Weekly Roundup – Davos and Igloos

WEF Discusses Global Inequality in the Swiss Alps

This was originally written for Dowser.org

This week the world’s political leaders, policy analysts, tech titans, successful businessmen, and members of the social sector convened for the annual World Economic Forum.  Despite all the wealth in the room, one of the biggest discussion points was income inequality—not surprising given the economic frustrations globally. #

The big question was: Does capitalism have a future and what will it look like in the coming years?  How can it be more socially responsible and inclusive?

As a result of this recession, that’s lasted longer than anyone predicted and will probably go on for a number more years … we’re going to have a lot of economic disparities,” Rubenstein said. “We’ve got to work through these problems. If we don’t do in three or four years … the game will be over for the type of capitalism that many of us have lived through and thought was the best type.” – David Rubenstein, the co-founder and managing director of asset management firm Carlyle Group told theAP.

Outside the forum, where over 2,500 attendees gathered, protesters converged with a giant bannerstating, “Hey WEF, Where are the other 6.9999 billion leaders?”

These were a fraction of the Occupy WEF movement, stationed in igloos at Davos and continuing the legacy of the OWS movement from last year.

Ed Miliband commented on this in a NYTimes OpEd, recognizing the flaws of UK politics and economics and offering alternatives.  He wrote:

There was a time, not long ago, when such a debate would have been held only among the protesters who annually shelter in igloos farther down the Alpine slopes. So it is encouraging that more than three years since the global financial crisis, a belated process of soul-searching has begun in search of the right lessons to learn from it.

While the private and public sector was well represented, social entrepreneurs were just a small fraction of the overall number of participants.  30 social entrepreneurs were invited to attend, in addition to the all-stars of SE such as Muhammad Yunus of Grameen, Harish Hande of SELCO, and Wendy Kopp of Teach for America.   But is that enough of a representation from the social innovation community or should WEF have more entrepreneurs? After all, Schwab, who is behind WEF, also established the Schwab Foundation for Social Enterprise.

Bill Gates attended the annual event, renewing his commit to global public health, by granting the Global Fund $750 million to fight disease.  In a NYTimes OpEd, he writes of the problems that plague the aid community, citing lack of accountability and transparency.   His solution for these inconsistencies?  Be more open and honest about the aid – where is it going, is it working, and if not, why not?

In the editorial, he writes:

I am proud to live in a world where a stranger’s suffering matters. Yet foreign aid, the best way to address that suffering, has a growing legion of critics. That is a contradiction we must remedy, and the best way to do it is to tell the truth about aid.

This year’s theme at Davos is the “Great Transformation.”

Yet, many are asking, can that transformation be crafted at an exclusive event where the entry ticket is $71K (that’s not for VIPs) and nearly six dozen billionaires bump shoulders at the many panels and parties.   Reuters breaks it down further in an imaginative infographic, illustrating what many are asking — is this the group to bring a transformation?
On Twitter, several picked up on this, writing: # 

Peston: Davos person, arriving with vast entourage by private jet, is very worried about growing inequality bbc.in/x36tD6 #Davos #WEF

maymann: Really…it’s interesting to watch/listen to them here in #WEF, but I’m not sure. The rich, worried about inequalitybbc.in/AvWWer

But some were more optimistic, happy to see income inequality being discussed (even if it was over canapes and wine).

Pauline_RoseGMR@davos Good to see focus on inequality, and youth skills to tackle unemployment. Let’s hope it leads to concrete change #WEF

jamierwilson: Refreshing to see #inequality such a hot topic in 2012: it tops the ‘List of Global Risks’ to be discussed at the #WEF bit.ly/yhPfWj

Worthwhile Weekend Reads:
  • The Financial Times tells the story of young entrepreneurs, forgoing bad habits and using enterprise for social change.
  • What can Apple do with its cash, asks Time magazine?  Perhaps, channel it in impact investing?
  • Reflections from Davos on how mobile payments can help the underbanked.
  • Thinking of starting your own social enterprise?  Alex Budak reflects on his own journey of building StartSomeGood.

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