World Economic Forum 2010

Davos showcases Young Global Leaders

Sean Cole Jan 28, 2010
World Economic Forum 2010

Davos showcases Young Global Leaders

Sean Cole Jan 28, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: The World Economic Forum schmoozed its way into a second day of panels and programs today. Alongside the presidents, prime ministers and CEOs who are in Davos, there’s a subset of attendees called the Young Global Leaders. They are young — they’re all under 40. And they’re all at the top of their chosen fields, everything from business to education to the arts.

Marketplace’s Sean Cole spent some time with one of them.

SEAN COLE: Hi, I’m looking for Daniel Shapiro?

Dan Shapiro is the founder and director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program. I met him one week before the Davos conference and about 4,000 miles away in his office in Cambridge, Mass.

COLE: How are you?

DANIEL SHAPIRO: Nice to meet you.

He’s impossibly friendly and edge-of-his-chair enthusiastic about his work. Everything Shapiro does comes back to the emotional side of negotiation and conflict resolution.

SHAPIRO: How do you negotiate the sacred? When there are issues that each side claims are completely indivisible. “I would rather die!” says someone from each side, “I would rather have my child die than say yes to your demand.”

He’s done workshops in China and Dubai and Egypt. He showed me a holiday card that the king and queen of Jordan sent him. And it’s depressing because…

SHAPIRO: I am 38 years old.

COLE: As am I.

SHAPIRO: Cool. When’s your birthday?

COLE: November 19th. When’s yours?

SHAPIRO: OK. December 3rd.

COLE: Wow.

SHAPIRO: My God, you’re now like my new brother.

Turns out we live down the street from each other. And we were both affiliated with UMass Amherst back in the 90’s. That is, I was a classroom artist’s model earning $8 an hour, and he was a grad student developing a conflict management curriculum for high schoolers in Eastern Europe.

SHAPIRO: And while all of my friends are going off to have nice Christmas holidays, I’m heading off to Serbia to do a workshop for refugees.

So you can see why the World Economic Forum took notice of him.

SHAPIRO: When did I first hear about the Young Global Leaders program?

Right. So in 2006 he got a phone call asking him to speak at a YGL forum in Vancouver. They hold their own events throughout the year as well as at Davos.

SHAPIRO: Sounds interesting, you know, a group of young global leaders. I’d love to speak to, in my head I’m thinking, I’d love to speak to a group of high school students.

But he had a wedding to go to that same weekend so he said I’ll call you back.

SHAPIRO: Get off the phone, look on the Web and see who these young global leaders are! Oh! So it’s the founders of Google. It’s some of the world’s most influential business leaders. I called back very quickly and said I’ve figured out a way to rearrange my schedule.

And in 2008, he was officially designated as a YGL himself. It’s not just a titular thing either. The YGLs sometimes create funded organizations that get things done, like treating children who have intestinal worms, or improving maternal health.

SHAPIRO: As a community we have the business resource. We have the academic resource. We have the intellectual and NGO resource. How can we combine our efforts toward great value? And it’s that same seed idea that is what keeps me going back to the World Economic Forum.

And this is his fourth year in a row.

In Boston, I’m Sean Cole for Marketplace.

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