How do we close intergenerational gaps in global problem-solving?

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DSC_8057-1 By Jennifer Corriero, Co-Founder and Executive Director of TakingITGlobal*

The theme of responding to global risks is a connected theme within World Economic Forum meetings at the regional and global level.  The world is faced with solving the energy crisis, water crisis, climate crisis, digital divide, HIV/AIDS epidemic, spread of disease combined with the rise of violence and crime that emerges when people feel a sense of alienation and frustration through living in extreme poverty. 

Here in Vienna at the World Economic Forum on Europe and Central Asia, one of the insights that stands out from the conversations that I have been having related to driving innovation is the question around how we close the intergenerational gaps in global problem-solving.

As the world has become more globally connected, various international convening bodies have recognized the need to bring together the heads of organizations across different geographies and contexts in order to increase collaboration and effective response to global threats.  There are meetings organized by the United Nations for Heads of State to come together and agree on Declarations of Principles and Plans of Action. In these processes, there is a small, yet growing role for civil society and the private sector to have a voice, though ultimately, the Member States have the most important voice at the table. 

The World Economic Forum has historically focused on convening the heads of large multinational corporations with a focus on improving the state of the world and in recognizing the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach, has increasingly expanded the inclusion of other important constituency groups across media, academia, civil society, technology pioneers, social entrepreneurs and young global leaders.  Most often, when multi-stakeholder networks and expert groups are convened, there is not an intentional age gap – however there is a visible intergenerational gap that occurs as the people who end up in the room tend to be more established with years of life experience. This is where we start to identify the challenge of our design process for how to effectively and appropriately engage the voices of youth, particularly those between the ages of 13-30.

As Albert Einstein once said, we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created our problems.  How do we design processes to meaningfully engage the next generation in global problem-solving, not simply to develop skills and talents to be unleashed in the future, but rather, to ensure that we are diligently considering the critical perspectives and experiences that are essential to driving new thought leadership combined with unleashing creativity, innovation and an entrepreneurial culture that will develop intergenerational resiliency to face the challenges of our time?

Knowing that our children and youth will inherit the future, let’s put our minds together and design a way to ensure that they are part of the process of designing and shaping the future they inherit so that there is an inherent sense of shared ownership, capacity and resiliency as we work to create a more peaceful, inclusive and sustainable world.

*Jennifer Corriero attended the World Economic Forum on Europe and Central Asia in Vienna, Austria 8-9 June 2011 and guest blogged for the Forum.

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