Amy Lazarus: My Top Five Inspirations from the World Economic ForumMar 15, 2012 Posted by Amy Lazarus Login and comment
It was an honor and privilege to represent the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue and participate in the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland this year. Usually when people hear “Davos” what comes to mind is “that meeting where people like Bill Gates, George Soros, and heads of state convene in the Alps for a week.” So, the most common question I received before going was, “How are YOU going to Davos?” Well, when Klaus Schwab, the beloved founder of the World Economic Forum (WEF), noted that the majority of the world’s population is under the age of 27, and that the Forum’s Young Global Leaders targets 30-40 year olds, he decided that this year he wanted to ensure that the growing population of 20-30 year olds had a voice at the Forum. So, WEF created the Global Shapers and formed hubs in major cities throughout the world. Fortunate to be accepted into the hub in Washington, DC, I then applied to represent our hub in Davos. The most common question while I was in and since returning from Davos has been, “What was it like?” While it is hard to describe being immersed in the surreal norm of seven days interacting with and learning from experts in every field, I have tried to capture my Top Five Davos takeaways.
(Photo: Amy with Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize Peace Winner)
1. The Global Shapers. For the inaugural year of the Global Shapers, there were 70 Shapers from 38 countries and 44 cities participating in Davos. Like other participants in the Forum, we represented all sectors: entrepreneurs from Israel and China, politicians (among them the first and youngest female mayor in the Philippines!), journalists, scientists from London, peacemakers in Copenhagen, and educators in Mexico. The Global Shapers are each passionately working to address pressing needs in their communities and to forwarding their fields. Unlike other parts of the Forum, however, we are the first group to achieve gender parity. A common criticism of the Forum is that it used to be 6% women and now is 17% women. There was a stark contrast, and it was a frequent topic of conversation, but I’m moved by the efforts the Forum and its partners are taking toward parity. It has been a personal and professional joy to connect with and learn from these young leaders.
2. SDCN Alumni! It is so exciting to see alumni apply their leadership and inclusion skills in their civic and professional lives. Three University of Virginia Sustained Dialogue alumni were at the Forum. Two are Global Shapers – Tyler Spencer, founder of The Grassroots Project and Micaela Connery founder and Executive Director of Unified Theater. Alexandra Shaw works at the Forum in their Geneva headquarters. Kalsoom Lakhani, another UVA SDer, is a Global Shaper in the DC hub. Kalsoom, Micaela, and Tyler have each started their own award-winning social enterprises.
3. Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Watch his remarks at the Opening (20min)
During the opening plenary, I was particularly struck by – and thankful for – the messages of equity from the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Like SDCN does during our workshops, the Archbishop differentiated between equity and equality. He then said, “We need to look at equity. We are aware that the world is lacking fairness. We need a world where each of us has the chance to develop our full potential.” He then went on to talk about Ubuntu, the South African concept that we are through others, that your joy is my joy and your pain is my suffering. He also noted that “we won’t make it without women. We really won’t. We need women to be in their proper place. When you exclude a whole section of a community from making decisions, the world doesn’t achieve its potential.” A highlight was when the Global Shapers got to go on stage and receive a blessing by the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was one of those “pinch yourself” moments. The words he said stuck with me because (1) he’s the Archbishop Desmond Tutu!! and (2) the message is true for everyone: You dream of a new and different kind of world. You dream G-d’s dream. You are here to pursue your dream and your vision. And that dream and vision are G-d’s dream and vision, so you must continue to move in the direction the world needs you to go.
4. Middle East dialogue. On the first day of the Global Shapers program, we were divided into regions to identify common challenges and opportunities for improvement in our local context. As the Middle East group presented, they shared that although there is historical friction among their countries, the Shapers found common ground on agreeing how they would want to see their region improve. Moreover, for some it was the first time interacting with someone from another Middle East country. Hearing this, all of the Shapers were moved, and a co-facilitator and I invited the Middle East Global Shapers to continue their dialogue (blame it on my day job). They all happily accepted the invitation, and the next evening we started a dialogue to hear about their experiences and begin developing paths forward. I was extremely impressed by and thankful for everyone’s participation and am hopeful for what is to come. It was also a personal high for me to be able to call on Hal Saunders for his knowledge and experience from being a key drafter in the Camp David Peace Accords and the Egyptian Israeli Peace Treaty. Hal’s suggestion for dialogue prompts and process traveled from DC to Davos to influence this conversation.
5. Education and Social Inclusion. The World Economic Forum is committed to improving the state of the world. The theme for this year’s Forum was The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models. Four Global Shapers had the opportunity to present New Models for Transformation in the umbrella of Education and Social Inclusion. After giving a Pecha Kucha style presentation (15 PowerPoint slides of 20 seconds each and the slides can be only images, no words), the attendees divided into groups to explore each model. In narrating the story of the problem Sustained Dialogue addresses, my question and charge to the attendees was the following: We know that when people feel included, they perform better (academically, in work, and in the community). We also know that the skills most sought after – and most deficient – in entry level workers are navigating conflict, working in diverse teams, and communicating effectively. These skills – outcomes of dialogue, and 21st Century Business Leadership skills – can be taught. How can we shift the market to increase the number of young leaders with the skills and commitment to create inclusive environments, while simultaneously increasing the demand of organizations hiring top talent, and thereby create a pipeline for inclusive, diverse talent? This led to stimulating discussion among higher education presidents, scientists, media moguls, and social entrepreneurs.(Photo: Amy with Global Shapers after presenting on Education and Social Inclusion)
I left with more questions than answers. There are phrases and thoughts from intelligent people and I am still figuring out how to implement. Have ideas? Let me know: Connective decisions need time and/but you have to act fast. Accept Change. Adapt systems to the necessity of tomorrow. Create more adaptive solutions in the service of society. While we work to figure these out, I’m hopeful and ecstatic for the sustained work of the WEF and the people involved to continue to improve the state of the world.
Maria Malas: Reflections on White House Department of Education EventReflection on "For Democracy's Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission" by Maria Malas University of Virginia, 2012 Sustained Dialogue, Chair On January 10 th I had the very special opportunity to visit the White House to attend the release of a national report on the need for more civic learning in higher education; the event was entitled “For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission.” Amy Lazarus, Executive Director of Sustained Dialogue Campus Network (SDCN), had been involved in the creation of the report and graciously extended an invitation to the event to me, perhaps knowing my interest in and commitment to education and my plans in August to join the Teach For America D.C. Corps. I honestly went into this conference not knowing very much about the report or about the concept of a civic mission. I hoped to learn something about what it means to be civically ...continue reading
Kiah Abbey: Reflections from Addis AbabaFirst International Sustained Dialogue Summit at Addis Ababa University Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, December 16-18, 2011 It's been nearly a month since I left Bozeman, MT for Ethiopia for the International Summit on Sustained Dialogue. Since my return, I’ve been searching for the right words to describe my experience. The first word that came to mind is meaningful but as I revisit that word this evening I’m finding it not substantial enough, not emotional enough, not warm enough. Perhaps that’s because I’ve said it so many times, describing the experience to cousins, uncles, aunts, and friends over the holiday break . By definition meaningful means “having a serious, important, or useful quality or purpose”. Of course the summit was all of these. It was incredibly important and useful and our mission there was quite serious (although the outside observer would have guessed different after seeing all the ...continue reading
Jess Ch'ng: Reflections from Addis AbabaFirst International Sustained Dialogue Summit at Addis Ababa University Addis Ababa, Ethiopia December 16-18, 2011 After a whirlwind of a week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and about 30 hours in transit, I arrived at Boston Logan Airport and set out on the last leg of this long journey: the trip back to my dorm room. Too tired to brave the underground train, I got into a cab and asked the driver to take me to Harvard Square. “Good trip?” the cab driver asked. “Good, but very tiring,” I replied. “Where are you coming from?” “Ethiopia. I was at a conference ...continue reading