Combining 2 blogs

 

Its great to be back at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. This is the 7th time that I’ve attended the WEF in Switzerland.  There’s are lots of new faces as well as many familiar ones. There are approximately 2,500 delegates and about 150 South Africans – it’s definitely ‘our year’ – with the Soccer World Cup fast approaching!

We’re hosting the big Saturday night soiree. Everyone attending received a neck scarf in the five colours of our flag and I am wearing mine with pride !

The programme kicked-off with a packed cocktail party last night with delegates then going on to private dinners. I attended dinner hosted by Schwab Foundation for social entrepreneurs – the community that I’m honoured to be a part of.

The way it works at the WEF is that there are concurrent sessions that start before the sun peeks over the Alps, most of which you have to sign up for via their internal web-based system. The back-to-back sessions finish around 6:00pm and then crowds exit the Congress Centre to attend rounds of corporate cocktails and plated dinners with topics of interest to delegates.  Dinners and most lunches cost extra.

Sessions and workshops this year reflect the theme, “Improve the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild”

This afternoon I attended a lively session on social networking which featured best selling author Don Tapscott and executives or founders from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and YouTube. The WEF totally underestimated delegate’s interest in the subject. I sat on the floor.

I also attended a discussion on design for the future; a workshop on Business Solutions to Rural Poverty and an amazing session with five people who had just returned from the front line in Haiti. It’s only 1730 and I still have a Harvard cocktail and a dinner on ‘Imagination’. What a full and stimulating first day!

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The World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos attracts its fair share of criticism, largely by those who’ve never attended. You get out of an event like this what you put into it.

One scarce commodity is time. Days are packed with meals, panel sessions, keynote addresses, receptions, networking events, hallway conversations and workshops which leave little time to write. On the 2nd and 3rd day of the Forum, I participate in an Energy Poverty Action committee meeting which is tasked with bringing grid electricity to poor countries. I was the sole civil society voice. This reminded me a bit of the 1894 Berlin Conference when the colonial powers carved up Africa.

President Jacob Zuma at WEF

President Jacob Zuma at WEF

Other sessions I attended included an update on the Millennium Development Goals moderated by Lord Malloch-Brown, panelists consisted of Jeffrey Sachs, Bill Gates, Morgan Tsvangirai and Helen Clark. This was a joint creative session between the Technology Pioneers and the Social Entrepreneurs. I also attended an sat in on a discussion on Haiti led by former US President, Bill Clinton and a South African lunch hosted by President Jacob Zuma with several cabinet ministers in attendance.

Bill Clinton speaking at WEF

Bill Clinton speaking at WEF

Setting the Stage for the Girl Effect was NY Times Columnist Nic Krystof and Melinda Gates – a reception for women leaders followed by a sensational dinner for women leaders moderated by the effervescent Rosabeth Moss Kanter and the always charming Ariana Huffington. On my at the dinner table was the new head of UNESCO and to my right was a Nobel Peace laureate.

Its Friday night, my muscles ache and my feet are sore, by brain is in overdrive and there’s another day and a half to go. Great, can’t wait! Tomorrow is South Africa’s day.  It’s sponsoring the glamorous Saturday night soiree in honour of hosting the World Cup later in the year.

Davos, January 2010