iOS app Android app More

Cameron Sinclair

Cameron Sinclair

Posted February 1, 2009 | 02:11 AM (EST)

Davos Has its Obama Moment: Quiet Optimism Replaced with a Moral Urgency of Now


If you've been here, you know it's been brewing. The friction forming, the glances in sessions, the confused media. Something happened in the air in the last 24 hours and being here has been one of the most fascinating events I've experienced. It's that moment. The one we had when they saw two options emerging - one of an old order struggling to hold the moral center and another that was unwilling to continue with a broken and unjust system. It was not about politics, it was about a moral urgency of now.

A Forum of two futures
There were two World Economic Forum' happening right now at Davos. The old order watching the world crumble around it and another where groups like the Young Global Leaders, green tech pioneers and the Social Entrepreneurs are storming at the gates of power. This sentiment may only be shared by others who've seen first hand leaders and their deputies get schooled in front of their peers and often celebrated officials and leaders sidelined in panels and stricken from invite lists. Even the famous Davos Google Party invite list was more like a culling of folks who are actually making a difference. With the exception of all the dudes crowding around Maria Bartiromo there was not a banker in the house. I personally expect their was a rival weeping session going on somewhere in a quiet dim-lit room.

The media is back too - well what's left of them. The BBC finally found the optimists but the real scoops were being done by you tube reporters and the flip video pirates running around congress hall cornering unsuspecting victims (even I got the You Tube treatment.)

The Girl Effect
Saturday also brought the rights of women to the main stage, finally. A panel on the Girl Effect chaired by Care (Helene Gayle) and joined by Melinda Gates, Mari Pangestu, Ann Veneman, Mark Parker, Mohammed Yunus and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. While an educated girl will invest 90% of her future income in her family recent studies have found little more than half a cent of every international development dollar is spent on her. While much of the focus on the need for better reporting on issues surrounding the protect and support of young women, I personally felt knowing what we know about effect of this crisis on women and girls in area of need, our collective inaction in this time is worse that ignoring the issue in the first place.

If this is truly 'our moment' we must not allow this global crisis become a catalyst for extreme discrimination, to ignore the reality that right now young women are being trafficked, abused and sidelined. I don't want my daughter growing up knowing that this was the moment we decided to roll back the rights of women.

The Last Day
Sunday is the last day of Davos. I'm sure much will be written about the tail between the legs of most attendees or the dramatic Gaza debate. However the true story was the split between sessions focused on what went wrong and those who actually did their homework and talked about visions to make it right. This is not a generational issue or a developed nations vs. developing nations issue, this is about strong moral leadership in a time of great upheaval. Businesses and governments who mandates shift from protecting financial capital to human capital will have the best opportunity of real recovery. We know the Obama administration bunked off coming here to 'get on with the job' but I think they needed to experience the shift happening at the 2009 World Economic Forum.

Today is the last day. Will it be one of optimism or pessimism? Let's see.


Personal Moment at of the Day

Best Moment (three way draw)
1. An impromptu dinner of 70+ Young Global Leaders and hearing stories of 'gate storming' and the real companies whose authentic desire to change are being heard from the din of despair.

2. Chatting with a number of global social entrepreneurs on the role of civic society in times of crisis and what they are doing to find economic stability in the lives of their clients and partners.

3. Listening to the unbridled optimism of the green tech leaders on the opportunities surrounding renewable energy systems and buoyant on being "on the right side of inevitability"

Awkward Moment
Trying not to eavesdrop on George Soros as he's sitting behind me talking about Afghanistan.

Worst Moment

Seeing firsthand mid-level corporates overriding the basic rights of childrens' access to education for self-interest and 'profit making' (their words) while the head of the largest global education org bunked off the session to drink coffee outside. Not once in the reporting was the state of children, learning, accessibility or creativity brought up. Out of 50 suggested ideas only one was child focused (and that was to get children to create user driven content for learning). The broken system IS from the top down and it reaffirmed why we are committed to seeking collaborative user driven solutions. I will dedicate a post specifically to this next week. The needs of children and teachers are too great to ignore - and I need to calm down a little and get perspective]