What to Expect at Davos

Each year on Martin Luther King Day, I reflect on the importance of social justice and social change, and on the teachings of both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, India’s freedom fighter whose principles of non-violence and civil disobedience influenced America’s foremost civil liberties leader. Ironically, around the same time each year, I head to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF), whose mission is “improving the state of the world.” The WEF events are “shaped by a unique institutional culture founded on the stakeholder theory, which asserts that an organization is accountable to all parts of society.” Their belief: Progress happens “by bringing together people from all walks of life who have the drive and the influence to make positive change.” So what actually happens at Davos at WEF? And how do you prepare for it mentally and in terms of attire?

Coming together at the WEF to make change is not easy and neither is getting to and getting around at Davos. Located atop the Swiss Alps, Davos is 2-and-a-half hours away by car or train from Zurich, the nearest airport. As you ride through the snow-covered pre-alpine and alpine road to Davos, it is hard not to be reflective about the state of the world. So when you reach the snow-covered streets of the Promenade, the main street of Davos, your state of mind is ready to take on the mountain of challenge the world faces and slalom through the complex issues (and schedules) that lay ahead to make the world a better place. That is the magic of the WEF. And perhaps to do your small part in meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs or Global Goals) by 2030.

While being in the right state of mind to delve, discuss, debate, and decide is important at the WEF, so is being ready with what to wear and prepared to show up in style! You never know when you might run into Bono, Priyanka Chopra or Charlize Theron. You could bump into Bill Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, or Jeff Bezos. Or shake hands with Prime Minister Trudeau. Obviously you want to be ready for that moment while also looking sharp. Well-fitting warm outfits and a statement coat and scarf matter, especially because there is no avoiding the ugly boots, a must-have to trudge to and from meetings on the Promenade to the Congress Center. While you may have your designer pumps in your fashionable tote bag, you may not have the time to change, given the back-to-back hectic schedule of the day. Oh, and don’t forget your badge. With high security, there is no getting around without this unsightly piece of jewelry around your neck!

Jokes aside, Davos is about bringing forth game-changing ideas and using your personal and professional purpose to make a positive change for the world. Each year, thousands of CEOs, heads of state, government leaders, celebrities, and influencers meet and mingle with NGOs, young global leaders and shapers, entrepreneurs, social justice change makers, and civil society to discuss the state of the world and how we can improve it. We discuss key priorities, major initiatives, and action plans on multiple global agendas—from solutions for poverty and world hunger to new horizons in technology and sustainability, economic growth and world health and inclusivity and empowerment. It is a hectic week with a jam-packed schedule and a lot of work to do, but it is also energizing to get together atop the Swiss Alps in an intimate ski-town and connect our common purpose to make the world a better place and be a part of driving social justice.