So what happened at Davos?
Ask me in 6 months.
Davos’ strength isn’t what happens here, it’s what happens next.
In my 2023 experience at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Forum, I learned that, sadly, far too many come to Davos for press, recognition through exposure to elites, and to sway policy makers on single-minded initiatives. This resulted in an exterior perception of Davos as an opportunity to further establish a Winner Take It All mentality. But this narrative is a single, incomplete story, and detracts from the potential for this encounter.
But what I saw in the meeting rooms, cafes and conference centers – and the icy streets in between – is something that gives me even more hope.
But first, some background on what happened in Davos…
There are three types of conversations taking place at Davos:
#1: Awkward conversations and failed sales pitches
This is where those looking for resources try to get support from those with lots of resources. Such transaction-based networks are awkward for all involved, amplify power dynamics, and spread inequality. Selling without understanding always happens here, and is not generative.
#2: A self-congratulatory update, nothing new
This is when the partners get together, put together an interesting panel or event, and use the attention to boast about the things they’ve done over the past year. They work hard to justify their past investments, and in doing so, further strengthen their own beliefs about the efficacy of their interventions, regardless of their actual impact. They then try and convince others to join their initiative as is, and miss opportunities to learn from other perspectives to drive innovation.
#3: Deep conversations rooted in shared values fuel collaboration
These conversations are the most productive, but they require a lot of trust. In these moments, current and potential partners share what worked, what didn’t work, as well as insights that can lead to new ideas and innovations. For this conversation to take place at Davos – especially given the brevity of the conversation – all parties need to be present with a genuine commitment to improving the state of the world, as well as a curiosity to learn from the other extraordinary people here.
Beyond the conversation, meaningful impact can also occur at Davos…
The most impactful connections lead not only to conversation, but collaboration.
The people who get the most out of this event are those who approach Davos with the goal of doing more through partnerships.
Take Echoing Green, for example, which brings together stakeholders from Microsoft, the World Economic Forum Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship, MovingWorlds, and impressive business leaders such as Joseph Kenner of Greyston, Jean-Philippe Courtois of Microsoft, and Cheryl Dorsey of Echoing Green. Within just one hour, commitments were made to integrate racial equality into the Davos agenda and beyond. Intermediaries, including MovingWorlds, and other companies around the table take the demands of entrepreneurs and grassroots leaders and commit to taking action.
At the launch event of Impact Force – a new accelerator for building a social enterprise ecosystem in Ukraine to support a just and sustainable recovery – direct links were made with social enterprises, funders and capacity building organizations. New company committed resources. The intermediary offers the connection. And government entities are committed to new action steps to mobilize more resources to reduce investment risks. MovingWorlds, through our TRANSFORM Support Hub, is a proud supporter.
In partnership with SAP, additional attention is being paid to the TRANSFORM Support Hub, a global platform that builds a more sustainable and equitable economy by connecting employees within companies with knowledge, partners and guidance so they can help their companies achieve their ESG targets – while offering ongoing support and on demand to social enterprises around the world to help them build operations and capabilities to bring their continuous innovation into the enterprise value chain. To build more demand for social enterprise, Good Market, Buy Social USA, Catalyst2030, SAP and others launched the new Catalyst Business Commitment.
And perhaps the fastest-moving collaboration, unsurprisingly, comes through the social entrepreneurs present. I met other impressive social entrepreneurs, such as Jo-Anne Chidley of RE who moved the industry away from single-use packaging, Vriko Yu of ArchiReed who was rebuilding coral reefs, and Rodrigo Oliveira of Green Mining who created jobs while eliminating plastic from nature. Through the TRANSFORM Support Hub and their corporate partners, some of these entrepreneurs have connected with peers to share business insights, capitalize on social procurement opportunities, and connect with pro bono experts for customized support in escalating challenges and improving operations.
Davos is not the end, it is the beginning
The potential for Davos is that decision makers from a variety of highly influential organizations are here and actively involved. Conversations – when approached in the right way, supported by data, and with people and the planet at the center – can lead to collective action for change that moves us towards a more sustainable, equitable and equitable economy.
Indeed, this is a strength of Davos that not enough participants take advantage of. This is an opportunity for fast learning between people and organizations who are open and willing to do more through partnerships.
What I learned at Davos is that too much energy is spent trying to say the right thing to the right people at the right time, and not enough time is spent asking better questions, learning from others, and identifying immediate opportunities that advancing the WEF Mission: “improve the state of the world and promote entrepreneurship for the global public good”.
When we leave Davos, we must remember that this is not the end, this is the beginning. It is now up to us to work together and turn inspiration into action that better integrates social progress (addressing global inequalities, fighting for racial equality, ensuring planetary sustainability, and more) into more political, systemic, and business strategies. This, of course, can only be done through another phrase in Davos: Radical Collaboration.
I’m definitely biased, but in our experience operating platforms that support radical collaboration across sectors – including hosting rival organizations as well as support organizations we sometimes compete with – I can tell you it’s possible. The beauty of platforms, like the TRANSFORM Support Hub, is that they create a transparent, stakeholder-focused place where collaborators can come together and collaborate to live the bold vision of creating a sustainable global economy that works for all of us. Join us.