DAVOS, Switzerland — There are a lot more black sedans than there were when I first arrived in Davos. Audi, BMW and Mercedes are among the favorites for the participants and other guests of the Forum who can afford to be shuttled around by limousine. This does not include me, which is fine, since I enjoy the town’s clear, white snow in light of Washington’s moderate winter.
But, with more black sedans, security check points and people comes another problem. Traffic.
Traffic in Davos makes Route 66 between Northern Virginia and Washington look quaint. The snow, combined with the ice and the hills are intimidating enough. Add the VIP status of the guests, their jam-packed schedules and security checkpoints at every gate, and it becomes something else entirely. Every van or bus driver I have ridden with has been excellent, but my nerves are related to a lack of familiarity with anything approaching this level of ice and snow.
It’s a challenge, but a fitting one, since the gathering is one for people who like challenges.
And this is not a place where you want to look smashing at the risk of being uncomfortable. Business casual is the name of the game. Women wear tights, men wear suits and, often, no ties — a big deal for world and corporate leaders who are used to wearing a tie just about everywhere.
The day started with a 7:15 a.m. breakfast session on renewable energy not sponsored by the Forum. If I have one word of advice for event planners, it’s this: The fewer hills participants need to climb early on in the day to get to your event the better. Missing both the bus and the train, and with 3 steep, ice-covered hills ahead of me, I learned two valuable lessons: I’m not an athlete, and the Davos buses, shuttle buses provided by the Forum and the various hotel shuttles, are my friends.
The first event I could get into — my first at the forum — was an open chat with Mohammad Yunus, the inventor of the micro-finance system. A subject of praise, criticism and controversy, Yunus has been one of the leading voices on social entrepreneurship and social business.
Yunus was called on, in a discussion with Time Magazine’s Assistant Managing Editor Rana Foroohar, to focus on the emerging generation of millennials, for whom, he repeatedly mentioned, the unemployment level was too high.
“It’s a shameful thing to happen,” said Yunus of the unemployment rate among the world’s youth, asking if we — the participants, many of whom are in a position to determine economic policy — were really that “stupid” as to let young people go unemployed.
“[It’s] a totally unacceptable proposition for a young person to remain un-utilized,” he said.
Yunus also discussed future technology, such as phone applications and hand-held devices that can monitor health indicators. “If you are not desperate you are not using your mind in those directions,” said Yunus, going on to say that this kind of desperation exists in emerging economies such as India.
“Literally, we have to create a new civilization,” said Yunus, “There’s nothing impossible today.”
After scaling three hills at 7 a.m. in one of the most intense snowfalls Davos has seen in over 40 years, according to Forum founder professor Klaus Schwab, I’m feeling inclined to agree.
Kolawole, the editor of Ideas@Innovations for the Post, is a Global Shaper attending the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting. She is reporting her findings back from inside the Forum.
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