct invite in the gamification of impact and participation in SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) solutions, along with voting and collaboration during the virtual Hackathon.
- Gender inequality through all aspects of our Feminomics Impact team – this includes a fully Japanese webinar raising key issues and highlighting the successes of local movement leaders.
- Mitigating ageing population/demographic issues – by seizing the opportunity of migration—the summit narrative celebrates Unity in Diversity which transcends the homogeneous status quo that inhibits integrating young workers from other cultures in general.
Thank you Melanie for your time!
If you’re interested in finding out more, here are some upcoming events organised as part of The Global Summit Tokyo, along with links explaining how to join.
- July 5, Artists in Action world wide concert inquiries: https://theglobalsummit.org/call4culture/
- July 10, Catalyst Action Training (Forum participation) https://theglobalsummit.org/apply2cat/
On the subject of sustainability, why not check out our previous blog post all about plastic use in Japan?