World Economic Forum at 50: How to plan and prepare for our next 50

Published: February 14, 2020 6:00:40 AM

WEF efforts to improve the state of world gets more impetus by it creating a Global Shapers community.

World Economic Forum, davos, low carbon economy, indian economy, growth in Indian market, climate changesCelebrating 10 years in 2021, the WEF’s Global Shapers Community is a 9,000 strong movement in 400 city hubs across the world.
  • By Vanshica Kant

This year marks 50 years of the World Economic Forum. While entity galvanisation, partnership building and coalition management is intrinsic to the Forum , it is also a leading generator of ideas, data and knowledge . Given it is the Forum’s golden jubilee year, and that the annual meeting at Davos concluded last month, there is a huge amount of speculation on what the Forum has actually achieved.

Celebrating 10 years in 2021, the WEF’s Global Shapers Community is a 9,000 strong movement in 400 city hubs across the world. Hubs host a diverse set of individuals, in the age group of 20-30 years that undertake community projects around the impact areas of climate change, education & employment, and equity & inclusion.

Each word in the term ‘Global Shapers Community’ is critical. ‘Global’ reflects that one can be living, working and travelling anywhere in the world, yet one will have a like-minded tribe in any city. The word ‘shapers’ refer to doers, those who can get the big picture and the details right. The most important part of the term, however, is ‘community’. Communities arecontinuos, intimate and informal, and are bound together by a common set of principles.

As the Curator of the New Delhi hub , it has been interesting to observe the systems in place that give the community shape, structure and substance—a common community charter, guidelines, an annual calendar, elections, project templates, community town halls, impact councils and an advisory board. The challenge, however, is that hubs are individual driven and personality dependent. It then becomes the duty and responsibility of the 400 of us hub focal points to dynamically embed and infuse the common vision and values.

To facilitate this, curators are invited to the Forum headquarters in Geneva for a global summit to attain a universal training in the community toolkits, projects and best practices. Personally, managing a city hub entails everything—from raising funds to forging partnerships with organisations, and from project ideation to execution. It is a great training ground to discover and polish one’s leadership style, coordination skills and community building abilities. The hub can be viewed as a laboratory of sorts to pilot and test interventions. We at the New Delhi Hub, have taken to a design thinking approach and broken our hub into horizontals and verticals. The former overlooking themes like partnerships, social media and recruitment, the latter overseeing projects.

Last July, I was one of the forty Global Shapers selected to attend The Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC), also known as Summer Davos, on the theme ‘Leadership 4.0: Succeeding in a New Era of Globalization’ in China. The Forum is increasingly bringing fresh voices and new perspectives to their conferences that are otherwise charged with being a congregation of the usual suspects: CEOs and heads of state. Their commitment to break this myth was reflected in the special sessions crafted for different generational initiatives–namely, the Global Shapers, the Young Global Leaders, Schwab Entrepreneurs, Cultural Leaders and Technology Pioneers.

The extraordinary scale, size and calibre of the conference made it one of my most rich and fulfilling experiences. All of the host city, Dalian, was one grand celebration of the meeting, from mega sign boards, to the gigantic floral hedges, to the very exhibition centre that was constructed for hosting.

The Forum team handheld us at every step—from webinars, formal onboarding and debriefing sessions to specially curated inter-generational and inter-initiative interactions—to help acclimatise ourselves. The ideation, planning and execution was reflected in the itinerary, infrastructure, and logistics at AMNC. The Forum also has its own technology platform, TopLink—the backbone for all knowledge sharing, communication and coordination.

To my mind, the following are the biggest contributions of the WEF. First, its convening power of myriad individuals and institutions is unparalleled. Second, the organisation invests in people. The fact that they are pumping time, energy and skills in different generations ensures they are creating a pool of leaders trained to think critically and lead meaningfully. Third, the Forum empowers individuals and institutions with psychological, organisational and social models on how to traverse and straddle different arenas. Fourth, in the 21st century knowledge economy, the Forum is a powerhouse in ushering in global intersectionality in thought, action and purpose. Last but not the least, the Forum’s multi-stakeholder approach attempts to ensure that decision making at the highest level is holistic in nature and that commitments are socially desirable, technologically feasible, financially viable and politically acceptable.

The pioneer of breakthrough ideas, including the stakeholder concept, public private partnerships, social entrepreneurship and the fourth industrial revolution, Professor Klaus Schwab’s visionary outlook continues to be the key driving force of the Forum. This was demonstrated in his forward looking answer to my question at the recent India Economic Summit: “Professor, what have been the Forum’s inflexion points in the last 50 years?’’, to which he replied, “I consider the Forum’s biggest pivot, right here, right now. How we plan and prepare for our next 50”.

(The writer is Curator of the Global Shapers Community New Delhi Hub, a WEF initiative. Views are personal)

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