The Globe and Mail by Giovanna Mingarelli 1 February 2012
A powerful new force of self-empowered change was introduced at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland: the Global Shapers Community.
It’s composed of more than 600 young entrepreneurs from around the world, 70 of whom were invited to attend the conference. I was fortunate to be one of three Canadians on the list.
Global Shapers are between the ages of 20 and 30 – the millennial generation – and they have the passion, dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit to shape the future. More than 50 per cent of the world’s population is under the age of 27, so there’s no better group to voice how best to improve the state of the planet.
The theme for this year’s conference was The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models. Global Shapers were invited to participate in every pillar, ranging from new models of leadership to society and technology. I was chosen because of my background as an entrepreneur who has been using new technology – crowdsourcing – to take action on meaningful issues.
Throughout the week of Jan. 25, I helped lead several workshops and roundtables, ranging from how consumers become innovators, to climate change. In both cases, the trend was clear: crowdsourcing has become a force to be reckoned with.
The concept dates back to ancient Rome, where the emperor of the day would elicit a response from a crowd in an open forum by asking for calls in favour of or against an issue.
Today, we use the Internet to make the process more efficient. Crowdsourcing is defined as the outsourcing of a project or initiative through the web to a group of people to get something done. The tool has tremendous potential in the political and corporate worlds.
An excellent recent example occurred last year during the Arab Spring when thousands of young people crowdsourced political leadership change using Twitter, Facebook and SMS.
The millennial generation is demanding more dialogue and less monologue. It wants to be equally involved in the creation of products and policies, and work with companies and governments that are genuine and transparent. It often does not want to be part of traditional, outdated, top-down institutions.
That point was driven home in a Global Shapers workshop I participated in, where I was part of a team challenged to find solutions to what we saw as inadequate collaboration between governments, citizens, businesses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the world.
My team members, who included Howard W. Buffett from the United States, Gen Miyazawa and Tamako Mitarai from Japan, and Jorge Soto Moreno from Mexico, concluded that the root of the problem lies in society’s outdated institutions. We identified a possible long-term solution: the effective use of new technology to facilitate collaboration and improve working relationships.
As a short-term solution, we created a list of immediate, actionable items available to anyone interested in signing on. These include sharing success stories about collaborative experiments with stakeholder groups; engaging political and corporate leaders to actively and transparently discuss how others can equally participate; and develop a “leadership pipeline” of young leaders – beginning in high school – to spearhead actions in support of this new vision.
As I left Davos, I was very optimistic about where social media and new technology can take us and how it can change the world for the better.
One question remains: What does a balanced model of strategic top-down leadership fused with self-empowered action look like?
The answer will be found in more dialogue and action by everyone.