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Davos Beneath the Headlines

As a veteran, I have learned that Davos is a kitchen out of which, given time, dishes come that do make the main menu.

Yesterday my FTI Consulting colleagues were involved in reporting back on two projects we had been involved in the run up to Davos. One was a study of wellness in the workplace. Just what is best practice in terms of keeping employees healthy. Over the lunch at which company health professionals discussed the findings there was lots of interesting discussion of how incentives from gym membership to just not hiring smokers could affect the well-being of employees.

Across town, another group of business leaders were discussing work we had done on corporate anti-corruption policies. Both are examples of the less visible Davos that bubbles industriously just beneath the surface of the glitzy receptions or headline-grabbing plenary sessions on the Euro or Global Strategy.

As a veteran, I have learned that Davos is a kitchen out of which, given time, dishes come that do make the main menu. The anti-corruption work for example has already got one foot in prime time. Our CEO Jack Dunn was on a panel at the conference centre with others, including the Nigerian Central Bank Governor, warning that the issue threatened corporate reputations and held development in a region like Africa hostage. And David Cameron who had shot his Europe missile at Davos from London a day earlier when he arrived, led off his own speech with corruption in Africa and its threat to prosperity and stability.

So from low profile beginnings issues have a way of making to the main stage at Davos. Development itself and the Millennium Development Goals that frames so much international co-operation have come a long way since at an earlier Davos I was asked in a plenary session by a puzzled US Treasury Secretary what they were. Now they are centre stage. Around the margins of the conference one can find next year's and the years after Big Issues.

Like countries and companies, ideas compete for attention at Davos. Slowly they get established on the agenda. The Japanese night is now a regular sushi stop for many of us. The Oxford University nightcap which promises college port and stilton is becoming an established niche event. Although either academics are serial partygoers or degree gatherers because you see a suspiciously similar group of alums at the Yale, Harvard and Georgetown events before they end their evening with Oxford port. Whether the port will survive the new wellness in the workplace movement remains to be seen. After all, how could you hire academics who don't quaff the stuff?

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