The Davos Lab: Building Our Future. The motivation behind the idea with Miguel A. Rozo

Miguel A. Rozo

“Now is the time to be bold. To reimagine systems-level solutions that are people and planet-centred. To engage unheard voices by embracing empathy and rebuilding trust. A post-COVID recovery must be inclusive, sustainable and fair for everyone.” — Miguel A. Rozo.

Before this pandemic, our world was already at the cusp of pivotal socio-economic, environmental and technological change. Today, as we navigate the effects and aftermath of this devastating pandemic, empathy and human-centered approaches are crucial if recovery efforts are to offer long-term solutions. How do we make systems more fair and inclusive? How do we learn from this tragedy to shift our mindset on how we see our future as our moral imperative.

Written by: Cecilia Pang

A few weeks ago, I had the honour to chat with Miguel A. Rozo, fellow Vancouver Shaper and co-chair of the Davos Lab Taskforce. Recognized for his incredible advocacy and community building world, he was one of 25 people — and sole Canadian Global Shaper — chosen by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to lead the Taskforce. As the Davos Lab campaign is underway and with one more month to go, this conversation traces what the initiative is and Miguel’s journey and role with it.

The Davos Lab: Building Our Future is a Global Shapers Community initiative to inspire, empower and connect young people to shape the unprecedented and grassroots global response needed to address the coronavirus pandemic and the world’s other converging crises. Aggregating the insights, ideas and concerns of citizens and stakeholders in countries around the world, The Davos Lab will culminate in a youth-driven recovery plan featuring tangible actions to create a better future. Make your voice heard by hosting a dialogue and/or by taking the survey by May 29. Learn more here.

Cecilia: So Miguel, thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. Could you tell me a bit more about your own story and how it connects with the mission of the Davos Lab? What got you interested and then involved with the Davos Lab?

Miguel: Thank you for having me! I joined the Global Shapers Community in 2016 and in the five years of being a member, I’ve seen first-hand what this community is capable of. The talent, innovation and commitment to see a better world is what makes this such an amazing group of people to volunteer and be friends with. Global Shapers are activators and mobilizers and I believe that with the right tools and resources, this community, in partnership with the wide range of local and global partners we interact with, are capable of helping to shape our world for the better.

Selfie of Vancouver Shapers pre-pandemic!
Vancouver Shapers pre-pandemic

Long before I joined the Davos Lab Taskforce, what has inspired me to take action has been that local/global grassroots mindset and the added possibilities that come with co-designing.

In March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic, I came to the realization that we were entering what would be a pivotal moment for the world. As I began to reflect, I noticed wide-sweeping and trend-setting decisions taken by countries and organizations to address the pandemic.

A number of governments worldwide took decisive actions to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. From financial support, to delaying payments, it was rather different than the 2008 financial crisis which professed austerity. It made me think of the possibilities of what a more human-centred, empathetic government could look like. At the same time, I was acutely aware these were temporary measures but that we had a moral duty to learn lessons from this crisis to shape a recovery that was more inclusive for folks from all walks of life.

Navigating this in the early days of the pandemic was not easy though. My mother fought for her life in the hospital in early March 2020 showing many of the symptoms — though it’s hard to know since testing was scarcely available then. The thought of losing either of my parents and the uncertainty experienced by many worldwide left no room to reflect much in those early weeks. As we went into lockdown and the situation stabilized at home, I turned to the Global Shapers. I said to myself — how can we learn and support each other during this difficult, yet pivotal time to fix the long-standing systemic issues affecting our world? Was there hope in the midst of uncertainty to reimagine a better and more inclusive world? The answer was yes.

I posed a question along those lines in one of our community threads and in less than 24 hours, I was connected to another Global Shaper based in Texas, Alexis Taylor. We jumped on an hour-long call that same day — even though we’d never met before! — began to build a virtual community that soon reached over 150 Global Shapers from over 80 countries, and in less than 4 weeks, hosted the first of many virtual sessions to reflect on the systemic gaps exposed by the pandemic and collectively, reimagine what a more inclusive, sustainable and equitable world could look like. This was the beginning of the Reimagine Society initiative.

One of the strengths of the Global Shapers is that it’s made up of people from diverse backgrounds. Whether it was social justice systemic gaps, or the fast adoption of digital ways of doing things — such as telemedicine, online learning, or virtual work, trends that had long been predicted to take place as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution — it was clear the world was going through a transformation as a result of the pandemic. One of the things that we posed in those early virtual co-creation sessions was to identify opportunities, challenges and next steps in light of the pandemic. At the end and after gaging the collective inputs from 100+ Shapers from 60+ cities around the world, it was clear that many saw this unique moment to invest in recovery efforts to tackle the underlying social, economic and environmental challenges of our communities. To redefine capitalism. To rethink a more human-centred government. To embrace systemic solutions that are people and planet-centred.

This inspired us to keep moving forward and by mid-2020, we began a wonderful journey with the World Economic Forum (WEF) to help shape what would later be known as the Davos Lab. Sharing the insights from the Reimagine Society was an example of the power of co-creation, youth-driven leadership and partnership building.

Mid-2020 was also a pivotal moment when it came to exposing racial injustices. The death of George Floyd in the US-led to movements around the world demanding systemic solutions to systemic problems. Racial inequalities are in part the end result of inter-generational decisions that systemically disadvantage a group of people over others, which leads to a wide range of socio-economic disparities that can only be solved through systemic change and thinking.

As an initiative founded on the premise of systems-level change and the newfound partnership with the World Economic Forum, we put Reimagine Society on hold and eventually joined what would become the Davos Lab Taskforce. In total, there are 25 exceptional Global Shapers chosen to lead this initiative to help ensure that post-pandemic recovery plans address the needs of our generation, those born into today’s converging crises, and gage the voices of people worldwide on 10 key pillars that will define the next decade. As the only Canadian Shaper to be part of this Taskforce and as one of the co-chairs, it’s been quite a journey and an honour.

First Facilitated Call for the Davos Lab

Cecilia: Biggest congratulations! I cannot imagine how much work that must have been in such a short turnaround time. I am also very happy that you get to represent our Hub on the global stage. It’s exciting that you and Alexis got to also pitch the ideas behind “reimagine society” at the closing plenary of the first virtual Global Shapers conference in September 2020. What has changed since then and what have you learned?

Miguel: Thank you! The project really started with reflecting on what systemic gaps have been exposed during the pandemic so, after the annual Shapers Summit, we decided to continue building on the inspiration from the community we helped to convene via the Davos Lab.

Alexis (Austin, USA) and I were chosen as co-chairs of the initiative along with Rumaitha Al Busaidi (Muscat, Oman) and Sikander Bizenjo (Karachi, Pakistan), along with an exceptional group of 21 other Global Shapers whom we are working with closely to help lead the Davos Lab with the global community. After co-designing the 10 Pillars and community outreach, we launched a global campaign that to date has galvanized over 280 dialogues worldwide and engaged the voices of over 2 million people — especially young people — worldwide. We have a month to go though!

Cecilia: That’s incredible! It really goes to show how much work can be done when people collaborate. What are some of the values and goals of the Davos Lab initiative? What do you hope can be achieved through this new initiative?

Miguel: The Davos Lab has put young people at the centre and inspired many to share bold ideas. We are leading one of the world’s largest — if not the largest — post-covid recovery plan mobilized by youth around the world to reimagine 10 key systemic gaps (the pillars) that will define the lives of those born into today’s crisis.

Anyone — not only Global Shapers — can host these dialogues in their communities and make their voices heard by sharing their insights with the Davos Lab Taskforce, which will compile a report to be shared with world leaders in a few month's time through the World Economic Forum. A dialogue can be a podcast, Zoom call with your community, Clubhouse, media panel, and equally important, is the survey. It takes less than 2 minutes to make your voice heard for each of the Pillars. You can share your views on as many of the Pillars that you care about.

One of the things that is driving us is this vision for a truly bottom-up approach to rethink our communities through co-creation instead of traditional extractive consultations, as is often the case when advocating with decision-makers. Anyone can take part in the Davos Lab.

By embracing co-creation, we can engage communities beyond our own echo chambers and shape more inclusive post-covid recovery plans. With many of the dialogues worldwide taking shape online, we can embrace intergenerational allyship too, not only with older folks but also Generation Z which has seen a rise in activism worldwide, especially on the climate action front.

Cecilia: Thank you again Miguel for taking the time to share such personal insights about the Davos Lab and the inspiring story of how you got involved.

Ultimately, the core elements of the Davos Lab is about :

  • Co-design, co-create with your community
  • Systems-level leadership
  • Youth-driven recovery
  • Intergenerational allyship

To learn more about the Davos Lab and the 10 Pillars or how you can get involved, visit here. You can host a dialogue (and submit insights) and take the survey from now until May 29, 2021.

The Global Shapers Vancouver Hub is a group of Vancouver-based changemakers between 20 and 30 years old who’ve been selected for their dedication and track record for community impact. An initiative of the World Economic Forum, Global Shapers are diverse in demographics, geographical areas, and sectors, but united by a common drive to build a more dynamic, peaceful, and inclusive world through local impact.

Feel free to reach out through Twitter , Facebook, or connect with individual Shapers through our website. If you are interested in volunteering with our Hub, connect with us here.

Born out of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Global Shapers Community is a network of 378 city-based hubs in 160 countries working on local and global issues