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April 12, 2023

GCL 2023: Advancing Diversity and Responsible Leadership

By: Ana Gomez Garces

March 30, 2023 marked the closure of LALP’s 2023 Global Competitiveness Leadership Program (GCL). This second hybrid edition, and the 17th edition of GCL to date, promoted maximal flexibility via blended learning, allowing 32 participants spanning 14 different countries to generate meaningful connections through peer-to-peer learning and academic classes over the 10-week program. The 2023 GCL cohort marked a few milestones, as it was the first to exceed the program's gender equality efforts, with more than 60% of participants being women, and with this cohort, the GCL alumni network has surpassed the 600 alumni mark, resulting in a broader LALP alumni network of 837 leaders across the region. Since its inception, the program has been made possible thanks to the generous support of Georgetown University’s Latin America Board (LAB) and other donors who helped provide considerable scholarships to admitted participants who may see cost as a barrier to their participation. Every year, this intensive experiential non-degree program at Georgetown University recruits highly qualified candidates across the region to empower them to become future agents of change in Latin America. The program is crucial for the region, as it provides these trailblazers with the tools, inspiration, and network they need to generate a multiplier effect in their countries.

GCL 2023: Advancing Diversity and Responsible Leadership

The Global Competitiveness Leadership Program is highly distinct from other leadership programs in that a diverse cohort of participants come from all over the Latin American region to grow personally and professionally while developing their leadership skills and knowledge of the region. GCL participants then apply what they've learned through the program in the process of creating or scaling an original social impact project that they implement in their home countries, either in the social, private, or public sector. The implementation of these projects supports LALP’s mission of leadership in action and produces a multiplier effect, which expands the impact of the GCL program throughout the region. 

The goals of the GCL program are to promote leadership in action by providing tools to tackle challenges that exist throughout the region, and training leaders to create and strengthen initiatives that promote global competitiveness, social responsibility, and cross-sector collaborations. It also fosters personal development and growth through facilitating interactions and discussions that push participants to challenge, reflect and expand their worldviews. Engaging with the most pressing regional issues enables participants to understand barriers that impede development in their countries through multidisciplinary courses with a focus on the economic, social, and political aspects of competitiveness and integral development. GCL also creates a strong and active regional network of responsible, and ethical leaders across all sectors to generate a positive impact in their countries and across the region through collaboration and innovation. 

With a median age of 32, this special cohort embodied the current interests and social movement of a new Latin American generation. The thematic axes of their projects included Environment and Sustainability, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), Education, Science and Technology, Entrepreneurship, Government, Media and Communications, Health and Sports, Innovation, and Design.

In addition, for the first time, GCL alumni exclusively served as mentors to provide individualized support to the students throughout the 10 weeks of the program and support the development of their mentees’ projects. Mentors received training from Pato Bichara, (GCL 2009, Mexico), founder of Collective Academy, to get ready for their sessions. LALP wants to especially thank the GCL Alumni mentors who actively supported their mentees and significantly contributed to this edition: Allison Silva (GCL 2009, Bolivia), Laura Paonessa (GCL 2016, Argentina), Anabel Navarro (GCL 2016, Venezuela), Fernando Salerno (GCL 2020, Venezuela), Adriana Lainfiesta (GCL 2019, Guatemala), Elizabeth Arrendon (GCL 2013, Mexico), Monica Villanueva (GCL 2021, Peru), Jenifer Ponce (GCL 2019, Peru), Mane Cruz (GCL 2019, Chile), Clara Desalvo (GCL 2020, Argentina), Karla Knight (GCL 2021, Mexico), and Lino Gonzalez (GCL 2021, Paraguay).

The core modules of the program included classes on Latin America and the World, Personal Leadership, Organizational and Global Leadership, Community Leadership in Action, Designing Solutions for Impact, Innovation and Social Responsibility, Communications for Social Impact, Looking at the Future of LatAm, and  Measuring and Communicating Impact. The participants attended signature lectures from world-class Georgetown University professors: Ricardo Ernst, Evelyn Williams, Sam Potolicchio, Bob Bies, Douglas McCabe, Jeanine Turner, John Trybus, Jeff Reid, Shye Gilad, Leslie Crutchfield, Andres Marquez-Lara, Mike Malloy, Peter Jaworski, Carol Bymire, Juan Luis Manfredi, Ben Litalien, together with guest lecturers like Diane Garza, Ricardo Teran, Yanire Braña, Paloma Bernal, and Alberto Rodriguez. Special program appearances from Latin American Board members Lorenzo Mendoza and Samuel Lewis, renowned political commentator Moises Naim, and regional figures like Hilda Ochoa and Pedro Burelli allowed the participants to gain exposure to highly esteemed individuals who are leaders in their respective fields to discuss entrepreneurship, integrity in political leadership, and personal leadership, among other topics. Participants also engaged in site visits and guest lectures with figures from major DC institutions, including the Inter-American Development Bank, Organization of American States, World Bank, Brookings Institution, Halcyon, and Georgetown Americas Institute, which enabled participants to engage with current issues that the region is facing. For example, they were able to ask Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, the World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean about his thoughts on the region, its post-COVID recovery, and the new challenges it faces, such as climate change and education. During the first in-person week of the program, President John J. DeGioia warmly welcomed the participants to Georgetown University. 

By living together and participating in team-building activities, the cohort was able to connect and make long-lasting relationships that will serve as their future network when they return to their home countries. Through an intense scavenger hunt, they got to explore DC and the Georgetown area while competing with other teams. Class dynamics with faculty and guest lecturers and presentation peer reviews allowed for collective feedback and constant interaction, creating a community where students leverage each other's backgrounds to learn new skills and make new connections.  During a volunteer activity at Cornerstone Schools, the participants reinforced the ideas of giving back to nearby communities and putting themselves in other people's shoes as they widened their understanding of inequalities in DC and the US more broadly.

The 10th and final week marked the program's culmination and demonstrated how each leader made the most out of the opportunity to be a part of the GCL program in person at Georgetown University. The long-awaited final pitch presentation showcase gave the participants the opportunity to present their presentations before judges from the IDB Lab, MET Community, and LALP alumni network. In addition, as a highlight of the week, participants attended the Women Entrepreneurs Forum, a prestigious event planned by LALP in collaboration with MET Community, where five of the most highly ranked projects were featured as part of a panel titled "Stories of Change." The forum included opportunities to hear from exceptional leaders from around the world, including other GCL and ILG alumni such as Andrea Burt, Winner of the 2023 GCL Impact Award recognizing her long-standing work with Sonidos de la Tierra, Techo, Donate your Bicycle, and the expansion of B Corps in Paraguay and across Latin America in addition to her collaboration with alumni and current students from different LALP generations across the region.

The five selected GCL 2023 projects featured during the Stories of Change Sections on March 29 at Georgetown University and on March 30 virtually were: 

"The Forum was a great opportunity to connect with other like-minded people and share my experience. I received a lot of positive feedback and had some great conversations with other entrepreneurs who are also working to create sustainable solutions.” - Ronen Kohan, GCL 2023​

Emely Condor also exemplified how the leaders took full advantage of the opportunity. Emely participated in and won the preliminary round of the Georgetown University Entrepreneurship Competition with her project Saphi, which she presented on March 27th.

During the graduation ceremony, the culmination of the program was celebrated and the participants became official alumni of LALP’s powerful network. Additionally, they received “Me to We” as a graduation gift from the Executive Director of the Latin America Leadership Program, Professor Ricardo Ernst.

As the cohort reflects back on their experiences, what they most treasure is the relationships and ties they built with their peers who will now be their support network: 

“3 months that have challenged me at all levels, a deep personal and professional trip. A journey that has allowed me to broaden my vision, see new places and innovate. Key in this process were my 31 colleagues who ventured to live this experience with an open mind and heart to connect from a genuine space. Knowing the stories, passions and impact projects of each one was a personal enjoyment. In addition, the navigation accompanied by academic, professional and personal challenges makes it a transformed experience and full of unforgettable moments.” - Florencia Mesa, GCL 2023

“I feel more than grateful to be surrounded by such human peers and professors, leaders who are working day by day for a more inclusive and sustainable future for our region and the world.” - Rosakebia (Ross) Estela Mendoza

“Today and moving forward, what most stays with me is them. We are… burning bright, together.” - Silvia Haba de Merlo

Cristina Ruiz, Associate Director of Programs and Operations, and Michael Guarino, Program Manager, highlighted some of the main takeaways these leaders should always keep in mind, especially as they become part of this incredible network of changemakers in the region.

 “GCL 2023 Cohort: the journey has just begun! Implement your projects and measure and share your impact with us. Spread the word to other qualified candidates that may benefit from this experience. Play an active role in the GCL Alumni Network, collaborate within the network to multiply the impact in the region, attend annual alumni reunions and stay connected with all of us at LALP.” - Cristina Ruiz, LALP

"The leadership education you receive at Georgetown is applied. In other words, we don’t just teach you about leadership; we require you to return to your home countries and implement what you’ve learned through your projects. In that sense, today is not the end of your GCL experience, but rather, a new beginning, where you will bring all that you have learned with you in your daily work and make exceptional contributions to the LALP alumni network." - Michael Guarino, LALP

The 2023 Global Leadership Competitiveness Program was organized by MSB Professor Ricardo Ernst, LALP Executive Director, Cristina Ruiz, Associate Director of Programs and Operations, and Michael Guarino, Program Manager, with the support of Ana Gomez Garces, Program Assistant. The program is implemented in collaboration with the McDonough School of Business Executive Education Office and is possible thanks to the generous support of Georgetown University's Latin American Board, the LALP Advisory Committee members, donors, and other supporters.