The World Economic Forum (WEF) prides itself in being “committed to improving the state of the world”. So what kind of an event was it amidst a global economic crisis?
The WEF organisers claimed a record number of participants this year, despite the high-profile cancellations of a string of bankers and politicians. But the event did not feel packed.
Davos still served its two main purposes: debating and networking.
Cramming lots of business people, social activists, young high-achievers and leading-edge innovators into a narrow space is bound to result in a lot of wheeling and dealing.
“When I took the shuttle bus today, I began to chat to this guy. Turned out he needed exactly the kind of product we make, so within three minutes I just about had a deal,” a young executive told me. “Maybe next year I should just stay in the shuttle bus for a day and drive around and around, talking to interesting people.”
Indeed, Davos gives access like no other place. Chief executives can compare notes with no corporate lawyers in sight. Social entrepreneurs can bend the ears (and prise open the wallets) of corporate titans. And politicians can meet discretely without anybody being the wiser.
“This Davos is better,” said Wenchi Chen, chief executive of HTC-Via. “It’s back to what is most fundamental – for business, government and human beings.”
Last time I was in Davos was long before the WEF was a glimmer in some hotelier’s eye. Couldn’t afford to stay in town, then. either.
But, the concept of discussion and networking is solid, something that should be happening at the United Nations and beyond. The political side of the UN, of course, has become the worst of institutionalized bureaucracies. You could discard two-thirds of staff and agencies and have a chance at starting over at being productive.
And at Davos – you could do the same with the press and pimply webcasters.