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Posted at 10:54 PM ET, 01/30/2011

The Changemakers

By Sir Vernon Ellis

I have been coming to Davos since the early 1990s. In the past, I was wearing my old hat as Accenture International chairman. I return this year, after a break of a few years, wearing a new hat as chairman of the British Council. And it brings a new focus, particularly on the young through involvement with the British Council Global Changemakers Program. And yesterday morning, I introduced a session that I think was the most exciting and inspirational I have ever attended at Davos.

The session was the culmination of a process that began last August, when more than 1,500 young people from around the world applied to attend the 5th Annual Global Changemakers Summit. Sixty were selected, from 37 countries. Five were chosen by their peers to attend Davos, participate fully, present at sessions and in particular discuss their projects at an interactive session.

Dan, Anjali, Trevor, Mai and Raquel are amazing young people, with amazingly creative ideas to tackle major issues of today, such as water access, peace in the Middle East and gender equality. This sounds overambitious! But if you have read the blogs posted by the participants, you have seen their passion for change. It is hard, though, to get across in a blog the detailed facts of what they have achieved. They truly are tremendous in terms of raising awareness, connecting people, changing minds and moving to action. But the exciting thing about yesterday was the realization that the potential for each of their projects is sky-high.

The participants in the interactive session were a mixture of entrepreneurs, academics and social-organization leaders. They were gripped by the passion and energy of the Changemakers. They engaged. They wanted to help. And they did help with all sorts of practical suggestions on how to scale up, link to other projects and make even more of an impact. This was such a contrast to what one sometimes sees at Davos (and I have been guilty of this in the past): participants in roundtable discussions not really listening but thinking about how they can make an intervention that will make themselves or their company look good. Not these participants. They were inspired by the total commitment of these young people.

The world needs such people. Three billion people today are younger than 25. Many are disengaged, disaffected and often unemployed. They believe they have no power, no influence, no voice. This session proved this need not be the case. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” These young people have taken that to heart.

Today Dan and Raquel were two of the four presenters at the closing plenary. This underlined the commitment of Klaus Schwab to the future and the young people who will make it. I felt very proud that the British Council has worked with the World Economic Forum to bring this about.

Sir Vernon Ellis is chairman of the British Council.

You can read more from the Changemakers HERE

By Sir Vernon Ellis  | January 30, 2011; 10:54 PM ET
Categories:  Sir Vernon Ellis  
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