Local Young Adults Seek Global Solutions

Above: Courtney Gordon

Writer: Julia Dellitt

Young people around the globe aren’t afraid to tackle today’s thorny issues: climate change, poverty, inequality and corruption, to name a few. And one group in Iowa is no exception.

Meet Global Shapers Des Moines, a team of 19 young professionals focused on building local solutions to worldwide problems. As an offshoot of the World Economic Forum, the local team took shape in 2015 and functions as one of 400 similar groups across 153 countries. Each group is capped at 50 “shapers” between the ages of 20 and 30; participants become alumni once they’re past 30. Collectively, Global Shapers has more than 8,500 members, who work in hubs to review a set of issues each year, then determine the best way to foster grassroots support in their communities.

The goal? Drive meaningful change, often in partnership with other nonprofits and organizations, says Courtney Gordon, the Des Moines hub curator. After growing up in Minnesota, Gordon attended Drake University and then joined Vermeer Corp. as a global market intelligence specialist. She joined Global Shapers about two years ago to connect with other people her age similarly interested in community service and advocacy with an international spin.

In Des Moines this past summer, the group partnered with the American Friends Service Committee to launch +Together Des Moines, a daylong event where proceeds from residents dining at area restaurants raised approximately $1,700 for the Iowa Immigrant Rights Program. 

In 2018, the Des Moines hub held a film screening of “All That Stands in the Way—The Girls” to raise awareness during Global Gender Parity Week. The documentary, which was shown alongside a facilitated panel of local female community leaders, chronicles the lives of four teenage girls based in London, Lesotho, Iceland and Jordan.

For both projects, Gordon says the Des Moines hub had to meet defined standards and report results back to Global Shapers.

While this year’s activities are still in development, Gordon says the Des Moines hub is focusing on two issues: civic engagement and sustainable agriculture. For example, they’re working to identify ways to increase youth involvement in politics, such as collecting questions from fellow shapers around the world that the local group would then route to presidential candidates passing through Iowa.

Some hubs function as nonprofits or rely on corporate sponsors, but the Des Moines group currently operates with no such structure and does not request membership fees. As a result, all events are kept as low-cost as possible, often in partnership with other organizations, with voluntary member donations covering a portion. Establishing a sustainable growth plan is top of mind going forward, says Gordon, with a goal of achieving 501(c)(3) status at some point.

“Global Shapers has helped me as a young professional in so many wonderful ways,” Gordon says. “Not only can I rely on a global network of professionals to lend advice, the friends I’ve made have helped me expand my worldview and influenced how I communicate cross-culturally. 

“The group is an opportunity to be at the ground level of shaping real solutions for our community,” she adds, “and getting to know other leaders who are doing incredible work to make Des Moines a better place to live.”



Variety, the Children’s Charity—Iowa 

Feast for Your Senses

When: Jan. 17, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ron Pearson Center,
West Des Moines
Details: Includes food, beverages, a mini concert from Girls Rock!, inspirational stories from Jay Byers and more. Local artist Ben Schuh will paint a mural of the event as the evening goes along. $300 per person, or $150 for young professionals ages 21-35;

Children and Families of Iowa


When: Jan. 17 and 18
Where: Iowa State Fairgrounds’ Varied Industries Building
Details: Exhibits, live entertainment and children’s activities make up this annual event for kids. $7.50; free for children under age 1; cfiowa.org.

UnityPoint Health

Rally Against Cancer

When: Jan. 23, 6 p.m.
Where: Ron Pearson Center, West Des Moines
Details: Dorothy Hamill, an Olympic gold medalist and cancer survivor, will keynote this fundraising event, which also will include cocktails, food stations, live music, and silent and live auctions. $200 per person or $100 for young professionals under age 35; unitypoint.org. 


Bravo Greater Des Moines

Bravo Awards Gala

When: Feb. 1, 6 p.m.
Where: Iowa Events Center
Details: Always the hottest ticket in town, this annual event celebrates the arts in Central Iowa. Awards are presented to organizations and individuals who support the region’s cultural landscape. The event also includes dinner, drinks and dancing. $350 per person; bravogreaterdesmoines.org/bravo-gala.

Multiple Sclerosis Society

Taste of Generosity

When: Feb. 7, 6 p.m.
Where: Sheraton West Des Moines
Details: Featuring a wine and spirits tasting, dinner, and silent and live auctions. $100 per person, or $200 for the Chairman’s Tasting, which includes premiere hors d’oeuvres and some of the world’s most collectable wines; nationalmssociety.org.

American Heart Association Des Moines

Heart Ball

When: Feb. 15, 6 p.m.
Where: Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center
Details: With a cocktail reception, dinner, live auction and speaker presentation. $350; heart.org/en/affiliates/iowa/des-moines.

Science Center of Iowa

Battle of the Brains

When: Feb. 20, 6 p.m.
Where: Science Center of Iowa
Details: Compete in a STEM-based trivia game and see how much you understand about science, technology, engineering and math. Sign up a team with a table of eight people for $500, or $400 for young professionals under age 35; sciowa.org. 

Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Iowa

Club Talent Show

When: Feb. 21, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Scottish Rite Consistory
Details: Performances from Club children and teens, games, crafts, activities, and snacks prepared by Club kids. $50; free admission for children; bgccci.org. 

Des Moines Metro Opera

Wine, Food and Beer Showcase

When: Feb. 21, 6 p.m.
Where: Des Moines Marriott Downtown
Details: Featuring more than 40 of the region’s restaurants, caterers, wineries, breweries and distilleries. $50; or $150 for the Reserve Experience, which includes exclusive fine wines and culinary options; dmmo.org. 

Variety, the Children’s Charity–Iowa


When: Feb. 29 and March 1
Where: Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center Ballroom
Details: Every year, thousands of volunteers take pledges over the phone and solicit donations from family and friends. Donate or volunteer through the organization’s website:

dsm invites nonprofit organizations to submit events for possible inclusion in this calendar. Please include the following information: name and a brief description of the event, date, time, location, ticket price, and a link to additional details. Send to dsmeditor@bpcdm.com. The deadline for the May/June issue is Feb. 15.

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