Sometimes I fall into the why me and for how much longer mind-warp. Then I’m reminded of the opportunities I’ve been given to raise awareness on the plight of a generation of young American immigrants to audiences previously untouched by our struggles. In 2014 and for the first time in its history, the World Economic Forum invited an undocumented immigrant to serve on its Migration Council and help shape their work around the transnational phenomenon that is international migration. On that Council, I helped launch and co-chair an innovative approach that allows for the free movement of talent, even while progress on migration policies and procedures are stalled globally - because migration in the 21st century must include the movement of minds not just bodies.

Beyond the recognition given to my work on global migration, a year ago today, the World Economic Forum published my piece directed at our need for continued engagement on an issue that speaks volumes about whom we want to be as a people and as a nation, and what values we cherish and choose to preserve. I seem to often find myself being “the first,” and not always boldly going where no one has gone before but instead pushing aside the fear to do what needs to be done.

Last night, as I was looking through old files, I stumbled on a piece I’d written about the first time I ever shared my story publicly. It was at the World Bank and it was not only a first for me but also a first for them.

Below is an excerpt-

“I began working on the DREAM Act in 2008 and for nearly 2 years I worked diligently as an advocate and rarely as one directly affected. I worked closely with Hill offices, press and other advocates in promoting the stories of undocumented youth. I spoke at several conferences and even trained DREAMers on how to share their stories. Somehow I’d convinced myself that working as a full-time volunteer on the DREAM Act absolved me of my responsibility to share my story. I saw my role as one of an advocate and often the overprotective big sister - always cautioning other DREAMers about sharing too many details publicly and taking too many risks.


I was very comfortable with speaking on behalf of others while never involving my private battles in the conversation. But, more and more I saw the need to add my unique voice and perspective to the debate. Ultimately, it was a desire to stand in solidarity with some of the bravest young people I’ve ever met that led to me speaking publicly for the first time about being undocumented.

In June 2010, Anne Galisky, the producer of “Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth” asked if I’d share my story at the World Bank’s screening of her movie. I was honored by the invitation; after all, it’s the World Bank! But, I was also terrified of what going public could mean. There was no doubt in my mind that this was an amazing opportunity and no doubt that it would be one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do.

Quite frankly I didn’t see it beyond the realm of possibility that I could, someday, be invited to speak at the World Bank, but that I would do so as an undocumented individual, sharing my deepest and   secret was unfathomable. Nevertheless, I accepted the invitation, but accepting the invitation was only the first of many uphill battles to come.

When the printed invitation was released, it included my first and last names along with the words “without status.” I’d never seen the truth of my status in print before, let alone spread across the internet. I was gripped by too many fears to count – Who would see this and what would they think of me? Could I be deported? Would I have to stop working on the DREAM Act? Will I now only be known for being undocumented?


After I spoke, several people came up to me with heavy hearts and words of encouragement. They told me they couldn’t imagine that “someone like me” would be in this situation and wanted to know how they could help ... I left the World Bank with a sense of accomplishment and relief - I’d faced my fears and lived to tell about it. I’d also opened more hearts and minds to the untenable situation faced by too many young immigrants. 

The reaction to sharing my immigration status is always the same – shock and awe. Whether at the World Bank, a national press conference or one-on-one with legislators, the look of surprise is always the same. I’m African, a chemical engineer, and a strong advocate for civil and human rights; the unfortunate stereotypes forced on undocumented immigrants simply don’t work for me. And that is why I share my story. I still find it uncomfortable and difficult to talk about my experience, but voices like mine are too important in this debate to stay silent." 

#BeTheFirst #LionsWrite

A solution to migration and employment issues in Africa? Remote working

Remote working shows clear economic and societal benefits                                                                                          Image: Alex Knight/Unsplash

Remote working shows clear economic and societal benefits                                                                                          Image: Alex Knight/Unsplash

Inflexible labour markets make it hard for countries to improve productivity and therefore make them less competitive.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report shows that the most competitive countries in the world are those that nurture innovation and talent in ways that align with the changing nature of work, including by adopting policies that support working remotely.

In fact, remote and flexible work was found to be the top “demographic and socio-economic driver of change” in employment. 

Another Forum report from 2016, The Future of Jobs, states: “Organisations are likely to have an ever smaller pool of core full-time employees for fixed functions, backed up by colleagues in other countries and external consultants and contractors for specific projects.”

Mobile Minds is a high-skilled migration project led by the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on the Future of Migration that aims to promote global economic prosperity by advancing information about, access to, and use of a cross-border remote workforce in addressing current and future labour shortages. 

The benefits and challenges of cross-border remote work

From a business perspective, companies have reported cost savings, improved productivity, agility and scalability, increased access to talent, reduced turnover and improved retention when implementing remote work options. 

The cost savings are substantial. Global Workplace Analytics (GWA), the research firm, estimates that emerging remote workplace strategies save companies $22,000 per remote worker, per year.

Societal benefits include traffic mitigation, reducing environmental impact, the social and cultural benefits of bringing people together from different locations around the world, and emergency and disaster preparedness. GWA reports that 75% of remote workers say they could continue to work in the event of a disaster, compared with just 28% of non-remote workers.

Remote work on a global scale is not without its challenges. A complex tangle of taxation, employment issues, and labour laws exists between, and even within, countries. 

Minimum wages, part-time and full-time status differences, overtime compliance, background checks, employee versus freelance classifications, and other details are different from country to country, and even within countries when states and provinces have their own laws. 

Migration policies, education and skills gaps, and compensation and fair labour issues related to freelance and contract workers all come into play when considering cross-border hiring with remote work. 

The white paper goes into greater detail on each of these challenges and benefits, and it is clear that a collaborative effort is needed to unleash the potential of remote work to positively affect professionals from across the world. 

The future of remote work

Businesses, governments, and related organizations each have a role to play in supporting cross-border remote work, and action they can take right now to invest in cross-border remote work as the future of the workforce.

United Nations Global Impact is a fantastic example of an organization looking at employment on a global scale. The Sustainable Development Goal 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth, is directly related to the need for better cross-border hiring.

On top of this, companies already engaged in remote work need to start tracking their programmes to truly understand and refine their benefits. Only 3% of companies with flexible and remote work programmes conduct any sort of formalized analysis

Mobile Minds aims to create public-private cooperation towards the following goals:

1. Build awareness of cross-border remote work.

2. Make business practice and policy recommendations.

3. Develop standards for skills recognition, taxation, and worker recognition.

4. Create a virtual space to engage a diverse remote working community. 

The challenges in achieving these goals are not new. Companies attempting cross-border mergers and acquisitions encounter similar challenges. In those circumstances, as in remote work, the benefits outweigh the challenges, and solutions can be developed to support cross-border remote work.

Of course, there are some occupations where remote work cannot replace the need for physical work-related migration, and governments need to continue their efforts to design fair migration policies. Work-related migration does carry with it some inherent benefits, such as raising fertility rates, generating jobs, promoting multiculturalism, and more. The idea behind Mobile Minds is not to replace physical migration, but when possible and necessary, to alleviate the burdens that often accompany physical migration; burdens on individuals, businesses, and governments.

As Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, writes in his book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution: “We are at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to one another.” Remote work is uniquely positioned to harness the “range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human”. 

For most of the twentieth century, part of “being human” meant people traveling to and from work every day. In this century, remote work can transform the fundamental nature of when, where, and how we work. Similarly, “work” in this century is what people do, not where they do it from

Even with the current challenges in cross-border hiring, remote work shows clear economic, business, and societal benefits, and should be used as an alternative to physical, work-related migration.

Originally published by World Economic Forum Agenda; co-authored by Tolu Olubunmi, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Lions Write and Rajeeb Dey, Chief Executive Officer, Enternships.com

Lifestyles Magazine, Fall 2016 - Women in Philanthropy


I am honored to be included in Lifestyles Magazine Women in Philanthropy issue. 

The Fall 2016 issue includes women who have “dedicated their time and resources to ensure a better tomorrow. Acting as catalysts, their missions have changed the lives of countless people around the world, and their actions demonstrate how creating positive opportunities leads to societal change.” 

It is truly humbling to be named alongside female giants of philanthropy and social change like Laurene Powell Jobs - a champion for education, immigration and the environment, Angelina Jolie - a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Malala Yousafzai - an advocate for girls education and the youngest-ever Nobel laureate, and Oprah Winfrey - a philanthropy powerhouse. 

Having graduated with the Chemical Engineering degree I’d always dreamed of, not to mention relentlessly fought to have, I never imagined that I would spend my days building social enterprises advancing the cause of migrants around the globe. I have the uncommon privilege of positively impacting the state of the world while being denied access to a diversity of nations. This realization that I have been blessed with influence although lacking the required conventional credentials, reminds me that while our purpose may be beyond our capacity to imagine, it is never beyond our capacity to achieve.

Today, I am overwhelmed with gratitude, reassured of purpose, and filled with hope. “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”


National Week of Making: Honoring Makers, Creators, Innovators & Entrepreneurs


I am honored to be recognized by SELF MADE as a MAKER for the White House's National Week of Making, June 17 -23. It thrills me that this comes during Immigrant Heritage Month and on World Refugee Day. There is no more fitting month, week, or day to celebrate all of us who daily strive to find solutions for ourselves and our communities - those whose strength is born out of resisting the powerlessness that comes from struggling through untenable situations.

Today, the number of refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people around the world has hit a record high of 65 million. 65 million souls whose homes, peace of mind, safety, and security has been torn from them. Now more than ever we need more MAKERS, more ‎FIGHTERS, more ‎GAMECHANGERS.

Beginning today, commit all of your tomorrows to giving back hope to at least one person. Be a #MAKER and be someone's hope!


The United State of Women Summit

Throughout my career I have seen that although great minds may think alike, brilliant minds spark innovation when connected. On Tuesday June 14th, the White House will convene the first-ever United State of Women Summit to mark the progress made by and for women and girls domestically and internationally, and to discuss solutions to the challenges they still face. I am honored to join President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and key players advancing the state of women and girls all over the world for conversations on building inclusive movements and engaged citizens, and empowering women and girls in STEM.

There is too much left to be done to build a more equitable world for women and girls for any of us to work in isolation. I believe that our ability to achieve change is refined and its impact is multiplied through exposure to a diversity of people also working for change. This is the purpose for the United State of Women Summit and I couldn't be more excited to join so many game-changing, history-making women to celebrate our achievements and chart a course for future prosperity.