World Economic Summit 2020

Last week's World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos brought together around 3,000 participants from around the world, focused on high-level discussions between political and business leaders around global challenges and big themes. Start…


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Last week's World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos brought together around 3,000 participants from around the world, focused on high-level discussions between political and business leaders around global challenges and big themes. Traditionally viewed as a talking shop for the world’s 'elite', the 2020 Davos Manifesto set the tone for what was to be a kinder, gentler, more action-oriented Davos than in years past. 

This year’s theme, and most of the formal and informal events, were focused around “stakeholder capitalism”, the role of business in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, technology and trade governance and the climate crisis.  

Outside of the formal programme was a ‘fringe festival’ of events, panels and meetings hosted by businesses, think tanks, civil society organisations and governments, all competing for the attention of the event’s high-profile delegates. We have no official numbers for this part, however, the population of Davos swells to 30,000 people (from around 11,000) during the week, with most people attending the fringe events. 

Start Network's Christina Bennett, Adam O'Kane​ and Helen James​ attended this year's WEF as part of the Sustainable Impact Hub and attended many of the fringe events. Our aim was to:

  • 1) situate Start Network in the global conversation; 
  • 2) influence that conversation by promoting Start Network’s vision and activities; 
  • 3) gather ideas and inspiration from others; and 
  • 4) make connections for future partnerships


We shared our strategy and raised our voices in events on climate innovation, collaborative philanthropy, and climate and hunger to let people know who we are and what we are doing. We shook hands with those we thought could support our work, as funders and/or as partners.  We discussed how to firm up Start Network's members’ commitments to our system change goals and how to celebrate those across our membership who are making change happen.

We were able to meet, connect and reconnect with some of our existing, past and potential partners including ODI,, Mastercard, World Food Programme, Philanthropy Partners, Devex, Rockefeller Foundation, the WEF itself and many others.

We pondered questions like: ‘is the world a crueller or a kinder place?’ And ‘what will be our most precious resource be in 2070?’ (according to futurists it’s both lithium for batteries or our ever-shrinking attention span). We wondered how the conversation at Davos might have been different with a set of leaders more representative of the world’s population and not of its distribution of wealth. Here’s some more of what we took away, using Wired magazine’s gimmick for what’s in and what’s out:

Tired and wired: 

Tired: Shareholder capitalism, the core responsibility of business is to create financial value for shareholders; Wired: Stakeholder capitalism, successful and responsible businesses should create lasting value not only for its business but for its employees, customers, suppliers and for society beyond.  

Tired: Collecting evidence and data to measure success; Wired: Using evidence and data as a basis for improvement and agile management.

Tired: Sacrificing the future for the present;Wired: Coalitions of policy-makers, scientists, faith leaders, banks and insurance companies for sustained climate action.

Tired: Institutions; Wired: Networks, coalitions and systems change. 

Tired: Power as privilege;  Wired: Power as inclusion and equality.

Read more about the World Economic Forum.