The annual World Economic Forum got under way today in Davos, with 2,500 of the world's business and political elite gathering at the famed Swiss mountain resort under the apt new theme, "Rethink, Redesign, and Rebuild." It is a chastened crowd: WEF Founder Klaus Schwab told reporters the Forum is being held this year "in a mood of reflection" and that the global economic crisis "is really reflective of a deeper crisis of values, overall."
Indeed, there is much talk in Davos this year about the need to fast-forward social enterprise and social innovation, and to more urgently use social media to crowdsource new solutions for many of society's ills—whether in Haiti or closer to home.
There also is a hunger among attendees for examples of social innovation that works, and with them, the reassurance that change-for-good can be replicated and scaled globally. Indeed, the sense of euphoria about globalization that has marked Davos for years has been muted by the global financial crisis, making the 2010 gathering a call for a more civic global society to insure the sustainability and advancement of global leadership. Some people have returned to Davos this year, says writer David Ignatius of The Washington Post, "because with something as ephemeral as globalization, I think there's a desire to actually touch it, feel it, stand next to its fellow members in line for a cup of coffee or the men's and ladies' rooms. Floating in a networked world, you want to believe that there are real people with hands on the controls, a real place, anchored in the snow and ice each January..."
Cause Global will be providing only limited coverage, and mostly in the form of wrap-ups on select social innovation news. Highlights so far include:
* A meeting of Young Global Leaders, one of WEF's 16 communities holding gatherings this week in Davos, cited three cause-activism trends to watch in 2010. First, given Haiti aid groups' success, expect a surge in the NGO and nonprofit use of mobile and text-messaging applications to raise fast money for a cause. Second, watch for a continued rise in "slacktivism" -- the use of easy, click-to-donate and online volunteering tools by micro-donors to battle social problems. Third, expect to see more nonprofits and social enterprises using "crowdsourced philanthropy" in the form of recent contests such as the Chase Community Challenge, the Pepsi Refresh Project, and the American Express Members project.
* A dinner meeting of 30 top social entrepreneurs urged more coordinated efforts to solve global problems and educate people in developing countries how to use technology to better their lives. Dinner attendees included Martin Fisher of KickStart, who noted that technology innovations don't tend to be adopted by poor rural farmers, so time-limited "smart subsidies" might be used, instead, to encourage the adoption of these innovations until the commercial markets can take over. Also attending were Harish Hande of Selco of India, and Andreas Heinecke of Dialogue in the Dark, a social enterprise that employs blind people to host exhibits and business workshops in total darkness, where participants learn new communications perspectives.
* Nike formally launched GreenXchange at a CEO breakfast. The Xchange is a Web-based marketplace where companies can collaborate and share intellectual property, which can lead to new sustainability business models and innovation. Ten organizations have already signed on; we'll be looking more closely at this group in a future post.
Watch this space for updates.
— Marcia Stepanek
(Photo illustration courtesy of World Economic Forum by permission)