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#WEF2018 “Creating Visions for a Shared Future”

Four days, six feet of snow, 24 miles walked, 54,970 steps taken, 79 floors climbed, 60+ business cards exchanged, six panels, five interviews, three roundtables, and countless passionate, dedicated individuals “committed to improving the state of the world”.  While this summarizes my first World Economic Forum (WEF), it does not nearly begin to demonstrate the depth of learning, connections, and inspiration that made up my week in Davos, Switzerland last week.   

Every year, the World Economic Forum brings together global leaders across the public, private and social sectors. It’s an awe-inspiring group, but what is more inspirational is the purpose: WEF was created as an opportunity to find creative solutions and drive progress on some of the world’s most challenging problems. At Blackbaud, we’re honored to be a part of the conversation and grateful for the opportunity to represent the voices of the approximately 35,000 customers we serve in this community. It was a privilege – and responsibility I don’t take lightly –  to be able to voice some of the concerns and priorities our customers have shared with me while at Davos, and an honor to be seated alongside some of them present in person. 

The theme of WEF2018 centered on building a shared future in a fractured world. In a world experiencing significant global challenges and uncertainty, forces that unify and create space for conversation, collaboration and dialogue are vital.  And, that’s what WEF offered up this week.  A place where people listened more than they talked, where dialogue and discourse was had with a mind towards solution, not towards the problem, and where the Social Development Goals (SDGs) continue to be a north star in our efforts to do good. 

As the world’s leading cloud software company powering social good, we at Blackbaud believe that achieving the SDGs will take not just tremendous commitment, good will and innovation, but also something we, as a community, don’t talk about as much: a strong social economy, the space where social good is produced regardless of which sector it originates from. We are focused on three critical pillars to help strengthen the social economy so it can drive social impact at the levels of efficiency and effectiveness necessary to accomplish the SDGs: unleashing the power of data, pursuing radical collaboration, and catalyzing individual impact. 

These themes were central to nearly every conversation I participated in over the week.  

Our ability to harness and leverage data was a hot topic.  In many of the discussions, it was highlighted as the main component missing from the work being done to date. With so much good work being done by organizations, institutions and individuals around the world every day, we urgently need ways to measure impact of these efforts on the SDGs  This is exactly why Blackbaud has integrated the Global Goals taxonomy into our products, so that so that organizations and corporations pursuing social good can actually map outcomes against this shared roadmap, and we can gain deeper insight into the many different ways that these ambitious goals for good are being tackled. 

Second, the necessity of being radically collaborative was brought to stark light for me. When we come together, we can find real, meaningful opportunities for progress.  It’s still apparent that across much of the social good community, we’re still working in silo’s versus in a holistic connected way.  Duplication plus fragmentation plus an overlap of agendas is making achieving truly meaningful progress difficult. The SDGs are not a menu, they are roadmap.  That’s why I believe and have spoken passionately about the fact that the path to achievement of the SDGs hinges on radical collaboration.  There is a powerful and revolutionary role for collaboration to drive our growth, and in fact, the SDGs were designed to “encourage cross-sectoral, holistic approaches”.  By coming together as a social good community and working across SDGs, we are more likely to make a deep impact in achieving these ambition goals by 2030. 

There was also a lot of discussion around how we as a social good community can effectively engage communities (local, regional, or even national) and catalyze their impact. Today’s individual change-makers are passionate about doing good and come to the table with their own ideas.  They are not looking for organizations and corporations to define their priorities, and institutions and corporations are working to find better, more scalable ways to listen and engage. The most powerful, motivating, action driving conversations were those that brought the discussion down from 35,000 feet to what is actually needed at “ground zero.”  I was particularly reminded of this when I participated in The Day in the Life of a Refugee, a simulation experience hosted by the Crossroads Foundation.  I spent 45 minutes experiencing a minuscule of the stress, fear, anger, and anxiety that the over 65 million refugees worldwide experience over the (average of) 25 years they are displaced.  At the end, they asked each participate to write down specific actions we each could take to make a difference.  As a Board Member of the Women’s Refugee Commission, I found this experience to be an extraordinary way to bring the cause to light.  

This is just one example of the many “ground zero” experiences and conversations that Davos delivered.  Davos brings together people and organizations from every structure type, nation, passion – and when we come together, we can find real, meaningful opportunities for progress.  But of course, this is always true, whether at Davos or not.  And, while inspiring, the energy and insight of the past week represent just a tiny fraction of energy and insight spanning the global social good community.  So, I’m returning more energized than ever to listen, engage and collaborate with the incredible community of change agents for social good we have the honor of working with.