We sent five Global Changemakers to represent young people worldwide at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Now the event has concluded, our Chair, Sir Vernon Ellis, reflects on what they achieved, and where we go next.
I have been going to the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos since the early 90’s, but this was my first time as Chair of the British Council.
The WEF proved to be an excellent event for the British Council. The focus of our presence was the Global Changemakers Programme, which was hugely exciting and really has put us on the map this year.
On Saturday morning I introduced a session which I think was the most exciting and inspirational I have ever attended at Davos.
The session was the culmination of a process that began last August when over 1500 young people from around the world applied to attend the 5th Annual Global Changemakers Summit. 60 were selected, from 37 countries. Five of them were then chosen by their peers to attend Davos, participate fully, present at sessions and in particular discuss their projects at an interactive session.
This sounds over-ambitious! But if you have read the blogs posted by the participants you will have seen their passion for change.
It is hard though to get across in a blog the detailed facts of what they have achieved. They truly are tremendous in terms of raising awareness, connecting people, changing minds and moving to action.
But the exciting thing about Friday was the realisation that the potential for each of their projects is sky-high.
The participants in the interactive session were a mixture of entrepreneurs, academics and social organisation leaders. They were gripped by the passion and energy of the Changemakers.
They engaged. They wanted to help. And they did help, with all sorts of practical suggestions on how to scale up, link to other projects and make even more of an impact.
This was such a contrast to what one sometimes sees at Davos (and I have been guilty of this in the past) – participants in round table discussions not really listening but thinking how one can make an intervention that will make you/your company look good.
Not these participants! They were inspired by the total commitment of these young people.
The world needs such people.
Three billion people today are under 25. Many are disengaged, disaffected and often unemployed. They believe they have no power, no influence, no voice.
This session proved this not need be the case.
Mahatma Gandhi once said “Be the change you want to see in the world”. These young people have taken that to heart.
Dan and Raquel were two of the four presenters at the Closing Plenary, which you can see below.
This underlined the commitment of Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, to the future and the young people who will make it. I am very proud that the British Council has worked with the World Economic Forum to bring this about.
The two Changemakers shared the platform with Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister, Klaus Schwab and Nick Vujicic, an amazing limbless young man representing Life Without Limbs. The minister was most impressed, rightly so, by “our” youngsters (who were indeed listed in the programme throughout as “British Council”).
In my many conversations with business leaders I think that there would be an appetite to engage with us on several fronts and there are many leads to follow up on.
What was clearer than ever at Davos was how many interlinked risks threaten the world at the moment. Whatever one’s optimism or not about how those risks can be addressed, it is clear that partnerships will be vital all around the world and that trust is at a premium.
The British Council has huge capability on the ground all around the world and we are trusted. We know that and people we deal with locally know that.
I do not think that we have yet fully capitalised on this strength in working with corporations and international foundations and agencies.
That will be a big priority in the coming year.
At next year’s Davos summit I think that we can accomplish even more!