10 THINGS WE LEARNED: WEF 2018

Last week we attended the World Economic Forum along with state leaders, business executives, scientists and fieldworkers from around the world. These are the top learnings we took home as we involved ourselves in talks, meetings and debates in Davos.

Carbon pricing is among the top priorities in the fight against the negative consequences of climate change. So is the future proofing of companies and increasing food production and supply chains transparency. “Consumers really want to contribute, companies and industries need to make it easier for them to do so and greater transparency has already proven to be a solid way,” says Alexandra Brand, Chief Sustainability Officer at Syngenta.

Blockchain technology has potential beyond Earth. The technology has proven its’ capability of solving problems related to deep space communication caused by light time. Blockchain technology enables direct machine-to-machine communication, hence interaction with Earth becomes redundant and a new range of possibilities within space activities arise.

Lost dignity is brought back by the involvement of local people in the re-stabilising process. According to ICRC’s Deputy Regional Director of Africa Patrick Youssef, humanitarian organizations operating in conflicted areas are starting to speak about a ‘new humanitarianism’ referring to a shift in mindset about how to help bring dignity back. Solely handing over subsidiaries is not the answer. From talking to the local people, Patrick and his colleagues have realised that giving them a chance to act by involving them in the development processes is what truly brings back a sense of dignity.

In all organizations, you will meet ‘silent heroes of change’. These are the employees driving change and innovation invisible to the eye. Did you know it may be perceived as an act of inequality if the organizational leadership fails to acknowledge their work? As social intrapreneur Gib Bulloch explains, this typically happens to non-CEOs. In order to build a work culture holistically fostering equality, organizations must consider how they can acknowledge the work of every employee, including those behind the intangible accomplishments.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution may hold challenges, but it holds even more opportunities. This was a shared belief at the meeting. Some concrete steps, according to Joe Kaeser CEO of Siemens AG, towards leveraging the opportunities of the digital era include: creating an inclusive society promoting social value; encouraging training and education as the FIR runs on knowledge; embracing and initiating innovation with the potential of disrupting industries; and, as leaders, finding courage to address the tough questions such as ‘Do we need a guaranteed basic income?’ and ’Should we impose taxes on software and robots?’

A.I. could be an opportunity to close the wealth gap. 42 people own the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50 percent worldwide, according to a recent study by Oxfam. Musician, entrepreneur and 2013 Young Global Leader, will.i.am., suggested we need tools to help us address and limit greed: “Right now, we’re living in the inhumane age and the human age is about to come, but we’re going to need assistance to get there,” he said. “And that’s why I’m optimistic about artificial intelligence. We need a different type of intelligence so we can see the human in us.”

Empathy is key to fighting depression and loneliness. 320 million people suffer from depression around the world. And many of them suffer in silence as depression is still a stigmatized illness. But is depression solely a question of chemical imbalance in the brain best treated by pills and therapy? Athlete Ariella Käslin, McGill University Principal, Susanne Fortier and brain expert P. Murali Doraiswamy proposed that an effort to teach and bring forward more empathy in the surroundings – in the families, among peers, in institutions – is key, as empathy is considered a core skill in helping others fight depression and the accompanying loneliness.

Gender inequality still is a global issue, but it seems to have the world’s attention now more than ever. Globally a woman earns 50 cents for every dollar a man earns according to The Wall Street Journal. Gender equality was appointed a main theme for discussion at the annual meeting and several state leaders, experts and business executives agreed that access to proper education and finance, along with a push for social change within organization cultures and the economic systems to help fight sexual harassment, should be a focus of action in 2018.

An alternative investment fund for female entrepreneurs in India worth 100 million rupees was announced at the meeting. Chetna Sinha, Founder and Chair of Mann Deshi Foundation, is the woman behind the initiative. She was also behind the very first bank for Indian women launched in 1996. “Investments need to go to the fractured world as well. Venture capitalists need to listen to the people in the developing countries because they have the knowledge about what goes on locally”.

And then Australian actress, Crystal Award 2018 receiver and UNHCR Ambassador, Cate Blanchett sat down to talk about her thoughts and concerns about the issues of forcibly displaced people and statelessness. She reminded us there are still 25 countries around the world that do not allow women to confirm the nationality of their children. Watch her talk here.

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