I told a homeless man that I was going to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos and he asked me: "Will this make any difference to my life"?
I always look forward to the Annual Meeting because the discussions are directly relevant to the world around us and they often set the global economic agenda for the year ahead. To many economic commentators the global economy is in a very brittle condition. The struggle in the Eurozone still dominates the headlines and the implications for the whole world if it were to get into deep trouble are very unpleasant. The reality nearer home is more stark. In my own country, the government has just announced that youth unemployment is the highest that it has ever been since records began. Newspaper headlines shout about a "lost generation".
The title of this year's meeting couldn't be more apt: "The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models". What now for the world as the global economy appears to be straining like an overloaded engine under immense strain? The Time magazine Person of the Year for 2011 was the Protestor and this caused a huge debate. In some ways it is easy to protest but it is much more challenging to come up with concrete models which create a fairer and sustainable planet without mass unemployment, for example. We need to create a new value system with different rewards for stakeholders whilst rewarding entrepreneurs and innovators at the same time.
There are huge challenges. You can approach this with your glass half empty or your glass half full. There are huge opportunities now to create new economic structures. The meeting in Davos will be a cauldron of debate with sessions filled with titles like "Fixing Capitalism", "The Values Context", "The Future of Economics" and "Building Trust" and subsequent discussions will go on well into the night.
I really look forward to being part of these debates and I am sure many constructive suggestions will emerge. The challenge then will be for the global leaders to engage with the wider populations and make the necessary changes to make the world a better place. Davos will be a very exciting place in the week ahead.
And then afterwards, I'd like to go back to the homeless man and answer his question by saying, yes indeed, the meeting would be a catalyst to making a huge impact on his life in the future.