It is easy to miss the OccupyWEF movement; it is on the edge of town in a parking lot far set back from the road. Roughly fifty people, bundled in scarves with hats pulled down over their ears, stand around igloos. Amidst the snow banks piled 3 meters high, the Occupiers and their igloos are barely visible.
Yet to dismiss the OccupyWEF Movement would be a mistake.
On Sunday afternoon, two days before the official start of the Annual Meeting, I trekked over to the Occupy WEF site. Sascha Müller, who is a local elected official in Switzerland and an Occupier, explained why he committed to 16-hour days outdoors in the blizzard like conditions.
The global Occupy Movement is about inequality. The OccupyWEF movement is about the pursuit of inclusive decision-making. As Müller says, there is a link between rising income inequality and the inequality embedded in global decision-making. As inequality rises, the obstacles one must overcome to get out of poverty become harder. An individual will spend more effort trying to get by and keep her family from lapsing further into poverty. There is little energy time left to “advance one`s career”. People are just hanging on to what they have, be it an overstretched pay check or an unheard voice in the global context.
Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tsversy won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 for their work in Behavioural Economics on Prospect Theory and Loss Aversion; in particular demonstrating that people will go to great lengths to avoid losses and only moderate lengths to pursue similar sized gains. We all try to hold on to what we have, regardless of our socio-economic status, and our interests can become entrenched. We are more often afraid of losing what we already have and most of us are greedy only on rare occasions.
The World Economic Forum and its members have prioritized action oriented leadership rooted in moral obligation and social responsibility. This year`s Annual Meeting at Davos is focused on four key areas of transformation for improving the state of the world: growth and employment models, leadership and innovation models, sustainability and resource models, social and technological models. Among the most anticipated sessions for viewers around the world include the live broadcast debates on capitalism such as the TIME Davos Debate on Capitalism on Wednesday morning 9am CET time, and the BBC TV Debate: Fixing Capitalism.
Nearly all modern day religions teach us that our time on earth is short. Material possessions are never really ours to keep. We know from personal experience that we derive more psychic value from being part of a community and giving to others rather than solely pursuing our self-interest.
It is clear that the issue of inequality and the desire to have a good quality of life are on many people`s minds, whether they are sleeping in an Igloo or at the five star Belvedere hotel this week.
What is important for us is that after the Davos participants go home and the Occupy WEF igloos melt, how will we carry forward and embody the vision that we are all in this together?
Pictured: David Roth, president of the youth organisation JUSO of the Swiss Social Democrats (SP) stands inside of the first igloo of the Occupy WEF movement at their camp site in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 16, 2012. The Occupy WEF members will stay in a camp of several igloos to protest during the World Economic Forum (WEF) which takes place from January 25 to 29. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann