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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 01/23/2012

The Global Shapers: Millennials convene at World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos


World Economic Forum (WEF) founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab on Jan. 18, 2012. (Fabrice Coffrini - AFP/Getty Images)

It’s that time of the year again.

World leaders, business executives, academics, artists, and, yes, journalists will convene in Davos, Switzerland this week for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. The theme this year? “The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models.”

And, if there’s any blog that enjoys transformation and the creation and shaping of new models, it’s this one.

First, a little background: The annual meeting, which has come to be known simply as “Davos,” has been the subject of compliment, criticism and myth. On Jan. 25, 2011, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a regular at the Forum’s annual meeting, Moisés Naím addressed five myths about Davos. In his first myth, Naim provides the counterargument to the claim that Davos is “a convention for the world’s plutocrats” writing:

While chief executives of the world’s top companies are the largest single group attending the World Economic Forum, over the years they’ve been joined by religious leaders, scientists, politicians, artists, academics, social activists, journalists and heads of nongovernmental organizations from across the globe. These newer participants account for about half of those who go to Davos.

This year, the meeting will have a batch of new participants — a group of individuals under 30 years old, whom the Forum has dubbed the Global Shapers. The community, a group modeled off of the Forum’s Young Global Leader community, has “hubs” in nearly every major city, including Washington, D.C.

The Shapers were recruited in an effort to channel the “passion, dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit” of the world’s youth — a youth that, in the past year alone, has grown substantially in its capacity to influence politics and business. In fact, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, one of the top 20 wealthiest people in America, according to Forbes, is a member of this generation. And Facebook isn’t even publicly traded yet.

I’ll be going along with the Global Shapers, chronicling what I learn there as a first-time attendee at a conference once known for having a proliferation of gray hairs and male heads. I'll be speaking with some of the new, young members of the Forum — ambassadors of a new generation, interacting with older members curious about the type of world Millennials — those born roughly between 1980 and 1989 — would like to create. I’ll be speaking with these older members as well about innovation in education, technology, philanthropy, the arts and the kind of world they’d like to see.

This will be a week of firsts for me, but it will be a week of firsts for the Forum as well, giving the Millennial generation a platform that — since the WEF was created by Professor Klaus Schwab in 1971 — has acquired a great deal of its popularity from a high-profile guest list of, traditionally, much older individuals and the strategic, socio-political decisions they have made there.

This is the age of Occupy Wall Street and new governments in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. It is the beginning of the end of a long war in Iraq — a war that took the lives of the young as well as the old. We live in a time free of many of the world leaders who Millennials, particularly in the West, were raised to fear and loathe — Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong Il and Moammar Gaddafi.

Today, movements start with tweets and blog posts. If you don’t believe it, ask the sponsors and supporters of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Protect IP Act companion bill in the Senate.

Millennials have been coming of age for a while — the Forum provides this generation with a new platform on the world stage.

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By  |  07:00 AM ET, 01/23/2012

Categories:  Business, Morning Read

 
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