Arriving in Davos late Sunday afternoon, my first impression (beyond a sigh of relief that there wasn't nearly as much snow and ice as I had expected) was the odd appearance of skiers coming down from the slopes walking through town with their parkas and boots still on, skis and snow boards in hand, next to many dark-suited men dragging computer bags and black roller bags, all headed to the same hotels. Checking in to my modest (Ikea-style small single beds with one pillow) digs for the week, I saw the same odd mix -- European skiers happily drinking their lagers, next to men and women (mostly men) busily reading their papers and typing on their computers in the only area of the hotel with internet.
Monday at breakfast I was distracted by the headlines of the day: the tragic airport bombing in Russia, the anticipated content of President Obama's State of the Union Address, the disparate economic recovery among the European Union member countries, the role of the internet (Facebook in particular) on the revolution and continued unrest in Tunisia. These newsbytes combined with the predictable opinion pieces on whether the WEF actually solves any problems -- or why last year 's featured economists managed to miss the impending economic meltdown in Europe -- made me think that we need more opportunities like Davos, where we are forced to stop, remove ourselves from our everyday workplaces and think together about how we can move civil society forward.
I am reminded on a daily basis that the gap between the privileged and the poor grows wider each day. Even in America, the richest country on earth, 50 million people woke up uncertain of where there next meal would come from. Buried in the paper was an announcement that two grantmakers were investing $50 million to provide basic secondary education to 5000 Kenyan children. While impressive this will only chip away at the inequities that exist worldwide where the poor are not provided with the basic knowledge necessary to find a path to success. Even in America, we have a two tier education system where the quality of your school is wholly dependent on your race and/or your zip code. And our President has to stand up in his state of the union and plead the case for the poorly educated and uninsured.
We need to focus this week's discussion here, as planned, on the economy. In doing so we must identify the innovations that narrow the gap between the rich and poor are truly the drivers that will fix this broken circumstance we face today. Worldwide, we need to unite in equipping our young -- rich and poor -- with skills and knowledge that will make them productive citizens of the world. Entrepreneurs from the emerging economies today should be our role models. Scaling innovative ideas that work is a smart strategy. History teaches us that the strongest and most sustainable economic recoveries resulted from entrepreneurs who innovations spurred the creation of new markets as well as those whose ideas provided the basic services necessary to support everyday life in a new, more efficient way.
Entrepreneurship speaks to our belief that hard work and ingenuity can lead to personal fulfillment and collective progress. Through the work we do at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) across the globe, we find that students understand this intuitively but without the knowledge and skills to apply this vision to their own lives they can't act on it. Scaling entrepreneurship education throughout the world using technology available in all sectors will allow us to dismiss the myth that successful entrepreneurs are only lucky. Every young person has the power to be successful. Let's spend time at Davos this week, figuring out how to get them the basic tools to do so.