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Junior Davos

“It’s the Davos for 25-year olds,” was how David Jones, the CEO of global advertising firm Euro RSCG, described the company’s new initiative launched today, the One Young World summit to be held in London in February 2010. This “global exercise in collaborative creativity” is going to bring together 1,500 delegates from around the world to come up with an agenda for change that will be put to the United Nations, G20, G8 and so on.

The summit echoes the idea of the great British economist John Maynard Keynes that “there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest.” Over 25s need not apply to One Young World.

According to Jones, events like the annual World Economic Forum in Davos cater to the established and already successful. One Young World wants to hear from the next generation of leaders.

A genuinely radical part of their plan is to weight participation by the population of each country, so there will be 300 delegates from China and only 13 from Britain (although they admit that it is going to be hard to get authoritarian governments like that of Burma to agree to send a delegation). Some participants will be nominated, others headhunted but, as Jones responded when Michael asked him about legitimacy, online polls will also be used to select delegates (through a dedicated youtube channel).

This initiative responds to two key trends in philanthrocapitalism. First, Euro RSCG is trying to play to its core business strength – creativity. (A bit all-encompassing for a core strength, but there you go.) Second, it is part of the company’s business strategy to do well by doing good: Euro RSCG is responding to what Jones describes as “the biggest trend in business”, social responsibility. According to its own research, consumers want companies to be ethical and are willing to vote with their wallets.

This is a trend that Jones believes has got stronger during the economic crisis, even if corporate finances mean it has been more of a slog to find corporate sponsors for the summit.

Will youth and creativity find new solutions to global problems? So far, audience research for the summit says some obvious things – young people care about poverty and climate change. It also shows that young people feel frustrated by their political leaders – plus ca change.

The interesting bit will be to see if this process does throw up genuinely new ideas. Hopefully those of us over 25 are in for a few surprises.

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