It was a start.
Did this truly open up the conversation in Davos? No, of course not. Davos is still a mountain retreat for the privileged few (see Ben Hammersley quoted in the post below). But from what I can see, the gathering was more open this year than in prior years. How far will they go? Only time will tell. How far should it go?
There was a lot of talk about the conversation at Davos, about the internet and openness and shifting control. But the powerful of government, politics, business, and media must realize that they have to engage in a true conversation with their constituents, that they must act on behalf of and in collaboration with a public they can now hear. That is what the shifting power equation is about.
So the Davos Conversation is symbolic as a start, but it can and should be more real. The page brought together blog posts from the mountain (from Huffington Post, the Guardian, the BBC, me, and participants on the World Economic forum blog), blog posts from sea level (via Technorati and Daylife), and news coverage from around the world (via Daylife). We also asked people to submit video questions and comments so that responses should be gathered from participants. One of the commenters on my blog asked whether I was disappointed by the small number of videos. No. I expected few because it takes a lot more effort to record a video than to type a comment or post. But I wanted to see videos because they so clearly demonstrate the conversation: The WEF took these clips to the powerful and showed them people speaking and got responses on tape. It makes the conversation and the bridge it creates visible and audible: tangible. Yet this, too, was symbolic.
But clearly, if it is to be meaningful, the page and the conversation must be substantive, not merely symbolic. I hope that is the next step.
For me, the irony of working on the Davos Conversation was that I had too little time to engage in it myself. There are too many activities — and, indeed, conversations — at Davos (with too little power for my laptop), so I am still catching up both reading and writing in the conversation. There is a great deal of good talk there.
The Conversation Page will continue through the year and into next year. More on that later.