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Posted at 11:38 PM ET, 01/30/2011

Back to reality

By Trevor Richard Dougherty

British Council Global Changemakers is a network of young social entrepreneurs and community activists from 110 countries.

Our last two days in Davos were productive and exciting. On Saturday morning, we led the Global Changemakers Ideas Lab, a session in which each of us pitched our plans to change the world, and that night we danced alongside celebratory chief executives at the impressive Indian cultural soirée. Today, two of us were panelists at the forum's closing plenary on inspiration, and then we all enjoyed final open-air buffet lunch with a scenic view of the Swiss Alps from high on Schatzalp Mountain.

But now it's all over.

The five of us, the youngest participants at this year's annual meeting, will leave Switzerland and head back to five countries in the coming days. We'll return to real families, real homes and real lives, removed entirely from the white badges and high-level networking that defined our time here. What will I take with me?

After a whirlwind introduction to one of the world's most renowned private meetings, I will take home a balance of optimism and skepticism toward it. I met several heads of state and was hired by a well-known European entrepreneur, confirming my notion that Davos would be a networking dream. I was taken aback, however, by the opportunistic and credential-centric atmosphere created by this focus on networking. Also, while most sessions were stirring and progressive, I worry that a majority of the forum's participants were pursuing political, business, or ego-related goals rather than authentically considering how to "improve the state of the world."

After representing young people at a high-level event, I will also take home a strengthened sentiment that more of us should be included in these sorts of gatherings. I was lucky enough to have an official speaking role in three of the forum's official sessions this week, and I was pleasantly surprised by the level of interest and engagement with which my ideas were received by older participants. Tech leader Reid Hoffman (of LinkedIn) and media leader Nik Gowing (of the BBC) both expressed interest in my idea to use social networks to improve international relations. But far more of the leaders present at the Forum could be benefit from fresh perspectives if more than five of us (0.2 percent of all the participants) were younger than 20.

Attending the World Economic Forum in Davos was a tremendous privilege for which I am thoroughly grateful. I hope that many more people my age will be given the opportunity to join this dialogue in the future.

Trevor has been an online activist since 2007. He is one of CNN's top citizen journalists, as about 100 of his "iReports" have been broadcast as part of the network's global news coverage. He is also a YouTube partner and the youngest person ever to have moderated the YouTube homepage as a "guest editor." A particularly empowered member of the millennial generation, Trevor has been harnessing the Internet's power in creating social change through "viral" outreach. His videos have been viewed more than 3 million times by people in at least 100 countries. In 2008, he organized the world's largest human peace sign in Upstate New York, bringing 6,000 people together largely through targeted Facebook advertising and a low-budget online video clip. He finished high school in Swaziland, affirming his belief that Internet access needs to be established as a right -- not a privilege -- for young people worldwide. Trevor will begin his tertiary education in the United States this fall.

By Trevor Richard Dougherty  | January 30, 2011; 11:38 PM ET
Categories:  Trevor Richard Dougherty  
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