Daily Press features Global Shapers Norfolk & HRIC partnership

A group of millennials ages 20-29 wants to drive change on the Peninsula and throughout Hampton Roads.

Global Shapers Norfolk, a local young leadership affiliate of the World Economic Forum, landed a partnership with the Hampton Roads Innovation Collaborative that will enable the social startup to get started on projects, said Global Shapers Norfolk's public relations lead Karen Hopkins.

Hampton Roads Innovation Collaborative — a revamped 501(c)6 nonprofit stemming from the Hampton Roads Technology Council — has been looking for new ways to foster regional entrepreneurism and business innovation. HRIC President Dan Bell said the Collaborative plans to act as a program host to give the fledgling group a financial infrastructure until it can become its own nonprofit organization.

"We love it to see millennials organize around good projects in the region," Bell said. "We're happy to help."

It's important that young adults share their experiences so it's not only the older generations making the decisions, Bell said. And perhaps, he said, they'll come up with an innovative approach.

Two members of the Collaborative will also be on the local Global Shapers' advisory committee, Bell added.

Global Shapers Norfolk has six members since starting last year and is interviewing seven more applicants after its last recruiting drive, Hopkins said. The idea is to get to 20 members, although non-members will be able to participate in projects, too.

Aaz Mickens-Dessaso, 28, of Newport News is helping the organization get started. She has been recognized as an emerging global entrepreneur by the White House for co-founding Free Ping and while that startup didn't work out, she's already working on her next venture.

She'd like Global Shapers to amplify the millennial voice in the region by engaging all millennials rather than disparate groups. Mickens-Dessaso also preferred the group's action-oriented approach.

The group's first project will be a social media campaign in June for millennials to share their stories and what they think is important. For instance, Mickens-Dessaso said local business and public leaders should take more risks in diversifying the industry in the region.

"I think that this region is fairly complacent having such industries as military and defense and public contracting," she said. "I don't think millennials are racing to Hampton Roads to occupy positions in those fields."

Global Shapers isn't the only group looking to hear from Peninsula millennials. Bridge, a new young professionals program of the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, is looking for feedback from the area's young adults on how they really feel about issues like transportation, entertainment, careers, education and housing.

Young professionals can email what they think local leaders should hear to Bridge coordinator Jemal Harris at jharris@vpcc.org.