Full report
Published: 7 September 2022

Annual Report 2021-2022

Core Functions

Partner Engagement

| Sarita Nayyar, Managing Director; Chief Operating Officer, USA

During the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the World Economic Forum experienced strong partnership growth despite geopolitical and coronavirus related challenges.

The Forum increased its partnerships by over 8%, with the partnership base rising to a record high of 783 due to the addition of over 170 new partnerships and the strong retention of existing Partners. These results were principally driven by the addition of over 100 companies that signed Associate Partnerships, many of which were Institutional Members that expanded their engagement. This growth also stemmed from engagement renewals by companies that could fully resume their partnership with the Forum as the coronavirus situation became more manageable. The Strategic Partner community maintained solid engagement with 119 Partners on 30 June 2022.

On a sectoral basis, partnership growth in the Media, Professional Services and Advanced Manufacturing clusters was notable, all expanding by more than 20%. The improved diversification helped broaden the issues in which the Forum engages and was complemented by the strong calibre of new companies that joined the Forum as Partners this past year, including several high-profile Fortune 500 companies such as Rio Tinto, L’Oréal and Siemens Energy.

Regionally, Asia Pacific, MENA and Latin America were significant drivers of growth, with a rise in partnerships of at least 15% in each of the regions. One-third of new Platform Partnerships this fiscal year came from these regions, a testament to the increasingly global value proposition the platforms offer.

The Platform Partnership base’s expansion over the 2020-2021 fiscal year continued this year, with the total number of these partnerships rising by double digits, as the Forum continued its transition to a focus on impact. Led by particularly strong interest in the Platform for Shaping the Future of Energy, Materials and Infrastructure, this year’s growth reinforced the Platform Partnership’s evolution into one of the Forum’s core products, and follows a particularly strong 2020- 2021 fiscal year during which the Platform Partnership base more than doubled to 72 partnerships.

As the partnership base continued to grow, engagement deepened. The launch of new tools, such as Engagement 360 and the Engagement Tracker, helped the Forum and its Partners better understand the most relevant opportunities for engagement and target the most optimal activities. As the engagement model evolves in the future, Partners will have greater opportunities to engage in an even larger number of projects and initiatives.

Complementing the partnership base, the Forum maintained its robust community of approximately 300 Global Innovators and Technology Pioneers. These members help the Forum and its Partners stay abreast of the latest emerging technologies and innovations that are pivotal to industry transformation. This year, among other insights, the Technology Pioneers provided knowledge on how to equip workforces efficiently by leveraging emerging technologies and helped the Forum explore the risks and benefits of applying emerging technologies in the financial sector.

Similarly, the Global Innovators supplied valuable insights pertaining to the platforms’ work, launching this year the Metaverse project, which helps Partners and policy-makers understand the technological and business potential of virtual reality. They also made important contributions to the New Frontiers of Nutrition project, showcasing technological solutions to accelerate the availability, access and adoption of nutritious food choices to empower holistic health and well-being.

Global Programming Group

| Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director

In the past year, the Global Programming Group, the team responsible for stewarding the Forum’s global events, vastly shortened the delivery time of Forum events, allowing a faster run-up to events. The virtual Davos Agenda in January 2022, for example, was planned and executed in four weeks, after the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the physical meeting to be postponed. The Group also examined the originality and improved the quality of in-person and virtual event planning, programme and delivery, in line with the Forum’s leadership in world-class events. This included organizing Forum Studio sessions in Geneva, New York, San Francisco and Beijing, and adopting state-of-the-art meeting production tools. Forum meetings now concretely reflect the ambitious systems change work of the Forum’s Centres and integrate the latest global developments and current affairs. The team ensures the most significant issues are analysed and integrated into the editorial direction of the events. Examples include the Forum COP26 Live programme and the Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2021.

Impact and strengths

This year, the Global Programming Group led or co-led key events and expanded the engagement of leading experts in the Forum’s work.

1. The well-advanced planning of the in-person World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 in January was disrupted in late December due to the emergence of the Omicron variant. Preparations were shifted to hold The Davos Agenda virtually in January, which featured special addresses from 13 of the world’s top leaders, panel discussions on topics ranging from stakeholder capitalism to the future of COVID, and a live intervention with astronaut Matthias Maurer on the International Space Station, the first time a Forum session transmitted live from beyond our atmosphere.

2. The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 was convened from 22-26 May, bringing over 2,000 stakeholders together. Under the theme, History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies, and taking place against the backdrop of the most consequential geopolitical and geo-economic moment of the past three decades, the meeting proved indispensable. Leaders deciphered and discussed the disruptions facing the global system, while focusing on the long-term priorities and collaborations led by the Forum’s Centres. A greater number of sessions than in the past were live-streamed publicly, engaging people from around the world at this important juncture in history. The guidance on the health measures to adopt during the meeting was prepared with the world’s leading health experts and virologists as well as Switzerland’s public health authorities.

3. Collaboration with the five Centres deepened to provide maximum value in over 400 virtual and in-person meetings. The second virtual Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2021 in September supported the work of the Centre for Nature and Climate, the Centre for the New Economy and Society and the Centre for Industry Transformation, and closed with calls for a more sustainable and equitable future through public-private cooperation. Taking place virtually and in-person in Glasgow, the Forum COP26 Live programme in November accelerated the ambitions of the Climate Action Platform, including the launch of the First Movers Coalition with US President Biden and other global leaders. The Great Narrative Meeting in Dubai in November marked the Forum’s return to in-person global meetings and gathered 50 of the world’s top thinkers and futurists. In January 2022, the book The Great Narrative was published, synthesizing and developing many of the ideas generated in the Dubai meeting.

4. A central focus was on facilitating the activities of the expert networks, strengthening the foresight work of the five Centres. In their 2020-2022 term, the Global Future Councils’ multistakeholder and interdisciplinary knowledge network comprised 930 members in 36 councils. The Future Focus 2025 report outlined the councils’ innovative efforts to shape a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future. University leaders, faculty, think tank representatives, economists and social scientists, technologists and scientists, artists and cultural leaders as well as thought leaders were integrated into all the Forum’s activities.

Looking ahead

The Global Programming Group will continue to plan, set the agenda and execute the Forum’s major physical, hybrid and virtual global, regional and thematic events. As the post-pandemic context shapes a new way of working, the Group aims to redefine the value of in-person, hybrid and virtual gatherings. In September, Sustainable Development Impact Meetings will take place again in New York and, in January, the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023 will take place in Davos-Klosters. In addition, the virtual meeting capabilities will be expanded for the Annual Meeting of the New Champions and the Jobs Summit, among other gatherings, in continued close collaboration with the Technology and Digital Innovation and Public Engagement teams, to guarantee the Forum’s future-ready approach to events.

Public Engagement

| Adrian Monck, Managing Director

Throughout this past year, the Public Engagement team remained a partner in highlighting the World Economic Forum’s initiatives to the world, with Partners, governments and constituents relying on its members as storytellers, conveners, publishers and content creators to decode an increasingly complex world and amplify the solutions. Working within an ever more fragile information space, where facts can be hard to find, the team continued its efforts to protect the integrity of the Forum’s channels by producing robust, data driven content.

Content for every platform and attention span

Leveraging a network of Forum studios in Geneva, New York, San Francisco and Beijing, the Public Engagement team continued to enrich, support and deliver sessions, meetings and gatherings from around the world, in every time zone.

Two new products from the Geneva studio were created:

Stakeholder Capitalism, a sequel to the book with the same title written by World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab, is a digital collage comprising a television-studio quality video show, animated graphics, branded social media and an audio podcast. Its content is tailored to every platform and attention span.

– A 10-part studio series celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Top 10 Emerging Technologies report. It concludes with a podcast-video crossover, co-hosted by Scientific American.

Video storytelling for deeper engagement

The Forum continued to be a prominent social media publisher on LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Twitter, with 30 million followers across these sites.

Social media posts attracted some 750 million views across the platforms, largely driven by 2,500 videos addressing the Forum’s work in many areas, from emerging technologies to healthcare and geopolitics to the future of work. The Forum’s top Facebook videos outperformed those of such outlets as The Telegraph, NPR, The Economist and The Guardian.

The team also entered into creative collaborations with world-leading platforms YouTube and TED-Ed on a series of animated explainer videos about economics. In addition, the Forum’s LinkedIn page saw fast-paced growth, ending the year with approximately 4 million followers, and the launch of the popular Reels format on Instagram increased that audience significantly, to over 4.2 million followers.

Focusing on data and user journeys, the Public Engagement team continued to innovate over the past year. Its Creative Content team designed new formats and explainer-style videos that showcased Forum experts, such as “What to Know” and “An Expert Explains”.

Finally, support for UpLink, the Forum’s open innovation platform, stood out with the release of 300 videos that received over 40 million views. The team also hosted a series of live and pre-recorded sessions in the Geneva studio, with a special second birthday session featuring Klaus Schwab and the founding Partners.

Driving the “stickiest” content yet

During the year, the Forum’s podcast audiences continued to grow, with 300,000 downloads. Guests on Radio Davos, the Forum’s flagship podcast, included actor and activist Matt Damon and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, while Meet the Leader drew wisdom from luminaries such as primatologist Jane Goodall and environmentalist Al Gore.

Building on the success of the World Economic Forum Book Club on Facebook, an accompanying podcast saw the light of day. The show immediately attracted big-name writers, artists and thinkers, including organizational psychologist Adam Grant and the Financial Times’ Gillian Tett.

Navigation on the Agenda website, the World Economic Forum’s content hub, was fine-tuned to guide user behaviour, with topics and issues directing the experience. Business content was boosted with a dedicated site highlighting news from the Forum’s business Partners. Longer formats on Agenda gave a more powerful mouthpiece to thought leaders, while shorter news analyses and expert explainers provided readers with timelier content that was more relevant to the news of the day.

Working with the world’s media

The global news media turned to the Forum to a greater extent than ever before to provide commentary and context on agenda-setting issues like digital inclusion, environmental, social and corporate issues, the climate crisis and Fourth Industrial Revolution technology. The London School of Economics and Political Science’s analysis of Forum press content recently hailed the end of “Davos Man”, suggesting instead that the Forum has “evolved to focus more on the issues of social inclusion and environmentalism and to embed these issues in a host of practical frameworks”. Along with daily mentions in Reuters, Bloomberg and the AP, the Forum saw significant increases in coverage in China, India, Japan and the US. To boost awareness in new markets, the team created a new debate and issue briefing series in six languages. Co-designed sessions with CNBC, Sina News, Handelsblatt, El Tiempo, Technology Review, India Today and Time averaged 40,000 views.

Looking ahead

Engaging the public became increasingly central to the Forum’s work this past year as its initiatives sought to drive change and address the world’s challenges.

The team’s growth trajectory will ensure continued work with colleagues across the organization to develop a more defined public engagement value offering. This will include strengthened and consolidated tools and resources not only to address the broadest of issues but also to go deeper into specialist areas of focus.

Moving from a service model to a partners in impact approach, the Public Engagement team will become more entrepreneurial as its capabilities are embedded deeper within the Forum’s core objectives.

Technology and Digital Innovation

| Olivier Schwab, Managing Director

The way the World Economic Forum views its digital environment and services to Partners, constituents and colleagues evolved significantly this past year. Not only did remote working tools such as Zoom continue to be used extensively, but digital services like the Forum’s community and events platform TopLink were adapted to enable constituents’ continuous interactions. This holistic new look at the digital environment during the year laid the foundation for the One Digital Forum, which is the most significant strategic development since TopLink was deployed in the cloud a decade ago. In line with this strategy, the team was renamed to Technology and Digital Innovation.

The One Digital Forum strategy includes providing a coherent framework across the digital ecosystem, and serves as the basis for more data-driven and personalized interaction with Partners and constituents in the digital space. In addition, it allows new constituents, such as Digital Members or UpLink users, whose interactions with the Forum are exclusively digital and virtual, to engage with Forum content and diverse communities.

Highlighted activities of the new strategy include:

– The World Economic Forum website, www.weforum.org, was reorganized to provide a more seamless user experience and facilitate the access to our digital platforms, such as Strategic Intelligence, UpLink and TopLink. Users can now explore the Forum’s activities and impact related to such topics as climate change, health and healthcare or energy, for example, in a more holistic way.

One Forum ID was introduced, allowing Forum Partners and constituents to seamlessly navigate between the platforms using the same log-in credentials.

– The Strategic Intelligence platform was fully deployed across various user tiers. Close to 1 million users have registered for a limited version of the Forum’s curated content and Transformation Maps. Further, more than 40,000 professionals, including from Forum Partner companies, have opted for a digital membership, which permits greater customization of the Transformation Maps. The platform allows the Forum to diversify access to insights and networks of experts and to reach a broader audience worldwide.

– The first version of a new product called Initiative as a Service was launched, covering over 20 Forum initiatives in this initial phase, such as 1t.org (Trillion Trees initiative) and the Global Plastic Action Partnership. It provides Partners with a dedicated web portal through which various digital services can be accessed (events, Transformation Maps, etc.). The portal, including its branding, can be customized for the needs of the initiative, while the technology is managed by the Forum.

Work continued during the year to develop TopLink. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a pivot towards virtual rather than in-person meetings with, as a result, two Annual Meetings and 100 monthly community sessions taking place on TopLink. In its virtual form, the Annual Meetings enjoyed the same calibre of participants from all industries and sectors as the physical meetings.

To accommodate increasing demand for high-level virtual dialogues, the Virtual Congress Centre launched in 2020 was further developed. Participants can now more easily access information about events and community session, for instance to find new connections or projects of interest, or to learn about the wider context of the event theme through the integrated Strategic Intelligence widget.

Internally, the human resources management platform was further developed. Consequently, employees and hiring managers enjoy greater visibility and transparency to internal mobility opportunities and recruiting processes. The Forum’s core IT infrastructure continued to be consolidated using leading cloud services in line with the cloud-first strategy. In parallel, IT security was reinforced according to zero trust principles.

Looking ahead

In the coming year, the Forum will increase the digital-first membership categories to allow professionals worldwide to access the breadth of Forum knowledge. Another objective is to transform the TopLink app into an event companion for in-person and virtual meetings, while developing complementary apps delivering engaging and interactive content. Furthermore, innovative new technologies such as the metaverse will continue to be explored and evaluated to examine how they can be leveraged for Partners and constituents.

People and Culture

| Alois Zwinggi, Managing Director

Reflecting developments in the world of work, the way the World Economic Forum collaborates continues to change and evolve, shifting to a fully hybrid workforce that is now permanent. As in many global organizations, the job market is increasingly mobile, such that the Forum has increased its recruiting efforts, filling 287 positions this fiscal year. The staff is comprised of 837 people (with 117 in temporary positions) and a contingent of 180 Fellows.

Deepening engagement with our talent

Over the past year, the People and Culture team focused on providing opportunities for employees to learn and grow from each other and from leading experts, fostering connections – also with the Forum’s culture, mission and values – that are essential in the hybrid context.

The team’s work centred on the following themes:

– Enabling employee well-being, motivation and productivity by shifting to an ongoing talent management approach that is built on frequent meaningful conversations between managers and team members to align on objectives, achievements and developmental goals. These discussions are complemented by “talent conversations” at a group level, where leaders discuss the talent in their teams.

– Providing a robust catalogue of learning and development options that employees may personalize according to their needs, including a CHF 1,000 Learning Award that can be spent on any learning opportunity of their choice. Structured Management Excellence and Advanced Leadership programmes were also launched, intended to increase the quality of people management at the Forum.

– Increasing belonging, equity and inclusion by engaging 540 employees (in all six global locations) in workshops throughout the year. Staff members are encouraged to openly share their experiences and to provide concrete suggestions for improvement that will be implemented over the coming years.

Focusing on learning, development and growth

Reflecting the Forum’s aspiration to cultivate a learning organization, the People and Culture team led a Team Custom Skills project, in which select teams were allocated budgets to acquire specific knowledge and skills relevant to their work. This initiative allowed the Forum to offer courses on change management for employees in project management roles and a learning path in interaction excellence for staff who regularly facilitate sessions and speak to global audiences. Targeted programmes to sharpen people management skills were also introduced, and an investment was made in a coaching programme that is open to employees at all levels.

In the past year, a mentoring programme was launched to pair over 70 employees with senior leaders at the Forum to broaden their understanding of the career development opportunities available to them, an initiative that was positively received by all.

An Early Careers Programme was also introduced, which aims to augment the internal talent pipeline by welcoming over 50 diverse entry-level professionals to our global offices.

Taking care of our people

Employee mental health and well-being continued to be priorities. The Forum made sure all communication was open and clear regarding support provided to staff during times of personal crisis, including difficult situations precipitated by global events.

This support was provided in the form of access to a 24/7 employee assistance hotline in several languages that offered confidential counselling sessions to provide emotional support for staff and their families; financial support to help pay the costs of communicating with loved ones located far away; and access to special leave without a doctor’s certificate that is not deducted from the annual vacation allowance.

The Forum continued to recognize the importance of making meaningful contributions to employees’ wellbeing and reinforcing a sense of purpose among staff. Amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, the People and Culture team facilitated ways for employees to make cash and in-kind donations, with the Forum matching their financial contributions.

Reinforcing our culture to prepare for the future of work

Looking ahead, one objective for the coming year is to focus further on strengthening the institutional culture to create a better world of work for all employees and ensure they are equipped with the skills that enable them to succeed at the Forum and beyond.

Close to 40% of the workforce joined the World Economic Forum in the past two years and have worked at the organization only in a hybrid context. It is essential to consider the onboarding experience and adapt it to enable the success and productivity of newcomers, while conveying and nurturing the collaborative culture that is the cornerstone of the Forum’s success. With this in mind, the onboarding programme will be revamped, leveraging feedback and market best practices to develop a holistic, tailored approach that promotes belonging and fits the Forum’s unique purpose, values and culture.

Driving strategic decisions with people data

During the year, the Forum also continued to emphasize a data-driven approach that was further bolstered by digital tools and people data dashboards updated in real time. A new employee experience platform will be introduced, giving employees, managers and teams a suite of developmental tools and a variety of datadriven measures to be embedded throughout the employee journey. This will help anticipate trends in employee satisfaction and, subsequently, manage specific risks by adjusting the offerings, support and services accordingly.

The People and Culture team is also examining career progression routes and skill development paths across the organization, to build a framework that will add value to the talent by fostering internal mobility and career development within the Forum’s specific context.

Finance and Operations

| Julien Gattoni, Managing Director

The year in numbers

Among revenues, in the past year Membership and Partnership contributions remained high at CHF 247.7 million, despite the difficult and volatile economic environment that many Partners faced (see the Consolidated Financial Statements for details). Net of revenues from Russian companies (which were not taken into account in this fiscal year as of the end of February 2022), our revenue for this category grew by 3.7%. The effect of cancelled Russian partnerships over the next fiscal year will be of CHF 10.3 million.

Crucial in the World Economic Forum’s resilience were new and retained Partners. The Forum totalled 783 Partner companies at the end of the 2021-2022 fiscal year, an 8.8% increase over the previous year. Markedly, 178 companies joined the Forum as Partners and the retention rate among existing Partner categories also grew from 86% the previous year to 87% (excluding Russian Partners).

After the COVID restrictions were lifted in the second half of the fiscal year, the Forum was able to hold the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 at the end of May. The postponement of the Annual Meeting, compounded by increases in health and security-related costs and lower revenue from registration fees, created a negative financial impact of CHF 28.9 million on our annual operating margin. But thanks to lower non-event operational expenses, the Forum was able to fully absorb this impact and posted a positive net surplus at the year end.

Direct funding

Direct funding increased by CHF 9.2 million over the past year and amounts to roughly 15% of total revenues. Direct funding, in partnership with the Forum’s membership business model, represents a strategic opportunity for the Forum as it pivots from generating stakeholder interaction to enabling joint action and achieving collective impact.

Funders are most often public institutions and foundations; their funding is tied to specific initiatives, such as the Tropical Forest Alliance, the Global Plastic Action Partnership or Trillion Trees. These funds allow the Forum to do what it does best: align communities behind its objectives and create a strong impact for the planet and its people. As the global economic context stabilizes, this funding will continue to be a strong driver of growth.

Against this background, the Forum issued its first “The Power of Partnerships” white paper, providing valuable insights into how grant-funded multistakeholder partnerships – collaborations of diverse stakeholders with a shared ambition over an agreed time frame to deliver specific mission-driven outcomes – are making progress.

Workspace renovation project

The Forum’s landmark building in Cologny, Geneva, built two decades ago, has traditionally served as much more than an office; it is a hub for our teams and communities to come together, and forms an integral part of delivering our activities. Building on this tradition and taking into consideration the changing trends in work and culture, in February 2022 the Forum started a nine-month workspace renovation project along three dimensions:

– A new vision of workspace interaction: Architectural and functional features will provide a mix of collaboration, meeting and focus spaces with all three working together in a coherent way.

– A reinforcement of the notion of the Forum: The workspace design will represent the past (the legacy), the present and the future of what the Forum does, exhibiting its achievements and activities for the teams and for visitors, to strengthen the sense of belonging and purpose.

– A workspace that satisfies today’s functional and well-being needs: A new selection of sustainable materials, lighting and furnishings will reflect the Forum’s dedication to principles of sustainability.

Upgraded procurement

In the 2021-2022 fiscal year, Finance and Operations began implementing a new procurement tool. The new tool includes a “Purchase-to-Pay” function and acts as a supplier management and contracting solution that will help the Forum improve its procurement operations and spend control, and will provide full visibility into organizational spending. It will also create a consolidated database for suppliers and contracts, providing visibility and control in these areas. It will likely also help improve ESG reporting.

Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics

This year, the World Economic Forum reports on its environmental, social and corporate governance in its Annual Report for the second time, including Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics developed by the International Business Council and the Big Four accounting firms, Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC. The metrics provide information on four pillars of the Forum’s operations: Governance, Planet, People and Prosperity.

Also this year, the Forum’s ISO 20121 certification on sustainable event management was confirmed in the context of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022.

Looking ahead

As of August 2022, the Villa Mundi community gathering space will open after two years of renovation. It will add close to 500m2 of meeting space to the World Economic Forum’s headquarters in Geneva, including a meeting room that will accommodate 100 seated participants. It will be a multifunctional space that will serve to gather the Forum’s high-level communities in Geneva.

The property, located adjacent to the grounds occupied by the headquarters, was initially an ambassador’s residence. Designed in 1957 by Georges Brera, a well-known Swiss architect, the building is a classified “landmark” in Geneva. Not only was the original building renovated but an extension was also built.

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