Jan 31, 2013

My Davos Experience

Being one of fifty Global Shapers attending the 13th Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos last week was definitely one of the best things I've ever experienced in my life. 

I know.. I know.. Shoot me with questions. "What is World Economic Forum?" "What is Global Shaper?" "What are you doing there?" "What's in it for you? Your country? Your organization?" "How was the experience for you?" "What is your take-away?". Now if you bear with me for about 10 minutes and keep reading, hopefully you'll find all the answers.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an independent international not-for profit organization which is 'committed to improving the state of the world' by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. 

When Professor Schwab (the founder) addressed  WEF as a multi-stakeholder network, I guess I didn't know how 'multi' he meant at the time, that until I attended THE Annual Meeting in Davos last week. 

From world class author to Nobel Laureate, from top Professor to Global Leader - you name it, they are all there. 

All photos above are taken by WEF.

Way before the meeting, I made a list of names whom I wanted to meet, researched who would attend and what sessions I wanted to join. Many times while I was doing that, I wish I could split myself into two (or four!). It was a reasonable thought as before Davos, I had never been in an event where many world leaders gathered in one place, and the best of all, welcomed us, young people, to sit at the table. 

Grateful? Beyond words.

Anyway, thousands of miles away from home and there I was with my two
mentors, two people I aspire to become - Mba Vera (Social Entrepreneur)
and Mas Arsjad (Young Global Leader) :)

Some people can be cynical about a forum with discussion. I've been getting this kind of sentiments A LOT before I came to Davos. "This is nothing but talk", "No Actions Talk Only", "blablabla" and this and that.. Not that I don't understand why some people think so, because in fact, I was one of them too. But I guess we shouldn't judge something before we truly understand the thing wholly, should we?

I think WEF means differently for each person. It means, the way you see WEF depends on what you make out of it. For me personally, it gives me the opportunity to meet and learn from numerous people whom I had never thought about getting in touch with, which certainly makes the week worthwhile. Although actually, I feel like five days were just not enough! I need more time to meet more people, like seriously!!

Well anyway, being the part of this Annual Meeting has opened my eyes about what the world most pressing issues are and how we, as the global citizen, are going to solve it. Yes it's all talk during the meeting (there's a reason why it's called A FORUM), but it's the talk where all the good things begin right after we go home and follow up the relationships and projects that the Forum sparked.

Since the 2012 Annual Meeting, the voice of youth has been considered to play a key role in improving the state of the world. For this year meeting, fifty Global Shapers from all over the world were invited. I came representing Jakarta Hub.

So what are these Global Shaper, the Hub, and its relationship with WEF?

Global Shapers Community (GSC) is a network of hubs developed and led by young people who make a contribution to their communities. As I'm writing this, there are 1795 Global Shapers from 212 hubs all over the world. Each hub is required to run (at least) one project per year, which gives impact locally. This GSC initiative comes from the World Economic Forum as it suggests that the younger generation has the capacity to run the world towards better.

As I have attended some of WEF events previously, there are some faces that I've recognized and missed a lot. So it was a bit like a little reunion.

From Left - Right: Me (Jakarta Hub), Miguel (Manila Hub), Nick (Kuala
Lumpur Hub), Vanessa (Yangon Hub). Photo taken by WEF

But what I like best about meeting Global Shapers is that it gives me some sort of motivation to do more and better. Well, when you see people, your age, doing something remarkable in other part of the world (which has its own issues yet they just never complain about them).. You know the high bar has been set. They are my inspiration. Truly.

All Global Shapers. Credit goes to my lovely Roomie,
Natsuko, from Tokyo Hub.

Along with the serious talks during the days, Davos are full of fun times during the nights. Among many, my favorite was the Indonesia Night. Not only that I simply missed the food at the time (few days without warm meals made my tummy felt itchy), but I got the chance to meet top decision makers of the country whom then I had nice discussions with.

And I thank the super kind James Riady for introducing me to each of them and taking all photos above.

Interesting thing when I thanked him for what he did. He smiled and replied "I once was young like you, I know what you need". I guess that attitude must be one of things that makes him the man he is right now. I wish there'll be another time to learn more from him.

I have to admit that for me, having this label of being a "Global Shaper" puts a lot of pressure... In a good way. It's definitely not about entitlement nor achievement, it's about responsibility. I realize that some people (read: WEF) have invested so much in me and I have no reason not to make the best out of it, contribute back, and share my experience to support their mission - improving the state of the world.

So when few weeks before the Meeting I was asked to lead one of the discussions - entitled "Shaping Post-2015 Development Agenda" together with other world leaders, I immediately said 'yes' and prepared myself for the session ever since.

Among all things that I have in life, my surroundings is one thing I've been most grateful for. They are the reason why I am who I am and achieve what I want in life. It's proven when few days after the meeting agenda being published, one of my best friends from Global Shapers Community, Nick (from Kuala Lumpur Hub), contacted and congratulated me for being a discussion leader together with Professor Bloom (who happens to be one of his favorite Professors). Nick helped me to prepare by giving his insights about MDGs and things related. He gave me some articles to read and made time for me to discuss what I had in mind.

The day before the session, I stressed out myself too much as I was very close to burst out (the minus two digits temperatures might have played its role too, I suppose). Nick said something (which I will never forget) that put me at ease. "Play your game, say what you know, and everything's going to be just fine". And there he changed all my perspective and judgement about EVERYthing.. That anyone can play their own role with their own way, and we don't have to be someone else to do just that. I thank you so very much, Nick :)

"Post-2015 Development Agenda". Photo taken by WEF.

The discussion? Oh it went very well. I enjoyed it much. Kudos to Professor Bloom who turn this serious topic into an engaging and fun session. I feel relieved that everyone put "poverty eradication" and "education for all" as two important things (among others) to be focused on in the post-2015 development agenda. It resonates very well with what Wangsa Jelita and Jakarta Hub do, and knowing that everyone in the discussion group supports this cause drives me to do more and more. Motivation at its best!

I have about ten names that I really want to meet during the meeting. Each has its own story but the best one was the one with Sheryl Sandberg. Yes, the COO of Facebook, the super smart woman who has been speaking on our behalf about gender equality.

Sheryl was one of panelists on a session called "Women in Economic Decision Making". The discussion was interesting as I expected, but what happened after was completely beyond my expectation. 

As the session ended, some people went on the stage. I did too. I waited for my turn to be able to talk with Sheryl on one on one contact. After about few minutes I came to her and thanked her for her talk (at TEDxWomen). "Your talk has changed my life", I told her. She thanked me for telling that and asked me if I wanted to walk with her and share her my story. I nodded and followed her out of the congress hall. I told her how I started my business and struggled during the first few years yet still survive. Long story short, she asked me for my contact and gave me her card. She thanked me again for sharing and asked me if she could take a picture with me. Surreal. Indeed. But what happened next? I think you can guess..


P.S. Sheryl is a brilliant woman with a big heart. She is very humble and she listens to you like you matter. I guess now we know one of her secrets to success. But hey, do you want to know more? Because I have asked her whether I can interview her by email and put her profile on Wangsa Jelita's upcoming website, and she said yes (she's very kind indeed). 

If you want to learn from her and ask her a question or two, let me know what it is and I'll ask her on your behalf! You can drop a comment below or email me. Both work just fine :)