10 Break-Out Sessions

  • Time: 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

A Demographic Revolution: Young India Takes Charge (with All India Management Association)
Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, OYO Rooms
Pranjal Sharma (Topic Leader), Economic Analyst, Advisor and Author, India

India is undergoing its economic, technological and demographic transition simultaneously. An old country is becoming youthful and adventurous with the passage of time. Young Indians like OYO founder Ritesh Agarwal are quietly taking charge of Indian ethos by becoming icons of audacious aspirations and tangible proofs of its potential, spawning startups that are becoming most valuable and famous than many legacy companies. How can young revolutionaries find ways to carry the older generation of investors, regulators, workers and consumers with them and what can other economies and founders learn from India’s momentous transition?

Collaborative Advantage Across Generations: Reflecting on the SGS Experience (ISC Alumni)
Former Members of the International Students' Comittee
Christoph Loos (Topic Leader), Chief ­Executive ­Offi­cer, Hilti AG
Vivian Bernet (Topic Leader), Head of the Organising Committe, International Students' Comittee
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For over 50 years teams of student have volunteered to organise the St. Gallen Symposium. They have written countless invitations, met thousands of partners, and welcomed some of the most important personalities of their time on stage. Together with former members of the ISC we will reflect on the St. Gallen Symposium experience of cross-generational dialogue and collaboration, the lessons they have learned for their lives and on how the symposium has evolved. This session is organised together with ISC Alumni.

Collective Genius? Cultivating Creativity in the Arts and Beyond
Susan Goldsworthy, Affiliate Professor of Leadership, Communications and Organizational Change, IMD Business School
Gerry Hofstetter, Light Artist & Film Producer Hofstetter Marketing
Javiera Estrada, Artist
Tatjana Rupp (Topic Leader), Member of the International Students' Committee

As the need for innovation is growing, the routinisation of well-structured creative processes within organizations is key for concurrent value creation. Prof. Susan Goldsworthy of IMD, this year's St. Gallen Symposium artist Javiera Estrada and Light Artist Gerry Hofstetter will discuss the role of collaboration in the creative process. Together, and in conversation with the audience, they’ll explore the way collaboration can drive creativity in various organisational contexts, and, on the other hand, the role of introversion and lone contemplation in creating something new.

Connecting Business with Purpose: The Potential of Skills-Based Volunteering
Curdin Duschletta, Head Community Impact Switzerland & Foundations, UBS
Christopher Jarvis, Executive Director, RWInstitute
Prof. Amanda Shantz (Topic Leader), MBA Director and Professor of Management, University of St.Gallen

Many employee volunteering and giving programs are presented as an employee perk, similar to casual Fridays or a team-building event. But treating workplace giving and volunteering this way fails to fully capitalise on the great potential of such programs: to foster employee personal growth, and address key societal challenges. The panel will particularly explore the potential of skills-based volunteering, its benefits, and the unique challenges that arise when moving from merely transactional volunteering to something far more transformative.

Financing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
Patrick Zhong, Founding Managing Partner, M31 Capital
Makram Azar, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Full Circle Capital
Prof. Julia Binder (Topic Leader), Professor of Sustainable Innovation and Business Transformation, IMD Business School

The investment landscape over the next twenty years will be radically different from previous generations. While there appears to be greater access to capital, there also appears to be much more volatility and debt with no clear dominant financing mechanism. Entrepreneurs, VC, Private Equity, and banks will have to find new ways to work together to create growth and stimulate innovation. How can investors and entrepreneurs better collaborate and find mutually beneficial agreements that balance risk and return?

Hacking the Fashion & Luxury Watchmaking Industry towards more Sustainability (with Condé Nast College)
Martina Bonnier, Editor-In-Chief, Vogue Scandinavia
Raynald Aeschlimann, President and CEO, Omega S.A
Carmen Jenny, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CLOTHESfriends AG
Johannes Reponen (Topic Leader), Director of Post-Graduate Programmes; Academic Affairs; Research & Knowledge Exchange, Condé Nast College

The fashion industry accounts for 10% of humanity’s annual carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. For long, the fashion and luxury watchmaking industry drove, together with the fashion media industry, unsustainable dynamics in the sector: generating more and more demand through an artificial cycle of new collections and seasonal trends. Businesses’ marketing, media as well as influencers thereby create a constant longing and demand for their products. How can designers, fashion houses and publishers exit this vicious cycle and, collaboratively, drive the transition towards more sustainable and ethical fashion and luxury watchmaking?

M100 Sanssouci Colloquium@St. Gallen: Media’s New Power: More Impact Through Collaborative Journalism
Mathias Müller von Blumencron, Journalist, Member of the Board, Tagesanzeiger and Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium
Joanna Krawczyk, Chairwoman, Leading European Newspaper Alliance
Paul Radu, Investigative Journalist, Co-Founder OCCRP
Astrid Frohloff (Topic Leader), TV Presenter and Journalist, Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium

Media diversity, freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Europe are currently under threat. Journalists and independent media companies are increasingly joining forces across borders to respond to such challenges as well as to be able to continue to offer independent quality journalism in the future. This session will identify learnings from new media partnerships such as the Leading European Newspaper Alliance (LENA) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) to identify how media can most effectively work together.

Democratizing Access to the next Generation of Technology and Innovation: Communities and Radical Transformation
Gina Loften, Member of the Board of Trustees, TIAA
Luzius Meisser, Chairman, Bitcoin Suisse
Tycho Onnasch, General Manager, Trust Machines
Shuo Chen (Topic Leader), General Partner, IOVC

Technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are key drivers of the modern economy and social mobility. Given their importance, we should strive to improve accessibility to tech, education and entrepreneurship across all backgrounds. Creating open and inclusive communities, especially with tech is important to accomplishing this goal, but it is easier said that done. Simultaneously, a third iteration of the internet – Web3 – has the potential to radically transform the internet of things and reduce barriers to access. How can these forces be effectively harnessed and directed for the benefit of all people and move the world forward?

Varieties of Tech Capitalism: Europe's Approach to Innovation and Regulation in a Global Context
Julian Teicke, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, wefox
Lisa-Marie Fassl, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Female Founders
Christoph Keese (Topic Leader), Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, hy

Over the past decades, the tech sector, especially the internet of things, has become a central component of modern economies. Trying to catch up with the exponential pace of technological development, the US, China, and Europe are crafting rules of the game on digital markets. What are the emerging characteristic differences between regulatory regimes of digital markets, in the US, Europe and beyond, and how do they balance innovation and regulation? In light of strategic competition over tech dominance between the US and China, what are the opportunities and challenges for Europe in particular?

Changed for Good? Engaging with the New World of Work
Petra von Strombeck, Chief Executive Officer, New Work SE
Jean-Christophe Deslarzes, Chair of the Board, Adecco Group
Nat Ware, Founder & CEO Forte
Prof. Heike Bruch (Topic Leader), Director, Institute for Leadership and Human Resources Management, University of St. Gallen
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The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world of work forever. The fast and widespread adoption of remote work and an ever-increasing concern of employees with purpose and meaning on their job have intensified the war for talents. Reaching out to and concurrently engaging employees is key for businesses across sectors and regions. What learnings can be drawn from the pandemic as regards our approach to work? Has the world of work changed for the better? And what role does leadership culture and a new approach to hiring play going forward?

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A New Normal

A New Normal: Coping with Uncertainty and Fostering Trust with the New Symposium

When asked about the most significant challenges with organising the Symposium in the new format was, ISC Organising Committee head Maximilian Woerlein immediately replies: “uncertainty.” 

Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in early March 2020, the International Student Committee (ISC) team had to postpone the Symposium’s golden jubilee, meant to celebrate 50 years of dialogue between today’s leaders and the younger generation. This year, in February 2021, with cases still spiking across the globe, the ISC opted to create a hybrid symposium to ensure the safety of participants.  

Having the 50th Symposium in a hybrid format brought new questions to the fore. ISC member Sian Ruoss, who was in charge of platform design for PLATO, says the goal wasn’t to “invent the COVID-19 symposium, but really to reinvent the Symposium.” The new format consisted of a central hub in St. Gallen, international hubs in cities including Singapore and Boston, and events in 10 Swiss embassies worldwide. 

Planning a Hybrid Symposium 

In February 2021, the decision to create a hybrid Symposium with an online platform resulted in ISC members Sian Ruoss, Lucas Mortier, and Eliane Hobi coming together to, as Ruoss recalls, “rethink the whole symposium.” Ruoss was responsible for design of the platform as well as parts of production, Mortier did testing, set up all the users, roles, and access, while Hobi did the session set up as well as programming for the sessions. Former ISC member Andrea Steiner, now with lead partner Accenture, coached them through the process. 

Deciding which platform to hold the virtual Symposium on was critical, and Ruoss remembers the team looked at around ten platforms or services before having decided on ViCO, a product of Swiss startup DU DA. The initial demo showed promise for what the team wanted to accomplish but only had a two-dimensional, flat visualisation with just a single layer. In addition to DU DA, the team also worked with two design agencies: jAMAZE and Sergeant. jAMAZE was chosen due to their previous XR (cross reality) work with architecture projects on the St. Gallen campus to handle the three-dimensional components of the system on ViCO. Sergeant handled graphic design and icons. The resulting platform was PLATO, a three-dimensional online plaza with interactive components recreated to look like the University of St. Gallen campus.

What is PLATO? 

PLATO, meanwhile, brings to mind a philosophical text by the renowned philosopher, which depicts a social banquet filled with off-the-cuff speeches. Ruoss says that the ISC team chose the name PLATO to evoke the philosopher’s “Symposium,” as well as Plato’s founding of a precursor to the modern university and the cross-generational dialogue that he engaged in with his student, Aristotle, and his teacher, Socrates. The team also wanted the name to be easily recognisable globally.  

On PLATO, there were three-dimensional recreations of the plenary hall, session rooms, coffee tables, and social bar and an info desk where participants could video chat with an ISC member. Aleyna Lale, a St. Gallen student, was part of the team that operated the digital information desk on PLATO. For Lale, overall, the implementation was smooth. “We did not have to help much,” she says. “PLATO … is a very intuitive platform.”  

Leaders of Today and Tomorrow joined the Symposium and connected to sessions from locations across the globe. They interacted with each other via the online business lounge or social bars and one-to-ones through tables in the business lounge or the MyBuddy participant matching system. Leader of Tomorrow and PhD candidate and founder of Wise with Waste, Emma Mamisoa Nomena, joined in the networking tables on PLATO. “I’ve been to many virtual conferences in the past year, and I think it’s now my favourite platform,” she says.  

The online format also allowed more people to join popular sessions that would have had limited capacity in an entirely physical conference. It was the engaging sessions that Leader of Tomorrow and business consultant Abdulla Mubharak says made him forget that he was in a virtual space. The PLATO platform also gave him the flexibility to join whichever session he wanted.  

Woerlein notes that ISC prepared for the high traffic on the PLATO system. “On the platform, we had a total of around 1650 participants; if we include all side events that were not hosted on the platform, we can speak of circa 1800 participants,” he says. Some video streams were available to the public, and in those streams, Woerlein says, “the participation numbers varied,” reaching up to 400 people.   

A More Sustainable Symposium? 

The new Symposium format brings about questions about what collaboration, idea-sharing, and network-building looks like in an increasingly digital world. “Conferences have massive carbon footprints associated with them. Attendees are flying from all over the world — you can imagine how big of an impact that creates,” says Judith Walls, professor for Sustainability Management at St. Gallen and speaker during the “Trust Along Global Food Chains” Symposium session. “We really should be open-minded about virtual and hybrid conferencing. I think there is a danger when people focus only on how we’ve done things in the past and don’t see a possible solution to do things differently.” 

Using an online platform was a step towards a more sustainable symposium. “It shows us what is possible to do without travel and still connect on a meaningful level to people across the globe,” Walls says. Others at St. Gallen, like Ruoss, agree that a hybrid conference holds potential and hope that in the future, the symposium will account for for carbon emissions, including those from the server power used by the PLATO platform. Ruoss says that the ISC team integrated sustainability as a part of their planning, in the hopes that future symposia will run climate neutral.  

Going climate neutral is also a step the symposium can take so that those joining avoid participating in something that harms the planet. In building trust between participants and partners, the symposium must consider its impact. “We should engage in mass systemic change when it comes to sustainability,” Walls says. “Otherwise, our planet – as we know it – is not going to survive.” 

It is the informal dialogue that everyone — from participants and speakers to organisers — see as harder to foster online. Maleeha Fatima is a Leader of Tomorrow, as well as president and founder of a student organisation called Avahan. She notes that although she enjoyed using PLATO, “I am much more comfortable when I communicate with someone in person.” 

Other participants agreed the digital platform can make networking challenging. Reuben Muhindi Wambui, the winner of the 49th Symposium’s essay contest and the Africa Regional Coordinator at UNEP Finance Initiative, attended this year’s Symposium. He notes that “one beauty of the St. Gallen symposium is randomly walking up to someone and making a personal connection.” Although he notes that with PLATO, “the online social bars did try to salvage this.”  

Addressing Digital Divides and Diversity 

Globally, the pandemic has reinforced and exacerbated long-standing systemic inequality, even in digital spaces, resulting in a digital divide. Some Leaders of Tomorrow attending the Symposium reported issues with their connectivity, interfering with their ability to attend sessions. Time zones also affected participation in some areas, with participants sometimes joining sessions at odd hours.  

This year, Aisha Addo, founder & CEO of Power to Girls Foundation and the My Power app as well as a Leader of Tomorrow at the 49th Symposium, joined as a panellist in multiple sessions, including an in-person panel hosted at the Swiss embassy in Accra, Ghana. Addo sees an opportunity for the Symposium to reflect and address some of its issues with diversity. She views the digital move as an opportunity, as she says, for it to “evolve and expand” and for the Symposium to improve its reach to “more diverse groups and more diverse communities.”  

Looking Ahead 

“When there is a pandemic, everybody is forced to think of innovations and how we adapt,” says Rani Soebijantoro, founder of the startup AMBIZ and a Leader of Tomorrow attendee at the 49th and 50th symposiums. “I think this is the moment where we can reflect on what we have to be doing and then make progress out of it.” 

Soebijantoro was able to witness first-hand the differences between the physical and hybrid conferences. “The meetings in St. Gallen itself are still important,” she says, adding that it is essential to gain perspectives from people across the globe. While she hopes for a physical conference in the future, she sees the digital pivot as an opportunity to reassess. 

The ISC’s Woerlein, meanwhile, is convinced “conferences and symposia that we were familiar with before the pandemic will not come back in the same format,” he says. “There is a shared understanding between participants, speakers and organisers that the future lays in hybrid formats. What the 50th Saint Gallen Symposium has shown us is that the quality of dialogue can be upheld for digital sessions, given the right technology.”

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