Tällberg Forum 2006 was about deepening our understanding of how we need to live together to address the challenges of a world in transition. It was about “getting serious” about the reality of globalization, and developing strategies to reconcile sustainable growth & development with frameworks for effective governance.
It was about getting serious about the future, today, here, now.
“Canaries in a coal mine”
As we meet to talk about the future, we need to engage those who will inherit the future. Tällberg 2006 hosted a pre-event program for emerging leaders. The intent of the program can be best summarised by the metaphor of “canaries in a coal mine”.
In the early days of the industrial revolution, coal miners used canaries as an early warning system to the presence of dangerous gases. As canaries are more vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide and methane gases, they are the first to react to the presence such gases and sway noticeably from their perches before falling to the ground.
In the same way, having a representative group of emerging leaders from developed and emerging economies present at Tällberg 2006 provided an “early warning system” to alert the Forum to issues that are not spoken about or ignored at our peril.
The value of including “emerging leaders” in Tällberg 2006 is, that like the canaries in the coal mine, youth are more likely to visibly demonstrate and voice their distress when “getting serious” about the future under discussion. It is also an opportunity for youth to become more aware of the enormous pressures which beset their idealism: co-option into a world of rampant consumerism, unfettered power, selfish personal prestige and the unmitigated pursuit of wealth, the influence of which undermines their ability and will for activism.
Alerting Canaries or Parrots in Gilded cages?
The assumption cannot be made that the young people of the world ’speak with one voice’ on the issues confronting the global community or that emerging leadership exists only within the ’formal’ sectors of our societies. Young people, particularly in affluent, developed societies, are exposed to and often share the very values which are at the heart of our global concerns. Within developing countries, many young leaders aspire to these same values and life-style of unmitigated prosperity and consumption.
The general demise of a ’spirit of activism’ among young people has been commented upon in many parts of the world. It poses a challenge to emerging young leaders who are, for the most part, recognized as such because of their individual potential ’talent’ rather than their ability to lead their peers or be iconic leaders whose alternative values challenge the status quo. The question posed to emerging young leaders therefore is whether they are indeed sufficiently acting as an ’early warning system’ or whether they are merely ’parroting’ the values of those who seek to ’keep them in gilded cages’.
It is therefore critical to ensure that voices of emerging leaders be also sought from beyond the corporate and ’formal’ pools of societies, both developed and developing, and that an effort be made to find leaders who are developing their skills in community-based non-government and not-for-profit organizations.