Time for a diverse Davos

Davos is over for another year and the obligatory pictures of middle-class, middle-aged white men in suits are all over the media.

This year, the meeting was more pertinent than ever with the small issue of global financial meltdown weighing heavy on the shoulders of the 2,500 attendees.

Last Sunday, The Observer’s business Editor, Ruth Sutherland, expressed her dismay in seeing only five women on the abridged list of business leaders attending the conference. In a comment piece for the paper, she didn’t mince her words:

“The male Davos elite remains mired in its own preening self-regard and complacency. They have wrecked the world economy, but seem oblivious to the idea that they may not be the best people to rebuild it.”

Ruth Sutherland makes some suggestions to help re-dress the rebalance – including Oxfam director Barbara Stocking’s idea for Davos to broaden its definition of leadership, by introducing female community leaders from Africa, for example.

Someone I know used to work for the World Bank, and someone else I know for the World Economic Forum. I need to check whether or not they’d like to be named because they both speak less than favourably about the experience, in essence saying these organisations are among the most badly run they’ve ever come across. Not good in a world that needs thoughtful, enlightened leadership now, more than ever.

I’m not saying that women are the only answer, but more diversity across our leading financial and decision-making institutions is essential.

OK, so now I’ve got that off my chest, it seems that some good things did come out of this year’s Davos. Firstly, there seemed to be a great deal of social media types attending, which can only be a good thing.

As Robert Scoble said on Twitter: “The execs at Davos were very curious about Twitter and Qik/Kyte/live video. It will be interesting to see how many pick up these new things”.

So, what actually happened at this year’s Davos?

Well, Umair Haque’s ideas appear to have been well-received (by Tim O’Reilly, at least).

The “illuminating” Jeff Jarvis (thanks Steve Moore for that lovely adjective), hosted a workshop where a model for open banking was hotly discussed and debated (via Sam Granleese).

And Joanne Jacobs and the Amplified team ran a successful experiment in using social media to drive citizen participation to the sessions.

Robert Scoble complains that there wasn’t enough focus on small businesses, but then, maybe that’s no surprise in an arena where big business dominates the invite list.

Again, more diversity, more voices – that’s what we need to really move forward, and that’s exactly where social media can help.

NB: I picked up the above “news items” from If you’re aware of any other Davos developments significant to social networking/Web 2.0, please let me know!

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