The Road from Dubai to Davos

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Reporter John Roberts talks with World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Director Prof. Klaus Schwab; Source: Studentreporter

Also known as the braintrust of the World Economic Forum, the Global Agenda Council participants here in Dubai are an assemblage of what some would call the world’s brightest, most accomplished, and most intelligent. We have taken the chance to meet and speak with Nobel Prize winners, CEO’s, NGO founders, professors and etc. As my first event coverage as an editor, it has been energizing to see our reporters develop their thoughts from these meetings the past three days, which will be published as podcasts and blogposts in the following weeks.

Personally, maybe because I am an academic researcher, I also find valuable the stock of knowledge that the Forum has been collecting before and during the summit, with the Global Agenda Councils. For example, just yesterday, the Global Agenda Survey was released. Council members were asked to rank the top five most important concerns in the next two years, out of a list of 15. With this information, as well as further data collection, the Forum team has been able to rank the top 15 trends that “Keeps the best and brightest up at night”. In addition to the sustainability and environmental implications (to be published soon), the survey results are fascinating enough to spend hours analyzing.

The Summit on the Global Agenda, first organized in 2008, has been critical in
shaping Davos to be more systemic and wholistic in addressing increasingly complex challenges. This type of multi-stakeholder approach is, I believe, fundamental to addressing global sustainability challenges and has been gaining traction in other organizations as well with the growing popularity of systems thinking.  Just hours before the closing plenary of the Summit, I sat down with Martina Gmür, the WEF Senior Director and Head of the Network on the Global Agenda Councils, to talk about how the global agenda, to be shaped and released in a report before the Davos Annual Meeting, will be determined, and carried forth in 2013.

Global Agenda Councils working session room; Source: Studentreporter

Ms. Gmür explained that, in the next few weeks, all the knowledge that has been captured via conversations, surveys, and interviews, in the past three days will be processed and analyzed to produce an “outlook on the global agenda” to be produced mid-January. This outlook will carry forth directly into the organizational and strategic planning of the Davos Annual Meeting. And with a theme of “resilient dynamism”, Davos and the rest of the regional meetings in 2013 will certainly be raising key sustainability issues, which are intricately linked to resilience. Climate change and natural disasters adaptation is an obvious link that sustainability has to resilience. In addition, the term resilience has also been frequently applied in the business community, as a strategy to deal with both financial and environmental shocks that have been upsetting the status quo in the past few years.

Do you think there are other key aspects of sustainability that the WEF theme “resilient dynamism” raises? Or, as Andrew Zolli, founder of PopTech, stated in a recent critical New York Times op-ed, is it an idea that “quietly [challenges] the sustainability regime” – where perhaps it is time to “forget sustainability”, and acknowledge that “it’s about resilience”? It will certainly be interesting to see how the idea of “resilient dynamism” will be shaped through the recent learnings gained through council member participatory surveys, and how sustainability will fit into the global agenda to be presented at Davos.

Feature image: Ms. Gmür and Prof. Roger Y. Tsien, present at the closing plenary.

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