Coffee House

Much more than a networking event

3 February 2011

What’s the point of Davos? This is a question seldom addressed in the reports filed
from the five-day “World Economic Forum” which ended on Sunday. Many speeches are made, many issues debated, but it is not a place where decisions are taken. It is not a G20. Manifestos are not
launched there. It exists to serve a very particular function: every year for a short period of time it becomes the temporary capital of the globalised world. Top business and political leaders,
distinguished academics and journalists – all committed to improving the state of the world – flock there to meet each other, swap ideas and then go home.

This year, I went along for my first visit – and I promised to file my own report for CoffeeHouse on what I made of it.

A good example of how it works was when I bumped into Tony Blair and I wasn’t surprised. This is the point of Davos. It is the sort of place, perhaps the only place in the world, where you can bump
into Tony Blair. ‘What are you doing here?’ he asked me. I asked the same of him. Davos, he said, was just the most convenient of places to meet all the people you needed to see. ‘I’m here to talk
to the Indonesian PM, otherwise I’d have to go to Indonesia.’

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This was a pretty good reason. Davos is as much an opportunity for bilateral meetings, often organised weeks in advance, as it is a typical networking event. Though the world leaders all around you
made it in many ways a networkers’ dream it was networking at its most intense, most concentrated, most unrelenting.

Inevitably, I think, with more stars here than there are in heaven, it was very hierarchical. The badge you are given to wear is of the utmost importance and places you at a glance, not only by the
colour, but by how it is worn. The long Belvedere hotel ribbon round your neck marks you as someone only allowed to enter the hotels, not the Forum itself in the Congress Centre – for that
privilege your badge must hang from a plain short cord.

Receptions and parties tend to be exclusive. Google, whose invitations were the most prized, had a tightly controlled system where you had to swipe your badge at the entrance. If the machine didn’t
find your name on the list you were ruthlessly turned away.

Amid all the discussion of economic matters by the ‘haves’ of this world there were some highly contrasting events. I signed up for the ‘Refugee Run’. In a specially created simulation I was told
to consider myself one of the world’s 40 million refugees, a married woman with seven children and a heart condition whose only assets were my jewellery. Darkness, flashing lights, gunfire,
soldiers pushing, shoving, shouting – and as a woman I was not allowed to answer them. When we heard the words ‘simulation finished’ I think the whole group was relieved, but it was a powerful
reminder that for so many the ordeal was real, definitely not finished.

The talks and debates I attended really were first rate. It was like an Edinburgh Festival of global policy ideas, or a mixture of all the UK party conferences put together. The problem with
Davos is that there is just too much. Many people said how sorry they were having to choose between so many good events all held at the same time. You always feel the session you missed must have
been the best.

Davos is undeniably fascinating. It is much more than a networkers’ dream: not a matter of handing over business cards, rather an exchange of ideas and solutions – a meeting of minds. All that
brain power concentrated for those few days on the world’s big problems. In my experience there is nothing quite like it, anywhere. Davos takes you away from the everyday, encourages you to think,
to take stock of important ideas. I’m exhausted, but so glad I was there.

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Show comments
  • Frank P

    Andy Car Park

    What’s Bernankery got to do with it?

  • Andy Carpark

    Frank, You never know. She might have scored at shove ha’penny against Ben Bernanke. But then anyone probably could.

  • Frank P


    You guessed! Moreover, having seen her photograph on her website(s), I’ve withdrawn my censored ungallant question about whether or not she scored at Davos; the answer is now self-evident.

  • David Ossitt

    Frank P

    “Perhaps we should all invite her to post regularly”

    As our very own ‘Aunt Sally’ Frank?

  • Frank P

    Andy Car Park

    “For ONE is about the sum of it.”

    I suspect probably TWO, if you dig through the web bumpf of YouGovStone, you’ll find a picture of the head honcho of this ranch, Mr Andrew Neil, chairing one of the meetings she ‘organised’. So perhaps ‘im upstairs prompted the invitation to treat.

    EC (8.23am)

    Great post; spot on!

    I look forward to more revelations from Ms Stone. Perhaps we should all invite her to post regularly.

  • mitcheltj

    A gigantic ego trip for people whose puffed-up, self-importance has no bounds. I wish we could just fire Davos and all who take part in this junket off into the farthest reaches of space. I’m sure the world would be better for it.

  • Adrian Sells

    Rhoda – I second Dimoto’s approbation: perfect.
    Enrico – I have to take slight issue with some of your comment. These “luminaries” did fail to predict key developments, but we surely can’t absolve these jokers from having influenced them: most of the attendees at the Davos smugfest are in some way responsible for the recent global developed-world debt bubble and financial crisis.
    I can’t help thinking that if some natural disaster were to swallow Davos whole at the time of the economic summit, the world might be a better place.

  • Andy Carpark

    The Editor squeaked, ‘and I, for one, was interested in her take.’

    ‘For ONE’ is about the sum of it.

  • EC

    We should be grateful to Fraser and Ms. Stone for lifting the lid on the Dalek fest that I also think of as the Davros summit. The more light that it is exposed to the better!

    One of the most telling lines was,

    “The badge you are given to wear is of the utmost importance and places you at a glance, not only by the colour, but by how it is worn. “

    This, then, is how the new world order operates. The “spin cabal” is a pyramid, a cult. Not so much post democratic but democracy bypassed. Espousing “equality and diversity” with that having been neatly bypassed or inverted too. Merit? The only merit lies within staying “on-message” and one’s ability to propagate it.

    Easy now to see why so few people, particularly in the MSM, dare to question AGW and the Carbon Credit Trading scam. If they do they will be cast out of the cult, out of the loop, OFF THE GRAVY TRAIN!

  • Frank P

    And when I posted, earlier today, the link to some l-e-e-ervly foteys of a party she threw one Christmas, it was removed by the moderator. On the orders of the editor, Fraser? If so – why? If not, still – why?
    Surely even you must admit she’s fair game if she puts her head above the parapet.

    How many more little spin cabals are there ‘networking’ and deciding how the proles should be manipulated commercially and politically, Fraser? You’re obviously in the loop.

    Bravo Nicholas! Great research job, not to mention the coruscating and witty analysis . I tried to do it in shorthand, but was thwarted by the -er- moderator.

  • David Ossitt

    Fraser Nelson

    “David Ossitt, I asked Carole to file her verdict”

    Thank you for your explanation Fraser.

    From the comments made here; it would appear that though she has over 44,000 people in her contacts database, she has hardly registered at all with CoffeeHousers.

  • Nicholas

    Carole Stone is a British author and freelance radio and television broadcaster. She spent 27 years at the BBC starting as a newsroom secretary and eventually becoming producer of Radio 4’s flagship discussion show Any Questions for ten years until 1990.

    In 1990 she left the BBC to become a freelance reporter and producer, running her own media consultancy. A champion of networking she is alleged to have gathered over 44,000 people in her contacts database and has been referred to as the ‘queen of networking’. She is the author of “Networking: The art of Making Friends” (ISBN 0-09-185711-2) and “The Ultimate Guide to Successful Networking”, and holds an annual get-together for her network of ‘friends’ in addition to a weekly ‘salon’ at her home in Covent Garden. (Whether you believe “networking” is a legitimate means to advancement or just a current cosmetic euphemism for the age old destruction of any meritocratic opportunity by the incestuous corruption of “It’s not what you know but who you know” is a matter of personal opinion.)

    On April 10, 2007 she formed a joint venture with the polling firm YouGov, called YouGovStone, becoming Managing Director and holding the minority 49% stake. She also joined the main YouGov board.

    She is probably the personification of the new feudal elite that both seeks to make the news and report/spin it and which is so comfortably in bed with the worst of the EUSSR inspired “professional politicians” who seek to rule us rather than represent us and tell us all what to do rather than listen to what we say, whilst imposing Even More Red Tape on us and fleecing us mercilessly with multiple layers of direct and indirect taxation.

    Common Purpose anyone? Daleks indeed. Although the greasy socialist robotic yawn-inducing troughers at Davos don’t have the imagination to dress themselves up in mildly interesting metal shells.

  • Fraser Nelson

    David Ossitt, I asked Carole to file her verdict. If you google her, you’ll see what she does: she runs the sort of social networks that existed before we had Twitter. She’s a brilliant observer of people, and how the meet and link up – and I, for one, was interested in her take.

  • Herbert Thornton

    “Davos takes you away from the everyday, encourages you to think, to take stock of important ideas.”

    Really? That made me read the piece again, but I failed to discern any reference a single important idea, let alone any description of one.

  • Dimoto

    Rhoda Klapp – perfect, exactly the quote I always think of when Davos looms again.

    As usual, Fats misses the main event – it’s a forum for soft corruption and the peddling of influence Fats !!

  • Frank Sutton

    Next year, let’s all go.
    Carole, perhaps you could write a little guide book for us first-timers. You could call it “So, you want to go to Davos…”

  • David Ossitt

    “This year, I went along for my first visit – and I promised to file my own report for CoffeeHouse on what I made of it”

    I do not remember this woman promising that she would file a report on what she made of the “World Economic Forum” in Davos, had I remembered or had it even registered, I would have asked myself why?

    Why would a total stranger called Carole Stone think that readers of CoffeeHouse might be interested in her thoughts on a non event like Davos?

    Never mind, ‘What’s the point of Davos’ what’s the point of Carole Stone?

  • Peter From Maidstone

    I don’t mean to be rude.

    But I have tried to find out who Carole Stone is. It is not clear from the piece. Nor is it clear why her opinions matter more than any one else’s here?

  • Peter From Maidstone

    Wasn’t Davos the creator of the Daleks?

  • Anne Wotana Kaye 1

    Davos sounds perfectly horrid. The very fact that Tony Blair can be seen there makes me remove my invitation from the mantelpiece. Any party, society or club which permitted him to join would make sure I would be otherwise engaged on the day. Also, the name ‘Davos’ has connotations of a certain person who, according to our Verity, has a dial like a hen’s ass. The Big Society, indeed,

  • EC

    How gushing!

  • Rhoda Klapp

    This never rang more true:

    “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.”

  • FF

    I can say with complete sincerity that I’m not at all sorry to be unable to choose any events. But I did enjoy sitting at home watching a video with the wife.

  • Kafka

    Nothing else like it? I don’t think so. Never heard of TED? Attending doesn’t come cheap, but everything is broadcast afterwards.

  • Enrico

    Glad that you had a lot of fun over there. But one can’t help but wonder how come all those self-appointed luminaries you bumped into completely failed to predict and indluence any key development that shaped the world, from the 70s right to the current (unforeseen) financial crisis. The forum only ended last week, but this year’s agenda has already been rendered out of date by the events unfolding in Egypt: how many of the superior debates you attended focused on what’s going to be this year’s actual big theme, the Arab revolution? Tony Blair’s presence examplifies a gathering of the leaders of the past, largely unconnected with the present and irrelevant for the future. Davos is certainly worthwhile atttending for the sponsors and the invited delegates, but please don’t pretend the general public has got any reason to take an interest.

  • Frank P


  • Bill Brinsmead

    Fat Bloke, you let us down by opting for piste over all those talks and debates that Carole was busy attending.

  • Barry Bilge

    “It exists to serve a very particular function: every year for a short period of time it becomes the temporary capital of the globalised world. Top business and political leaders, distinguished academics and journalists – all committed to improving the state of the world – flock there to meet each other, swap ideas and then go home.”

    They can’t be any good at it if they have to keep meeting.

  • Frank P

    Bilderberg on skis (and steroids) anyone?

  • Yam Yam

    And like any good ‘networking’ conference, I trust you came back with a bagful of freebies?

  • Rhoda Klapp

    For the person (I’m sorry I’ve forgotten whom) who wanted to know who is us and who is them, they go to things like this, and we don’t. They all talk to each other, but not (in any meaningful way) to us, for they despise us.

  • se1man

    I agree with Fattie.
    Think I need to lie down.

  • Fatbloke on tour


    I fear you just don’t get it.
    Davos is a ski-ing holiday at the company’s / the plebs exepense.

    See also the Geneva Motor show and all other jaunts to Switzerland during the winter.

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