Davos and Our Future Leaders

03/31/2010 05:12 am 05:12:02 | Updated May 25, 2011

So we're now in the thick of Davos but the dominating conversation remains that of the regulation of the financial services industry. I'd never actually heard the words "Glas-Stiegel" and "prop-trading" before coming to Davos this year, but I am now hearing them approximately 100 times a day as they are used in just about every single conversation, speech, lunch or panel.

And despite some great stuff from Clinton on Haiti and an inspirational appeal from Unilever CEO Paul Polman for global business to ignore short-term shareholder demands and lead from the front on climate change and sustainability, the great financial crisis and legislating its resolution have been the talk of the town.

So if this is what is obsessing the senior leaders of the world - what would it be like if there was a Davos for the young people of the world? What would they do differently and what would the subjects of concern for them be?

It's actually a question we'll find out the answer to in just over a week when the inaugural One Young World takes place in London. Nicknamed by some of the media as the "young" Davos, One Young World will bring together around 1,000 of the next generation of leaders, from more than 120 countries, to debate the biggest challenges facing the planet.

Helping facilitate the conversations during the summit are counselors including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Bob Geldof, Senator John Kerry, Muhammad Yunus (who I just bumped into on the steps of the Belvedere Hotel and who said how much he was looking forward to One Young World), Kofi Annan, activist Oscar Morales, and many more. Each of these counselors will act as a resource to the delegates as they vote on six different resolutions that will then be delivered to world leaders and organizations like the G20 and the U.N.

I co-founded One Young World with Kate Robertson. And our objective was to make sure that the content was driven by the young people. To that end we embarked on three phases of global research, where we spoke to more than 20,000 of the world's youth. We then worked with Oxford University's 21st Century School to come up with the six draft resolutions that will be debated at One Young World.

While we've welcomed more than 120 corporate partners like American Express, Starbucks, Hewlett Packard, Samsung, Air Asia, Allianz, Total, KPMG and Burberry, the whole approach has been grassroots. Rather than sponsor the event itself, they've actually sponsored individual delegates. And to ensure that the focus is on the delegates, not on the sponsors, no one partner has sponsored more than 50 delegates.

One of the reasons I believe that One Young World can be so powerful is that this generation of young people is unique. They have access to unprecedented amounts of information and knowledge and unparalleled power and influence in social media. Look at Oscar Morales. He used Facebook to rally more than 15 million people in 30 cities to march against the FARC.

For us, the success of One Young World will be measured by two things. The first is that the resolutions that are passed go on to influence global policies and the positions of our world's leaders. The second is that in 10-15 years time, some of the delegates go on to run a country, company or NGO.

So tonight it's back to the senior Davos as I head off to the Google Davos party. This is the Friday night party to attend, but I'm up early tomorrow as we have a great session with Bill Gates for the WEF Young Global Leaders, and I am sure he won't mention "Glas-Stiegel" or "prop-trading" but will focus on health and the issues facing the world.

He's one senior leader who doesn't need a course-correct from the brilliant young minds on this planet.

For many of the rest of the world's leaders however, here's hoping that if they can't make the right decisions and focus on the right things, then the young people of the world gathered at One Young World will be able to help them.