Day 4 – and I’m still alive. Last night was a great opportunity to catch up with Bill Reese: the CEO of International Youth Foundation. I first met Bill in 2008 when i was awarded the YouthActionNet Global Fellowship for establishing Student Voice, and it was wonderful to hear his plans to re-engage the YAN Fellows Alumni and the IYFs by developing mentoring opportunities between new Fellows and alumni.
I made some great friends through the programme in 2008 including meeting fellow YGL Bright Simons, and its always great to see how networks fuse, enabling you to connect with amazing people from all around the world.
Thursday morning kicked off with a workshop entitled “Policy and Practice in an Age of Talent”, where the WEF team shared with us their work in creating a Human Capital Index to ascertain the extent to which countries invest in the development of their people.
What’s interesting about the index is that it not only looks at education and skills but also other enablers such as health and the level of interaction between businesses and higher education.
Workshop over, it was time to be interviewed by the amazing Lara Setrakian who is an inspirational fellow YGL and journalist. She has recently launched her own media Startup – Syria Deeply – and has been commissioned by the WEF to create a series of interviews entitled Presidential Briefings. These interviews are based around Davos delegates sharing their insights with presidents of governments on specific issues. I was asked to speak on the matter of “fixing youth unemployment” in which I shared the work of Enternships as well as our new Unrecruitment model
Next up was one of the highlights of my Davos programme – a lunchtime session featuring Bill Gates and Peter Thiel, talking about the future of online education (you can access the full session here)
Among the many topics hotly debated, we heard about the rapid popularity of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) – the rapid growth of which was fascinating to learn about. One online course from MIT has 150,000 people sign up – more than the entire population of MIT students and graduates since the university was started! What it really highlights is the insatiable appetite for learning all around the world, and what can be possible when we democratise education, make it available to all regardless of your location and financial situation.
Peter Theil also talked about the $1trillion US student debt “scam” (not his exact words!) – the fact that American students are saddled with massive debt after leaving education, which plays a significant role in influencing their career choices after university. The difference with other forms of debt is that your student loan stays with you for life, regardless of if you are declared bankrupt -something which presents a massive barrier to accessibility to higher education. But these new MOOCs look to challenge the status quo and will force universities to assess their business models if they are to remain relevant and competitive. Certainly an area to watch.
Following the lunch session was time to prepare for my France 24 TV debate on the topic of Preventing a Lost Generation. I was speaking alongside Sharan Burrow, Maurice Levy, Jonathan Teklu and Laszlo Andor; discussing the ways in which we can help young people across the world find ways into fulfilling employment. You can watch the full video here – it was a fascinating debate and I was proud to take part in it.
Next stop was a fantastic dinner hosted by Prince Haakon on Norway (a fellow YGL) where we discussed Global Dignity Day- an amazing initiative to give every human being the chance to live a dignified life.
The dinner enabled me to reflect on what the word ‘dignity’ meant to me, and how it played a role in my life. To me, dignity is the ability to lead a life you wish to lead, to fulfill your full potential and support others in leading dignified lives too. As an entrepreneur, it’s about having the confidence, desire and ability to create change, and being supported to achieve it. I look forward to being part of a movement that looks to give young people across the world access to these thing, this ‘dignity’, and will certainly support it wherever I can.
Following dinner it was time to go to the Belvedere hotel, where I was fortunate enough to talk to TIm Berners Lee – inventor of the web itself! We had a great discussion regarding his work on the Open Data Institute, and around the talent challenges we face in the UK especially around having suitably skilled talent to work with companies to analyse and exploit open data. It was a great chance to voice some ideas and opinions ahead of my Barclay’s Breakfast debate tomorrow morning – a talk that would centre around the problems of Youth Unemployment today. Stay tuned for how it went!