The Future of Davos: Is a Hipper World Forum on Its Way?

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People stand in the Swiss resort at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2013 in Davos, Jan. 26, 2013.

If Davos is getting old, as I speculated on this blog earlier this week, the question is, What will take its place? I spent my final hours at the World Economic Forum trying to suss that out.

The New Yorker’s John Cassidy, who was not invited to Davos this year, posits that the WEF is a positional good — one whose value “is mostly a function of its desirability to others.” If so, the naysayers who pooh-pooh the event and wish it would go away “have the power to make it do precisely that — by ignoring it,” muses the Financial Times’ John McDermott. Another of the many media savants left off Klaus Schwab’s invitation list this year, McDermott farcically proposed organizing his own version of Davos in his backyard in London.

(MORE: Davos Wisdom, 2013: Five Lessons from the Global Forum)

McDermott may be on to something. All along the famed promenade that runs through town and into the WEF’s central Congress Center, globally minded organizations have been chipping away at the official WEF itinerary, setting up shop in empty retail spaces and dormant art galleries to host their own events and encourage high-minded side dealings.

For example, for several years, the social-networking group Hub Culture has set up camp in an airy meeting space across the street from the WEF beehive to host brainstorming and dealmaking sessions between executives of companies like Nissan and Hertz. One of Hub Culture’s missions is to bring the backroom dealmaking Davos is known for into the open. For more on what that means, watch this video. The social network is also an evangelist for peer-to-peer finance, which allows individuals and companies to trade outside the erratic global monetary system through virtual currencies (kooky, yes, but even the European Central Bank has paid this some attention). So while global political leaders and hedge-funders sat inside the WEF fretting about the threats of competitive currency devaluations and big banks’ unwillingness to lend, Hub Culture was across the street extolling the virtues of buying into its virtual currency, Ven, to major corporations like BlackBerry and GE.

(MORE: Davos Crib Sheet: Top Global Risks of 2013)

Other would-be disruptors skulking on the sidelines were delegates from the clan of 20-something hotshots running Summit Series, a five-year-old entrepreneur conference angling to overtake Davos as the official playground of elite thinkers. The high-net-worth group, dubbed by one Forbes writer as the hipper Davos, recently shelled out $40 million to buy Utah’s Powder Mountain, one of the largest ski mountains in North America. They’re looking to turn what has been their annual event (with attendees and speakers including Bill Clinton, Ted Turner, Virgin’s Richard Branson and PayPal’s Peter Thiel) into a year-round country club that hosts like-minded A-list entrepreneurs committed to social impact. Its organizers spent the week angling to recruit megastar Davos attendees like Marissa Mayer and potential investors like Bain Capital’s Steve Pagliuca.

Their message to Klaus Schwab and the old guard of the financial and business worlds was simple: You’ve had your chance to reform from within. Prepare to be disrupted.

MORE: The TIME at Davos Debate: The Rewards of Mastering Risk

MORE: Davos 2013: Why U.S. Companies Fail to Innovate


While we appreciate being mentioned in this article, its crucial that we set some facts straight here.  The Davos Pavilion, now in its 4th year and one of many we produce around the world, is designed to help support the broader activities of the Forum at large, and offers helpful additional services to the community at large. The main purpose is to provide our partners and those in Davos access to social media, additional meeting space and evening events, not to schedule competing programming.  This year we produced over 110 social media interviews telling the stories of CEOS and delegates, along with 3 live webcasts.  We are a media partner and a social network, not a conference organiser.

With over 2,000 people through the Hub this week its impossible to guess who made the comments mentioned in your article, but the reality is that this is incorrect and not at all the position of Hub Culture, our team who work hard all year to make the Pavilion come together, or the partners involved in it.  Thousands of the worlds top thinkers and doers descend on Davos each year with a multitude of goals - some for business, some for philanthropy, and others to take the pulse on the year ahead.  Such a unique formulation of value can only be produced by the World Economic Forum and it has spent a generation building that formula.  As Davos has grown, a second tier of support has proven to be needed, and we happily provide that support. Don't think for a second that diminishes the impact, relevance or importance of the main attraction.  

We see first hand every year the discussions, deal-making and progress on issues of importance to us all during Davos.  The issues that we face as a society are large, complicated, and difficult to the point of near intractability.  The fact that serious work is being done to solve issues of global import and to take the time and effort to meet to try and find solutions, deserves more credit than it gets.  While its easy to look for one or two companies acting or not acting in some regard, or to point to the various social events that occur, its important to remember thousands of people and companies gather in Davos to do serious work.  Where Google has led in the past, others will lead in the future.  The Forum has a footprint and a legacy that goes far beyond any single company or meeting, and its infrastructure is what helps it to endure. 


Business leaders should prepare to be disrupted in general because they cannot keep focusing solely on generating higher profits and expect to survive the next stage. The only companies that will thrive in the coming decade are those that adjust to the new interdependent conditions. What do they have to change about their business? Nothing. They do however need to add new messages to their products and promotions. They need to focus on contributing to society in a very direct manner beyond all the fancy CSR programs and especially at points where they come into direct contact with consumers.

So how will Davos look in the future? You will see a lot more experts and consultants that understand the process the world is going through, and what the global corporations need to do to help get the world back in balance. They are the only people that can provide the Davos elite with proper guidance.


In the last TIME article on this topic, the same writer mentioned that,

"For now, Davos is holding on to some lingering competitive advantages: political might and location. Thirty-seven prime ministers and presidents were expected this year. And being cooped up with the world’s most powerful in a tiny Swiss town “means there’s no escape,” says Joe Echevarria, U.S. CEO of Deloitte, which tends to focus the mind. So, perhaps, does hobnobbing at private parties with token celebrities like Charlize Theron and tech icon Sean Parker, who—lucky for Schwab—both showed up."

Given that, I'm sorry, but a "hipper" forum is not on the way any time soon.  Davos holds the overwhelming lion's share of the sway and prestige.  These other groups are mere imitations.

Nice job on publishing yet another puff piece, TIME. 

murray 1 Like

Davos; where the super rich and super powerfull conspire to become even more so! you would think that with all this super brain power after all these years of getting together that many of the world economic and political problems would at least get better rather than worse. well, at least its good for the Davos economy.


Davos is mostly about a good old boys network for justifying and perpetuating corporate-state leverage (neo-fascism) ... with a veneer of "social responsibility" and "threat analysis" for the media outlets. Not surprising that Google has abandoned Davos. The beginning of a trend. 

Time for new generations of blended value gatherings that seek a healthier and better connected world, a world less stratified by wealth disparity and runaway greed (the personification of Davos). Rather than inviting a handful of "token" social good agents (as Davos does), emerging world-changing conferences (think TED, Summit, Pop Tech) are curating a strong cross-section of social good, empathic structural change, conscious capital, NGO leadership, emerging world changers, and positive impact innovators.


Being a super quango , they are there only for the free food and drink .