Letter from Davos

January 22, 2014: 10:35 AM ET

By Andy Serwer, Managing Editor


One thing I always like about walking around Davos very early in the morning is seeing ordinary Swiss kids on their way to school. Makes you realize: 'Oh right, normal people actually live here!' It's easy to forget that because by 8am, you are literally bumping into the likes of Michael Dell, the CEO of SAP, a top McKinsey exec, and Marissa Mayer in quick succession like I did this morning. It's ironic because all of these global poobahs are gathered here in this tiny, kind of threadbare ski town to hash out real–world problems, facing real-world people. And yet, real world people are almost invisible in Davos.

Well actually that's not quite right. Real world people are all around us; the kids going to school, the wait staff, and the hundreds of police and others employed as security personnel. So I guess what I mean is that they're here, but they have no voice. I've tried to talk to these folks a few times and ask them what they think about these high-falutin people who invade their sleepy hamlet for a week once a year. All of them pretty much decline to engage. Maybe they're thinking, 'it is what it is, kinda thing. Or maybe they have strong opinions and don't want to jeopardize their jobs. Or maybe they too find the whole deal ironic.

MORE: The essential guide to being a newbie nobody at Davos

Davos has always been a mixed bag. Serious stuff, but silly too. Well-intentioned discussions about the terrible situation in Syria juxtaposed with a session on meditation by Goldie Hawn. Nothing wrong with the former, or even the latter for that matter. I always wonder though, what comes out of all this? Does anyone really benefit ultimately? Syrian kids or even Swiss kids…

Tonight I'll be moderating a dinner with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a group of two-dozen CEOs. I think it's a question worth asking them.

  • The essential guide to being a newbie nobody at Davos

    Skip the piano bar, get into at least one conversation you can tweetbrag about, and get some fondue. You only get to go to Davos once, Mr. Global Elite.

    - Jan 22, 2014 9:41 AM ET
  • In Davos, Cameron fills notable void left by Obama

    The absence of any top officials from the Obama administration in Davos did not go unnoticed. Britain's Prime Minister seemed happy to own the spotlight.

    By Nina Easton

    DAVOS (Fortune) -- The murmuring started as soon as the World Economic Forum opened here earlier this week: In this gathering of the globe's financial elites, featuring heads of state and finance ministers, the U.S. contingent was remarkably low level. No Treasury Secretary. MORE

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    Thankfully there are parties to take the edge off frayed nerves from a whole host of problems, from a shaky global economy to an alarming number of natural disasters.

    By Nina Easton

    DAVOS (Fortune) -- World business and government leaders are gathering here for this year's World Economic Forum meeting -- titled "resilient dynamism." But no one is fooled by the consciously upbeat title. These are sour times, with the global MORE

    Jan 23, 2013 9:37 AM ET
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  • A female quota at Davos? Really?

    The World Economic Forum is mandating its strategic partners to bring at least one woman with them to Davos. Why have we not gotten there on our own yet?

    I'm not one to normally wade into the arena of gender politics. I'm worried I'll be too insensitive. Or somehow inappropriate. And at least as far as workplace equality goes, I am inclined to think it's a topic better left to MORE

    Jan 14, 2011 2:06 PM ET
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