THE BLOG
01/22/2015 05:26 pm ET Updated Mar 24, 2015

The Change-Maker of Tomorrow: A Young Chinese Woman

This week, the Global Opportunity Report proves that we have readily available solutions to some of the biggest risks, and that a new breed of change-makers might take the lead. Risk managers are old school.

Water crisis is the biggest global risk today. If turned into reality, this risk will have the biggest impact on societies in the years to come. For the same reason, World Economic Forum has just rated water crisis the risk with the greatest potential impact in the new Global Risk Report. This and numerous others risks are on the agenda this week, when World Economic Forum assembles 2500 world leaders in the small skiing resort Davos in Switzerland. The purpose is the same as the previous years: How do we deal with a still growing and still more interconnected crisis? A water crisis being just one of them. The Risk Report is a catalogue of the biggest risks in terms of likelihood or impact. This year's report includes spread of infectious diseases, failure of climate-change adaption, extreme weather events, interstate conflicts, cyber attacks, failure of national governance and several others.

In spite of the great efforts from World Economic Forum, alongside with international institutions from UN to G7, G8, G20, World Bank and many others, we are still looking for the big breakthrough. Could it be, because we are looking in the wrong direction -- where we have the light, but not the lost key? Could it be that we have developed a knowing -- doing-gap by focusing still more on the risks and too little on the solutions? Or not realized that the risks take new types of answers, new types of change-makers? Global Risk Report 2015 has ranked "failure of national governance" as one of the biggest risks. Maybe that illustrates part of the problem.

Alongside with the Davos summit and the gathering of 2500 international leaders another but much smaller initiative may have the key -- or at least point in the direction where it might be found. In Zürich -- not far away from Davos -- The Global Opportunity Report 2015 is launched. It is based on the assumption that the difference between a risk and an opportunity is how soon you discover it.

To prove this point, the initiators have prioritized five global risks and identified three opportunities for each selected risk. They don't claim these to be the biggest risks, but representative for the kind of threats we have to deal with. They are: Extreme weather, lack of fresh water, unsustainable urbanization, non-communicable diseases and lock-in to fossil fuels. The process behind has been comprehensive: Hundreds of experts and thought-leaders on five continents have evaluated the risks and provided insights and inspiration for opportunities for how to address these. More than 6,000 private and public sector leaders have tested and prioritized the opportunities according to impacts and capacity to seize them. The result -- a 150 pages report -- is published this week.

The Biggest Risk is the Biggest Opportunity

The findings prove my above statement about the difference between a risk and an opportunity: The report singles out the water crisis as the risk with the highest potential of being solved. So a water crisis is rated both as the biggest global risk and the biggest opportunity for being solved. This might hold a great and optimistic story: The world has developed more available and scalable opportunities and solutions than we are aware of. It is just a matter of connecting, committing and communicating them. Complex challenges call for systemic solutions. It is exactly that perspective that initiated, "Global Opportunity Report."

The new report is developed by three partners, who all are engaged in problem solving: It is one of the world's leading companies within risk management, the Nordic-based corporation, DNV GL , UN Global Compact-5 and Scandinavian think tank Monday Morning-6 , founder of global solutions platform Sustainia-7. Besides developing a global mapping of opportunities, a GPS for change-makers, the founders wanted to identify the new change-makers. Who shall close the knowing-doing-gap? Based on the report and survey, it is possible to draw a portrait of who is most likely to exercise influence and help solving the global challenges: The new breed of change-makers. The answers are rather surprising.

Ms. World of Opportunities 2015

First, your future change-maker is most probably a woman. Among the private and public sector leaders surveyed in the report, the women were clearly more optimistic than men and saw bigger potentials in the opportunities. Second, she is young. Respondents under 30 demonstrated more confidence about our meeting the challenges, followed by the age group 30-49 years. The respondents over 50 are more pessimistic. Third, she lives in China, India or South America.

One of the most surprising results in the report is the big difference between regions. China leads followed by India and South America. Europe and North America lacks behind. Europe currently shows the most cautious mindset, when it comes to meeting the sustainability challenges.

Fourth, our change-maker works in the private sector. Looking at responses from different sectors, businesses - especially in manufacturing and finance - have the most optimistic view on turning risks into sustainable growth. In other words: The transformation of the societies will most likely be led by the business sector. It looks to be the strongest driver of the necessary changes.

A closer study of the data discovers an interesting trend: Our young change-maker embraces regulation as a strong tool for development of a safer and more sustainable society. In the survey, this wish is especially expressed by the age group under 30 years. Generally, the young generation seems to have most confidence in the future and our ability to solve the major problems -- based on the opportunities presented in the survey. That goes e.g. for our ability to transform the energy systems worldwide to a more sustainable structure less reliant on fossil fuels etc.

The overall message in The Global Opportunity report 2015 is clear: Never have the risk been that many, that goes for the opportunities too. So take the first step now: Hire an opportunity manager. And start the hiring search in Shanghai.