Above: NetHope CEO Lauren Woodman at the "Responsible Digital Transformation for Social Impact" panel at the World Economic Forum in January 2019.
By Lauren Woodman, NetHope CEO
In late January, I attended the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, and I wanted to share my impressions. It’s always a busy week filled with valuable insights and new knowledge, but I left this year with an odd mix of urgency and renewed energy around the NetHope mission.
This year’s focus was “Globalization 4.0” and the discussion focused on how we, as a global community, might best weather the rapidly approaching changes brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There is well-founded fear that current challenges could be exacerbated―widening the gap between haves and have-nots―without careful consideration and cooperation across the private sector, government, and civil society. I strongly recommend referencing the links here. The Forum has assembled a wide set of viewpoints that frame the discussion well.
Much has been written about Davos this year (Fareed Zakaria’s Washington Post article is on-point); I agree with Neal Keny-Guyer’s assessment that the meeting was more subdued, with more humility and less hubris. In the final analysis, three things struck me:
Against that backdrop, three major themes dominated:
The Forum has embraced this question head-on with an initiative to “Prepare Civil Society for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” NetHope―along with a handful of members―is helping lead this conversation. WEF recently released a white paper on how we collectively might build a more inclusive future. The paper is comprehensive and clearly lays out the challenges ahead of us.
Take-Aways for NetHope
For us, the question is always “now what?” The big picture is there is a real opportunity for the NetHope community to provide insight and leadership in tackling these critical questions. At the CEO Forum at the NetHope Global Summit last fall, attending CEOs spoke about the need to “speak with one voice” so that the full impact of our collective strength is felt. I agreed with that sentiment then, and even more so now. No single organization―civil society, government, or private sector―can address all these challenges, but collectively we can be part of the solutions. With a seat at the table, we have the opportunity to influence the critical decisions that are being made now―whether purposefully or through inaction―that will inevitably shape the world for the foreseeable future.
It's also evident in the work that we’re doing with The Center for the Digital Nonprofit as we strive to speak with one voice, to have a point of view that reflects the sector and not just an individual organization or company. Our reference points are the shared experiences and knowledge of our member organizations that are innovating and learning along with their colleagues in the sector and at NetHope. That knowledge―built on real-world experience―is invaluable as these conversations move from hypothetical to reality.
The more discrete issues―how do we develop best practices to address the issues raised about data; how do we build capacity in the sector and with our constituent communities; what are the right ‘asks’ of our technology partners to help mitigate potential harms―are being addressed through NetHope Working Groups and Chapter Meetings so that all of our members can benefit from the learnings and experiences of other members. It’s the nature of the collaborative focus at NetHope, and one that is more critical now than ever. Interestingly, just after Davos, NetHope hosted DFID Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft for a visit and held a series of roundtables with NetHope members and technology partners where he heard directly the very same concerns highlighted above. We’re exploring how DFID might support greater capacity building across the sector in these areas.
In the coming months, we’ll be reaching out to identify areas where our executive leaders can constructively engage to help shape answers to these questions that best reflect the vibrant, committed NetHope membership.
P.S. Please also read NetHope member Steve Hollingworth, CEO of the Grameen Foundation, on Using Data as a Lever to Combat Poverty.