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Social Innovation on the World Economic Forum Davos Agenda

Last week, nearly 2,500 leaders in politics, business, civil society, media, and academia participated in the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Annual Meeting in Davos.

Held in-person for the first time in over two years due to the global pandemic, the meeting offered a unique environment for stakeholders across sectors to reconnect, exchange insights, and strategize on solutions to the world’s most urgent challenges, from the ongoing pandemic to the war in Ukraine and climate change.

As an alliance-based model for change that converses across sectors, social innovation is essential to driving forward lasting solutions to the most complex economic, social, and environmental problems. As such, Echoing Green was thrilled that several Echoing Green Fellows brought social innovation frameworks to Davos, including Karen Tse ’02, Elizabeth Hausler ’04, Kennedy Odede ’10, and Donnel Baird ’12. Their leadership, voices, and impact represent the new and disruptive approaches needed to achieve positive social change.

Additionally, Echoing Green President and 1992 Fellow Cheryl L. Dorsey participated in three sessions centered on trust, racial equity, and stakeholder inclusion. Read on to learn the essential takeaways from Cheryl’s sessions.

ECHOING GREEN ON THE DAVOS AGENDA

Rebuilding Societal Trust

In “Rebuilding Societal Trust,” Cheryl joined John W. Hickenlooper (United States Senate) and Amy Weaver (Salesforce) to highlight how the government, civil society, and corporate sectors are working toward an equitable, inclusive, and sustainable recovery from the global pandemic by rebuilding citizen trust.

When asked how Echoing Green is making a difference, Cheryl replied, “Our institutions that were set up to work in a 20th century framework are no longer serving us in a rapidly changing world. It’s the civil society organizations that deal with [the lack of trust] in communities every single day and try to create a safety net for folks who are really feeling the downstream effects of what it means when our institutions aren’t working for enough of us.”

Cheryl cited the work of Fellows Kennedy Odede ’10 (SHOFCO) and T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison ’13 (GirlTrek) as examples of the agile action driven by proximate social innovators in the early months of the pandemic. These visionary leaders were hard at work in their communities long before the pandemic and are critical to building future resilience.

The Journey Towards Racial Equity

In “The Journey Towards Racial Equity,” Cheryl moderated a conversation with Alex Liu (Kearney), Pam Chan (BlackRock), and Winnie Byanyima (United Nations) exploring accountability and strategies needed to sustain societal momentum on racial equity in the face of waning corporate attention.

In her introduction to the session, Cheryl reflected on the second anniversary of the murder of Mr. George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the political and economic retrenchment in the time since: “Two years on, from my perspective, the opportunity for true transformative change— in my country and globally— has dissipated… So where do we go from here? Progress on racial equity requires concrete actions and ongoing accountability in order to be meaningful.”

In reflecting on bright spots and the innovations that bring us closer to breaking down systemic racism, executive director of UNAIDS Winnie Byanyima discussed the power of lived experience: “I think the starting point has to be that those who experience racism have the space and the psychological safety to speak their truth. All these policies, workplaces are driven from the top and are not coming from those who experience racism themselves, I don’t have faith in them.”

The Power of People: Co-Designing Impact and Inclusion

In “The Power of People: Co-Designing Impact and Inclusion,” Cheryl led a conversation with Tjada McKenna (Mercy Corps), Pam Chan (BlackRock), and Kahea Pacheco (Women’s Earth Alliance.)

Together, they discussed the value of community-based knowledge and shifting decision-making power to the communities closest to the problems and the solutions.
As Indigenous advocate Kahea Pacheco explained in response, “We have to be looking at consultation as more than just a checkmark. It can’t just be consultation. It has to be collaboration.” She further explained, “[Inclusion] is working with those most affected because they will know the best solutions for their communities… When we come in imposing state- and corporate- centered approaches over grassroots solutions, that’s when things fall apart.”

From her perspective as a business leader, Pam Chan described the importance of building an ecosystem for social change: “It’s not just a one-time investment. But how do you actually get everybody working together toward the same outcome? And I think that’s actually how you also get great returns.”

Reflecting on power dynamics inherent to global aid work, Tjada McKenna asserted: “This is about really understanding fundamental power structures. Where are we best positioned as an international NGO to serve and to collaborate? What are the areas we should cede? Where are the places where other people should naturally lead? And what do we bring that’s unique to the environment and how do we do that in a way that’s about shared power and inclusive power?”

SOCIAL INNOVATION AT THE TABLE

The world is at a critical juncture. By applying a lens of systems thinking and building deep trust with impacted communities, social innovators reimagine systems that allow all of us to heal and thrive.

Through the World Economic Forum and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, Echoing Green is collaborating with leaders in the social innovation ecosystem to ensure that social innovators and civil society organizations play a critical role in global conversations like these.

When impacted communities and those fighting alongside them are not just at the table but given the power to make decisions, we unlock the collaborative, equitable, and transformative solutions needed to tackle global challenges and advance racial equity.

Echoing Green would like to extend our thanks to Francois Bonnici (Schwab Foundation), David Sangokoya (WEF), and Kimberly Bennet (WEF) for sparking and supporting these crucial conversations at the World Economic Forum.

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