Why “generation next” matters at Davos

January 22, 2011

trevor dougherty lowres— Trevor Dougherty is a student and activist and will attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos as a representative of the Global Changemakers. He’s also the youngest American ever to attend the Davos meeting. —

Most of the sessions at the WEF’s annual conference in Davos will focus on the future, and how it can be bettered, so, naturally, a topic of discussion is the “next generation.” How will their consumption patterns change? How will they contribute to society? How will they use technology? How will they lead?

Among the Davos crowd, better known for its executives and politicians, is a group of people who can offer real insight to these questions. They possess a profound knowledge of “kids these days,” because, drum roll please, that is exactly what they are. Meet the British Council’s Global Changemakers, five teenagers selected from five different countries to represent young people at the World Economic Forum. My name is Trevor, and I am one of them.

At Davos, we will have speaking roles in many of the Forum’s official sessions. As the only people under twenty at the event, the five of us feel a heavy weight on our shoulders to accurately express “youth concerns.” But I think that the established leaders converging at Davos should also have a considerable weight on them to listen to us. Our voices may not be as impactful as those of CEOs and heads of state, but I hope that they may help inform, at least in part, important decisions made by these individuals.

What will I tell them?  Well, I worry that, because of our self-indulgent use of modern communication technologies, we may be seen as an apathetic generation. My focus at this year’s meeting will be to discuss how we can alter the behavioral patterns that create this perception. I am passionate about improving how the world uses new media, and my greatest hope is to discuss how this could be implemented with those in charge of leading social networks. I am a panelist for The Social Network Addiction and Young People versus Old Models sessions, and will be talking about social media during my presentation at the Global Changemakers IdeasLab.

We have all just arrived in Zurich, where a team from the British Council’s Bern office will be training us and preparing us for the bright lights before we head to Davos next week. The WEF, in inviting us to their Annual Meeting, has recognized that representatives of “generation next” should be included in the discussion of global issues for more meaningful progress to be made. Hopefully, through our involvement, they will recognize that we are no longer “next” but “now.”

You can follow Trevor’s progress at Davos here, on Twitter.

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