Dropping through the clouds and into the valley, I arrived in the town of Davos for the last day of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2013.

As a social entrepreneur from Canada, it was a remarkable experience. It began the weekend before as a small group of 30 people, representing 21 different countries – organized by the Hilde and Klaus Schwab, Co-Founders of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship – to help find and scale new ideas to disrupt, solve problems and shift negative patterns of behaviour around the world. Climate change, employment for vulnerable youth, bold new models for education and programmes to address chronic poverty in rural India.

Finding solutions to complex problems is complex work, but after seven days in Davos, I am finding my path forward. The days started early with small, cross-sector working groups gathering for breakfast at 07.30 to consider the role of technology as an enabler for system change and innovation or the design of resilient human systems.

Later in the morning we – all 2,000+ participants – found our way into various presentations, idea labs and panel sessions with leaders from every imaginable field. Lunch in open areas throughout the Congress Centre is a great time to let serendipity take control and the rooms buzz with animate conversations. Everyone has a story and a unique perspective and everyone is open to random exchanges.

The afternoons were a call back to the various presentations, discussions and small working groups. One afternoon, a group of 40 business and civic leaders got together (20 Israelis and 20 Palestinians), to discuss solutions to the challenges that plague their people; real work and creative problem-solving with groups that self-organize. Work continued well into the evening and was followed by working dinners and evening social events in the surrounding hotels.

I was exhausted after six days of this, but I am hopeful. I am developing a more comprehensive “theory for change” and I am developing the relationships to make it possible. It is going to take a network of academics, political leaders, citizens and business partnerships from around the world to advance the change we need. But, change is possible and that energizes me for my future work.

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is often criticized as a “gabfest”, but for me it is a brilliant exchange of ideas, within a format that enables transactions between people. Change may not happen in Davos, but with the days, weeks and months that follow.

 

Author: Geoffrey Cape, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Evergreen, Canada; Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Canada, 2007

Since its inception in 1990, the Evergreen has partnered with over 700 urban projects and 4,500 school projects, reaching over 3 million people directly. Evergreen is a recognized international leader in the green/sustainable city movement, in large part because of its core strength in facilitating community partnerships and convening leaders to support action to green cities. It is now replicating its effective model to forge community, government and corporate partnerships for change in cities globally.