WHERE CAN YOU GO SKIING WITH LEONARDO DICAPRIO AND SNOWBOARDING WITH BILL GATES?
If planet earth had a senior management team meeting it would be ‘The World Economic Forum' which kicked off today in the highest town in Europe.
More commonly known as Davos, after it's host town Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, the event only has one thing on the agenda every year. But it's a pretty big thing: Improving the state of the world.
Organisers aim to achieve this by uniting titans of business, economics, technology, finance and politics for a very special summit in the Swiss Alps, sharing insight and innovation on how to create a better future.
This event is internationally important and it should be on every business's radar. If you think the World Economic Forum sounds boring, think again, because it isn't. In case you're new to Davos, here are five things that you need to know about the World Economic Forum:
1) IT ATTRACTS THE BIGGEST BUSINESS NAMES, GLOBAL POLITICAL PLAYERS AND ROYALTY
If you want to have a say, you have to have a seat at the table. Davos's table reads like a ‘who's who' of global affairs, featuring prominent politicians, journalists, intellectuals, business names and even royalty.
Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China provided the opening plenary speech this morning, with an impassioned defence of globalisation and a challenge to President-Elect Donald Trump, urging him to honour Paris Climate change.
2) IT ALSO ATTRACTS MAJOR PHILANTHROPIC CELEBRITIES
Nothing helps sell an event like a bit of stardust. This year Bono, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon are talking saving lives, safe water and raising awareness of climate change, respectively. Both Melinda and Bill Gates are also part of the programme, talking about the good work of their foundation and the event will specifically look at Latin America, Africa and The Middle East, so you can expect a fair amount of controversy.
3) ITS BEEN GOING STRONG FOR MORE THAN 40 YEARS
Beginning in 1971, the event was originally entitled ‘The European Management Symposium'. It was founded by German-born business professor Klaus Schwab (pictured) and focussed solely on business management systems.
In its first year the event drew 450 people, but attendance grew steadily. In 1974 it invited influential politicians. In 1976 it extended invitations to CEOs and business executives within the 1,000 biggest companies in the world, becoming the World Economic Forum in 1987.
Today the event's scope is much bigger, discussing the biggest challenges that currently face our planet and how our nations and our businesses can work together to solve them. The networking potential in huge and businesses meet, greet and do deals on the sidelines. Klaus Schwab, now 74, is still running the show and has developed a strong reputation for banging sworn enemies heads together, to iron out new solutions.
4) THIS YEAR'S LINE UP LOOKS ESPECIALLY GOOD
The list of speakers is illustrious and varied. But there are some clear highlights this year. The new Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres will be leading several panels. He will be joined by Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation. Other stand-out speakers include Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of International Monetary Fund and NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg. Take a look at the full line-up here.
This year the forum conflicts with the inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump. But the current Vice President, Joe Biden will be there for a couple of days, talking about foreign policy. US Secretary of State, John Kerry and former Vice President Al Gore are also in attendance. Gore will once again be talking about the real threat of climate change and the danger of denying it.
5) IT ACHIEVES GREAT THINGS
Davos isn't some high-profile talking shop (and a chance to do a bit of skiing). It actually implements ambitious and positive change in the world, in the most vital areas. Kofi Annan launched The Global Health Initiative at Davos in 2002. The initiative works by engaging business in public-private partnerships to tackle HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and promote health systems in developing countries.
In 200,3 Davos followed this up with The Global Education Initiative, which brought together international IT companies and governments in Jordan, Egypt and India, resulting in poorly educated children having access to new personal computers and more teachers trained in e-learning to support them. This scalable and sustainable model is now being used as an educational blueprint in other countries including Rwanda.
Other Davos initiatives cover climate change, the water crisis, tackling corruption and protecting our planet's natural resources. Basically, Davos is a big, global political, social and economic event with a conscience, that puts influential business at the heart of everything it does.
Davos is often, lively, sometimes controversial and full of useful information on where the world is today. It proves that making the right connections and starting a dialogue has the power to change the world. Incredible things can be achieved when big business works together for the good of all.