By Jorge Soto
Endeavor Entrepreneur since 2011 and co-founder of CitiVox Jorge Soto was selected to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos as one of 30 Global Shapers from around the world. The following is his account of the experience.
-about arriving at Switzerland-
The first thing you notice about Switzerland is the silence…or the complete lack of noise, even at an international airport.I come from a crowded city and a crowded neighborhood where you are expecting to hear a guy with a loudspeaker selling tamales at 7am and another one buying old mattresses at 9pm.
But not here. Here you try to be as quiet as possible so you don’t disturb anyone. Better to let them go by.
If this is your first time at a german-speaking country, then you definitely will get lost on the trains.
Fortunately, the departure and arrival times are unique and surreally sharp. To get to Davos from Zurich airport you should take the 7:46 train to Chur arriving at 9:27, then take the 9:31 train to Tiefencastel and you’ll be there at 10:03.
-about the young global shapers-
Unconventional times call for unconventional leadership.
A group of around 60 people from 34 countries, called the Young Global Shapers, were invited for the first time to participate at the World Economic Forum to express their concerns and represent the millennial generation. I had the honor to be among those.
Once I got to know my fellow Global Shapers I can only feel real honor to be there. These are 29 year olds or younger changing the world every day in different sectors, in a local and in a global way. Just to add one more thing about how cool that group was, we were the only community at the World Economic Forum with real gender parity. One common trait that I’m happy to have found among the group is that we, young people, are embracing careers not only for financial gains but also to contribute directly to solve problems.
While leading one of the discussion tables about the role of the millennial generation, I heard that there is a study that has just came out about how the new technologies have changed modern society’s interaction (McKinsey is the source I think, I need to check on that sometime soon). In this study it says that in the 1930s they asked teenagers whether they consider themselves someone important and 12% answered yes. They asked the same question last year and 85% said yes. Our duty to lead differently is becoming increasingly apparent. We are finding the convergence of the public, private and non-profit sector and we are absorbing the best practices from each one of them while identifying areas of opportunity.
We are thinking globally.
We understand diversity.
We are connected.
We want to try, fail fast, learn and iterate.
With our passion, our concerns, our questions, our personal goals during the forum, our converse at the gala dinner, our thinking in networks and not in hierarchies (I really felt like giving the high-five to the mexican president while holding a mezcal on my other hand at the mexican party was a good idea), we were anything but conventional.
-about the discussions at the WEF-
There were a lot of important topics addressed at the panels, around the halls and during the parallel events at Davos:
The Eurozone economic crisis, the US economic crisis, the social crisis and protests around the world, the growing inequality between rich and poor, the environmental crisis, the job creation crisis, tech regulations, the food crisis, housing crisis, health care crisis, education crisis, nuclear crisis…it was overwhelming and you could feel a lack of optimism and fear. I focused my attention and tried to get involved in as many discussions as I could about how new technologies and social networks are a catalyst for social change, sometimes where previous efforts have failed.
We’re becoming a big smart community. Everything is networked now. Security and intelligence to manage and make sense of all the information generated by that community and how to make it actionable are now the concerns for the next couple of years. Clay Johnson said that in an information rich world, the wealth of information means a scarcity of attention. We are not an audience any more. We are a networked public and we do much more than just consume information. We discuss, we participate, we comment, we share, we like and, ultimately, we amplify the message.
However, the truth is that society’s outdated institutions (governments, companies, citizens, organizations) perpetuate incongruent values that prevent a balance between strategic leadership and self empowered action. To put it in the words of one of my mentors, the problem is not a technological one, it is an anthropological one.
Another hot topic was how to fix capitalism.
“Is responsible capitalism an oxymoron?” -Arose towards a panel.
I don’t want to believe that. I think it is about investing in social capital and creating a balanced ecosystem where social innovation should be the fuel of all the stakeholders of that ecosystem. Governments and institutions need to recognize two things: the first one is that economic development needs not only money but entrepreneurial engagement and an ecosystem to achieve social progress. The second one is that entrepreneurship is different than self-employment and it is not the solution by itself for the current job crisis.
-a brief thought about the occupy wef movement-
The shared identity of a crowd relies on its legitimacy.
The Occupy WEF protesters were invited to a panel to speak and have a dialogue about how to fix capitalism. Just before it began, they walked out of the room. They said that nobody with four aces wants a new deal.
As one the organizers of the WEF pointed out, it’s easy to say what you’re against to, but saying what you’re for is far more powerful. Anti-power expressions, rather than counter-power, know what they don’t want but are finding it hard to create an inclusive and coherent dialogue of what they do want and what they do propose to build a smart policy that might bring a truly progressive future.
-some last thoughts-
The biggest challenge of leadership is understanding and learning to lead in a two way conversation. That is why the scene where the occupy guys leave the discussion table before even starting it really upsets me up. And that is also why I congratulate the WEF for opening the doors to them. I hope the opportunities for dialogue and cooperation increases. Of course, the contradictions persisted. We were discussing the inequality of money distribution and that the 99% of Americans live like the 1% of the rest of the world while we were having lunch on top of the Alps, at a ski resort, with an amazing view and with enough food to feed more than 2,000 people. However, the mood was always somber and with a real lack of optimism.
I take a lot of things back from Davos. Inspiration is one of them. An urgency to be the change I want to see in the world is another one. There is a lot of need in the world. Each and everyone of us need to understand how we can help with our expertise and passion, and find the intersection between need and opportunity.