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Davos 2014: Three ways to reshape the world

Deloitte’s Global CEO talks about ways to bring the global economy to a new level

This week, some of the most influential figures in business, government and non-government organisations will meet at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss how to “Reshape the World”.

It is an ambitious but prescient theme. A new survey of Millennials (those born January 1983 onwards) conducted by Deloitte shows that many have lost faith in the ability of government and business to address the key challenges facing them – namely economic security, youth unemployment and access to education. The perception of government is not good; they see business as making a better contribution to their prosperity by means of creating jobs. And yet, they say, both groups could do more to address society’s greatest challenges. Meanwhile, NGOs are seen to produce worthy ideas, but without the adequate resources or infrastructure, they often struggle to achieve their goals.

Millennials are demanding change. I agree with them. But what can be done to drive that change?

Firstly, we need to increase cooperation. No single sector or organisation can solve these issues unaided. And we already know that cooperation between the private and public sectors can work. Take as an example the Coca-Cola/Dean Kamen clean water project. Kamen developed a water purification system, and the corporation then used its global network to distribute it. We need to take a similar approach to tackling other global issues. Responsibility for society no longer falls solely on the government. Business leaders offer a unique skill set, which, when combined with those of the public sector and NGOs, provides a powerful and innovative mix.

Secondly, words must be backed up by actions. It isn’t enough to just say the right things. The convening power of the World Economic Forum provides a good backdrop to begin linking discussion with the action needed to effect real change. In business, all deals begin with talking, but all end with a solution. We need to follow that example.

Thirdly, we need to “disrupt” the way we currently operate. If the approaches we now take to problem solving aren’t working, it’s critical we challenge our thinking. I’d argue that even when our approach is working, we should continue to question how we can make it better. For example, in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Deloitte UK is developing a systems model to manage refugee migration. The goal is to scale both solutions broadly within the sector, so that other humanitarian organisations can benefit from the results. Unilever is another great example. They turned tradition on its head by partnering with NGOs, banks and schools to promote a hand washing campaign in small villages, thus helping to address the critical issue of sanitation in India.

As the theme of this year’s World Economic Forum suggests, it really is time for us to “Reshape the World”. To do this, business, government and NGOs must step out of their silos and work together as joint leaders. Our survey suggests that Millennials, who will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, want to work for organisations that foster innovative thinking, help them develop their skills, and make a positive contribution to society.

When we combine our expertise, we have a far greater chance of solving the challenges that society faces globally. And in the process, we might just restore the faith of Millennials – our new workforce and future leaders.

Davos is a good place to start.

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