Davos 2010: Anticipation Builds for "Setting the Stage for the Girl Effect"

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

Another early morning in Davos, but I woke up refreshed and excited in anticipation of what's to come today: the workshop "Setting the Stage for the Girl Effect."

Actually, I think I really began to get excited last night as I once again made my rounds to the evening receptions and spoke to the ever-growing cadre of girl champions at Davos. The evening kicked off with the Ernst & Young reception for the PSLF (Private Sector Leaders Forum), of which the Nike Foundation is a member. PSLF supports an amazing project within the World Bank called the Adolescent Girl Initiative--a Liberian-based job-training program for girls that we launched in October 2008 with the World Bank, Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the Government of Denmark that is now active in Liberia, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Rwanda.

Anyway, back to the event and the girl champions. No matter what the session, girls are on everyone's radar. I ran into Ann Veneman of UNICEF, who had attended a session on Wednesday called "Rethinking Population Growth." The UN estimates that by 2050, the world's population will increase from 6.8 billion to 9.2 billion. Ann said much of the conversation at the event focused on acknowledging the key role girls and women will play in either accelerating or halting population growth and identifying ways to engage girls and women in the solution.

Clearly, there is great potential to leave WEF with strong long-term investment strategies for girls. With that in mind, I thought I'd take a little informal poll to see what others would most like to see coming out of Davos this year. Here's what they had to say:

Helene Gayle-CARE: "What'd I'd most like to a sustained commitment to doing something on girls. We had a plenary last year. There's a session this year that shows commitment, but it's so easy for these things to be exciting for a short period of time and not have it go further. So, I'd like to see a sustained commitment for girls." When I asked if 2010 has the potential to be the year for girls and women, Gayle replied: "It has to be."

Melanne Verveer-US State Department: "I hope that we continue to mainstream the issues of girls. It is critical that girls and women have their place in every aspect of what Davos represents. Whether it's the corporate sector...government...collaborations--that this issue is taken seriously and continues to move up on everybody's agenda. The issues of girls need to move from the margins to the mainstream."

Kathy Buskin Calvin-UN Foundation: "I think if we get a sea change in the champions for girls and women out of Davos and we continue to move it to an economic issue as opposed to solely a rights issue, we will have achieved a lot. I think we're half way there. It's a matter of who comes to our meetings, who comes out excited, and who is ready to take action and commit to big plans for next year."

Following the PSLF reception, I made a quick stop at the Time Magazine reception before heading to a fascinating dinner called "A Future by Design?" The dinner discussion was led by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture at the MOMA, and David Edwards, Professor of Biomechanics at Harvard University. The question of the evening: Our one biggest hope and one biggest fear for design. It was a question I hadn't considered before, but answered easily. My hope is that we are able to redesign the power structure so that poverty is no longer a lever to sustain the status quote and that the disempowered in the world, like girls, finally get a seat at the table. My greatest fear is that those in positions of power don't allow the system of power to change to respond to the changing world and our unique ability today to SOLVE poverty for the first time in history.

So it's easy to see why I was jazzed this morning. And, it continued to get better.

Following a morning breakfast meeting, I was lucky enough to run into Mr. Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum. Mr. Schwab has been an incredible champion of girls and women over the years, supporting the historic first global plenary on girls last year, the regional Girl Effect plenaries, and this year's workshop. In our conversation I could see that he clearly has become more enthusiastic and will continue to be a great supporting voice. I shared with him that, as usual, the Girl Effect session filled up immediately and that we were being hotly pursued by Davos participants to get in! We discussed the importance of the WEF's leadership on the issue, and that what we'd most like to see come out of Davos this year is momentum for next year's agenda and an active workstream throughout the year at the regional and annual meetings. I invited him to come out to Nike to discuss this idea some more and see the Nike campus and team.

So, I'm clearly looking forward to the workshop this afternoon. The discussion is sure to be exciting and set up for real impact. What's equally exciting is knowing that we'll have representation from veterans of this work, newcomers, and youth. The youth voice will be represented by an amazing young woman named Tshepiso Gower, a member of the British Council's Global Changemakers who will be a discussion leader for the session. Tshepiso is a 19-year-old from Botswana who is focused on advocating for job creation and empowerment of girls and women in her home country. I was able to meet with her and six of her fellow Changemakers from all over the world on Tuesday. I'm both inspired and impressed by their fresh perspective and enthusiasm. Clearly this next generation will change the world for the better.

Okay, I'm off to get ready. More soon!