The Davos Question Going Dutch

Last week, from the 23rd until the 27th, the annual World Economic Forum took place in Davos Switzerland, entitled: The Power of Collaborative Innovation. The Forum conducted an experiment with YouTube, asking people from around the world to answer “The Davos QuestionWhat one thing do you think that countries, companies or individuals must do to make the world a better place in 2008?
More than 2 million people took part, and business, government and civil society leaders from the Annual Meeting posted replies. Among those submitting video responses: President Shimon Peres of Israel; President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal; President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan; former US Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger; and rock star Bono.

An interesting development! What would happen if the the Davos Question goes Dutch? Let’s say for instance that the Dutch government poses an open ended positive question to it’s citizens like (par example) “what do you think should be the main ambitions of our country to make it even better?”. In our opinion, it should be open ended so that the reactions can be as diverse as possible. It should be a positive question because it creates a positive spiral effect (the Self-fulfilling prophecy), just like a negative does (“recession thinking”).
If 1% would react, that would mean approximately 160.000 people. The result would be a “sentiment of the people of Holland”. This doesn’t mean the government gives up control on who’s leading the country. What it does mean that it creates another channel in which it’s connected with it’s citizens.

So why is this channel different and what makes YouTube a good choice? Video is a “real medium”, you see real people saying real things. You can see their emotion and get your own feelings going. A questionnaire, in comparison, does not have this added value. When “23%” of the people think climate change is important you do not feel anything. When 200 people post video’s crying that the world of their children is ruined, you feel the pain and want to act. YouTube is one of the most popular websites at the moment, because of the added value it has (amongst others). Positive side effect is that video postings are not anonymous, your face is on screen. If that is not the case, no one will watch your video! Besides that Youtube has a function to flag video’s as inappropriate so people can ‘remove’ video’s when people make offensive video’s, so misconduct is taken care off.
With YouTube you can make a great combination using tags on video postings. These tags can generate a tagcloud of feelings or issues that are hot at the moment. An aggregation which results in “the sentiment”, realtime. Everybody can view what is hot and what is not! And this is available right now, it is virtually free and it is available for everybody with a computer and broadband (75% in The Netherlands according to CBS in nov 07).

Get the conversation going! If you open up this channel you have to respond to get the conversation going. The World Economic Forum did just that. In a fictive example for instance, the Dutch government could use video messages for existing classical communication channels: during political programs on TV or debating the hot topics in parliament; as well as leaving a comment on YouTube. Make it a business-as-usual input-channel. The World Economic forum started this conversation around a conference and it is still going. Once you start the conversation just keep going, why stop? If the question is good enough the answers will change over time but the question stays hot! If this really goes Dutch, we’ll dive a litter deeper into the critical success factors.

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