The Common Good

Davos: A Better Question Than 'How Long Will the Crisis Last?'

At the opening reception for the World Economic Forum at Davos, I was very pleased to see some of my compatriots in the Christian movement for social justice. Gary Haugen, the President of the International Justice Mission, is here to talk about the importance of "the rule of law" for poor people around the world. Jonathan Reckford, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity, is also among the participants at Davos and is focused on poverty housing. And this morning, I met Neal Keny-Guyer from Mercy Corps, who had just arrived here from Gaza where he had witnessed unbelievable human suffering.

All three of us turned up this morning at a session on "Helping Others in a Post-Crisis World." The room was full of philanthropists and social enterprise entrepreneurs who believe business should have a social mission and not merely a profit-making purpose. It was a very encouraging discussion, and one that I suggested needs to be taking place throughout the World Economic Forum.

CNN is here and every morning for television around the world they interview top CEOs to ask the same question: "How long will this crisis last?" Everybody, of course, wants to know the answer to that, but I suggested in the first morning session today, and to some reporters afterwards, that it is the wrong question or, at least, not the most important one. The question we should be asking is how this global economic crisis will change us-all of us, in the way we think, decide things, and even do business. If we don't change our ways of doing business, the opportunity provided by the crisis will have been lost. Indeed, the only way to redeem this crisis is to allow it to change us, then all the pain and suffering might not have been in vain. The worst thing to ask each other at a World Economic Forum is how soon might we all get back to business as usual? This is a time to ask the most basic questions about business and about ourselves. Those are the "moral questions" of market capitalism that I will be hoping to raise in the plenary session tomorrow on that topic. Stay tuned.

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