Nice post by the FT’s John Gapper that I think sums up much of what is going on here and the prevailing mood.
That being said, the sun came out today and in some of the sessions at least people seem to be moving on and looking for a way forward. I was looking through some of the reactions to my tweets on the proceedings and there is understandable dislike of Davos types and the idea of the meeting. But there is much that is done here that lives up to the Forum’s ambitious stated aim of “Committed to Improving the State of the World”. The headline events and characters get, well the headlines, but behind the scenes the action part of the Forum is working in a host of areas that only the Forum can because it remains a unique meeting of business, government, media and NGOs (declaration, the WEF are an Edelman client so stop reading here if you think that, plus my regular attendence make me an unreliable source).
For example, Edelman is part of something called the Global Education Initiative which attempts to help developing countries implement scalable improvements to their education systems through ‘multi-stakeholder partnership initiatives’. It’s one of many such initiatives that are all ambitious and complicated attempts to bring individuals and organisations to bear on some pretty big problems. The GEI is making a difference in Egpyt, Palestine, Jordan and Rajasthan for example.
These initiatives all have one thing in common though (other than the Forum) and that is a staff of remarkable tenacity and optimism. I know a number of them pretty well now and I am always slightly ashamed that my short-term commercial instincts make me impatient and at times cynical about the chances of success of some of these things. Many initiatives do get stuck in procedural mud, but many don’t. I got lectured by one of them the other night on the virtue of tenacity and belief instilled in them by Klaus Schwab that you have to keep bringing the parties back to discuss and find ways to solve problems and that if you keep doing that you will prevail. It’s sometimes difficult to see tangible signs of progress in these things and it would frustrate the hell out of me, but they seem to keep the faith and keep going year after year and slowly they move the ball down the field. Most of them could earn more in the commercial world, they all speak a sickening variety of languages and they combine the missionary zeal of an NGO with the pragmatic, step-by-step focus of the hard-bitten businessman. I can’t mention their names, but my hat’s off to them and next time someone takes a pop at the Forum have a look at this list.