In an effort to build its relevance to the world outside traditional “Davos man” — the slightly scornful phrase used by political scientist Samuel Huntington to describe attendees, this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Switzerland is pushing to be a little more touchy-feely, for want of a better word.
The WEF social media team have been all over Twitter, Instagram and other platforms not usually associated with the closed-off nature of the conference. And many more sessions will be livestreamed online this year, in an effort to capture some of the younger audience who would be more likely to turn to a TED talk than read an economics book.
There’s a focus on health and wellbeing this year, with mindfulness meditation sessions and a UBS-backed plan to issue attendees with an electronic pedometer and donate bicycles to South African schoolchildren if they meet a 6km target.
This is rather ironic given that, for many attendees, Davos tends to be the week when New Year’s resolutions about alcohol, cigarettes, carbohydrates and cheese get abandoned in a flurry of champagne and canapes. And, thanks to the Swiss franc’s saddening strengthening last week , eating in the small Swiss village’s eyewateringly expensive restaurants is going to give corporate expense accounts around the world a shock.
Organisers also hope the pedometer will mean delegates will be more likely to walk rather than take their cars, and there are large posters everywhere encouraging them to do so.
Still, most make the vast majority of their journey by jet, helicopter, limo or (if you’re really unlucky) coach – a carbon footprint which probably won’t be wiped out by a stroll along Davos’s Promenade.
Critics of the event always point to key absentees – and they may have a point. Two of the world’s biggest newsmakers in the past 12 months, Russian President Vladimir Putin and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, are missing.
Klaus Schwab, the man who founded WEF, told CNBC of Putin: “When I invited him, I said Davos is the right place to present a comprehensive plan how to get out of the present situation. Probably the time is not yet right, but at least he has sent a very powerful delegation here.”
– By CNBC’s Catherine Boyle in Davos, Switzerland.