In a world that can sometimes seem to be drifting apart, with heated talk of retreat behind walls, wars and tariff barriers, Davos this week is playing host to a refreshing alternative narrative. In almost every session here, at every debate, we are reminded of the value and effectiveness of people talking and listening to each other, building consensus and a way forward. Experiencing the World Economic Forum, you sometimes find it difficult to understand why the world is full of conflict, corruption, anger and missed opportunities.
A random table seating at a dinner last night provided a great example of the unique constellation the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting is creating. A European prime minister, a member of an Asia government, three CEOs, an NGO representative and the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations. Although there had recently been serious public dispute among some of people at the table, none of that was in evidence yesterday. No yelling, no public offence. Instead, we found lots of agreement across the table on many current hot topics and on ways to help in solving them.
Maybe it would also help to have more initiatives like Global Shapers, which is the name for the group of very talented young people chosen by the World Economic Forum from across the world. Today I was a panellist for a session called ‘Cities as Hubs of Innovation’ where we were joined on screen by four of these Global Shapers, beamed in live from Belfast, Quito, Vancouver and Seattle. Their enthusiasm and passion for the work they have been doing on innovation in the respective home towns was truly impressive and inspiring, setting a great example for more senior leaders.
Passion and real engagement is also an apt description of Japan Night, which I joined with our head of Japan, Toshinobu Kasai. The evening provided a fascinating quick dive into the culture of this great country, accompanied by some deliciously refreshing Japanese food.