What The World Economic Forum Taught Me About The Power Of A Community

Posted on July 23, 2014 in Specials

By Akshat Singhal:

Early this year in January, at World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2014 in Davos —Elif Shafaq, author of the best-seller ‘40 rules of love’ quoted during an interaction, “We all are connected. We need to remind ourselves again and again”. This thought stayed with me.

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Later in February, one of the Global Shapers from Venezuela had sent a text on our WhatsApp group called Davos50 about the violence taking place in his country. Immediately, all other Shapers jumped in to send their support from different parts of the world to be his voice. Elif’s quote made so much sense to me. Other Shapers clicked pictures conveying their support to Venezuela and shared it on the group. We realised the power of a community and how powerful it can turn out to be, if it is organised towards certain goals (in this case, support to Venezuela).

I was at Davos as a part of Global Shapers community. 50 of us got an opportunity to be at the Annual Meeting 2014 and represent the worldwide 3000+ strong community of Shapers. Theme of AM14 was ‘Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business’.

Since our work at The Blue Ribbon Movement is about building leadership amongst youth through training interventions, the entire Davos experience was quite reinforcing for me at many levels. Especially, after meeting the Global Shapers and rubbing shoulders with the who’s who of the business, political and civil society world, I could see the power of collective consciousness emerge.

I would like to share few of the many thoughts that stayed with me –

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“A great leader has brains, vision, soul, values and a heart”- Prof. Klaus Schwab
Prof. Schwab’s quote was a good reminder of sorts. WEF’s outlook on Global Agenda speaks of the need for new ways of leadership as one of the top 10.

At a dinner session around Neuroscience of Leadership, a Wharton Professor spoke of how creating a culture of love within your organisation can transform the way we engage our employees.

In an exclusive interaction with Global Shapers, Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Meyer emphasised on how listening and empathy is key for leaders at the top level. At another conversation, I realised how deep listening and debunking stereotypes could be a solution to our problems in South Asia.

Leadership has come full circle, and we seem to be going back to basics, placing equal, if not more emphasis on the means as much as the ends.

From the various theories of leadership that have evolved over time, increasingly more and more importance is being placed on aspects like values, empathy, humility as hallmarks of great leaders. The ever evolving perspective of leadership now goes much deeper than aggression, getting work done and influencing people.

New citizen thinks
Over last few years, right from Arab Spring to the movement against corruption in India — there has been an emergence of a new citizen.

During a session one of the panellists shared about how, on one hand we have citizens taking things in their own hands and on the other, there are about 42 pieces of legislations which will pass amongst the parliaments of the world and make it all the more difficult for civil society to participate.

Though both forces exist, digital civic participation introduced by organisations such as Change.org and purpose.org is shifting the balance of power towards citizens. Citizen’s participation in democracy building has moved beyond voting and will increasingly happen to do so.

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“Japan’s economy would go up by 16% more, if women participated in labour as much as men” — Shinzo Abe, Japan’s PM
True that. Right from the Prime Minister of Japan to the global media, low women participation was echoed. 50% of Global Shapers were females vis-à-vis about 15% at the Annual Meeting 2014. I had many conversations on gender issues with my fellow Shapers and Head of UN Women and gender was a trending point of discussion at this year’s annual meeting.

Changing the mindset of men to innovative ways of including women in the workforce (like flexible working hours and mentoring) was brought up.

Women’s participation in the workforce, matters of the nation and all aspects of society can have definite impact on the economies and eradication of poverty. While the trend is getting better by the day, the need of the hour calls for women’s participation like never before.

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“Enough innovative power in the world. Use it to solve social problems”- Mohd. Yunus, Nobel Prize Winner

‘Social Entrepreneurship’ will surely influence the way businesses are being built. During a panel discussion moderated by Tony Blair and chaired by Mohd. Yunus, Bill Gates and Richard Branson— the discussion went about how hybrid social enterprises are evolving and it is yet difficult to have one standard way of building them.

While a number of hybrid social enterprises have started springing up globally, the trend is rather recent. How best these models can be used, and how to reach their true potential, is something that will evolve with time.

Quite a few Global Shapers are Social Entrepreneurs and most of them were on this quest of figuring out the right model including me. I heaved a huge sigh of relief. It is certainly a beginning of a trend the world will see in terms evolution of enterprises.

End of the day, I derive a lot of strength through Co-Shapers and from the community. Davos gave me a wider exposure to WEF’s different communities and the context to what is happening in the world in terms of social issues. It’s been 6 months since Davos happened but the reflection, reinforcement and reshaping of thoughts continue.

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