If you do Davos right, it's as exhausting as it is exhilarating and intellectually stimulating. As one of the women who made up 17% of Davos attendees this year, my goal was to build a diverse experience that would allow me to bring back fresh perspectives on how to help our clients through the transformations they are undergoing. I left Davos with numerous learnings and ideas, and a new appreciation for the power of our profession.
For example, as strong facilitators, we're poised to help our clients engage with diverse partners to focus on change that is good for business, the economy and individuals. The dominant topic of the Eurozone didn't leave me with much optimism about a turnaround. I gained awareness of the 75 million unemployed young people around the world and the systemic problems that will come from their plight, both now and in the future. On the other hand, I feel more confident about growth in Africa, enhancements in healthcare, smarter cities, more equality for women, and the use of digital tools. These more positive areas reflect more active collaboration between governments, customers, business partners, non-governmental organizations, and the media.
Let's also remember that we can create the playgroups that help the world thrive tomorrow.
Tim Brown, the CEO of Ideo, said "creativity takes good parenting." Working with corporations, governments, and NGOs puts us at the intersection of many of these challenges, so let's throw all of these entities into the blender more often and see what we can strategically combine.
The same creativity and rigor we use to develop breakthrough ideas for clients can be used to ensure the CSR programs we help them create have real meaning. One of the biggest challenges to true transformation is balancing long-term versus short-term commitments. But as reputation counselors who understand that actions speak louder than words, we can help our clients make the right choices, leading to smarter cities, enhanced sustainability, and programs that help youth become more self-sufficient over time.
Embracing the many facets of engagement that the digital world makes available will allow us to harness the power of the Internet for policy shaping, charitable giving, and informing the public about the issues. Chelsea Clinton moderated a panel on e-philanthropy, and Sean Parker, who most recently created Causes.com, discussed the power of bringing the donor closer to the recipient. In our role as relationship-builder and communicator, we can help find ways to share these stories and enhance engagement in giving and in stewarding brands.
Finally, as an industry filled with so many talented women, we can mentor other women, encourage ambition in our ranks – as preached by Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook – and help young girls around the world receive the education, capital, and safety they need to thrive as equals in the coming decades. The fact that organizations and governments with greater gender equity are more successful needs to be showcased and put into practice more.
Needless to say, I found Davos to be a unique, enriching experience. I left truly believing that we are in an industry that can lead change with our words and actions. That is what Davos is all about: engaging senior leaders in collaboration to better the world. Will you join me?
Barri Rafferty is a senior partner at Ketchum and director of its New York office.