Launched by Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum in 2004, the Young Global Leaders are governed by a board of twelve world and industry leaders, ranging from Queen Rania of Jordan to Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! and Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales. Schwab created the group with $1 million won from the Dan David Prize, and the inaugural 2005 class comprised 237 young leaders. Young Global Leaders participate in the Annual Meeting of the New Champions, established in 2007 and known informally as "Summer Davos", alongside Global Growth Companies and other delegations to the World Economic Forum.
BusinessWeek's Bruce Nussbaum describes the Young Global Leaders as "the most exclusive private social network in the world", while the organization itself describes the selected leaders as representing "the voice for the future and the hopes of the next generation".
Representing over 70 different nations, Young Global Leaders are nominated by alumni to serve six-year terms and are subject to veto during the selection process. Candidates must be younger than 38 years old at the time of acceptance (meaning active YGLs are 44 and younger), and highly accomplished in their fields. Over the years, there have been hundreds of honorees, including several popular celebrities, alongside recognized high achievers and innovators in politics, business, academia, media, and the arts.
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Notable members and alumni of Young Global Leaders include:
In 2010, Young Global Leader Wikipedia and Wikia founder Jimmy Wales and Operation HOPE founder John Hope Bryant (another Young Global Leader) joined Karim Hajj, president of the Casablanca Stock Exchange, to form the Wikia-Operation HOPE Global Money Initiative, which translated a curriculum of personal financial empowerment into local North African dialects of French and Arabic.