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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Populism Is a Symptom of Democracy’s Deeper Crisis

Populists are not the prime problem of representative democracy. They just indicate that it has one, argues Prof. Philip Manow in an exclusive Topic Brief. The populist claim was only able to become so forceful due to the widespread disenchantment with our contemporary versions of liberal democracy.

Books titled ‘How Democracies Die’ or ‘How Democracy Ends’ seem to aptly capture the currently widespread feeling that liberal, representative democracy as we know and have come to cherish it is currently under threat. The latest Freedom House report comes under the heading: ‘democracy in retreat’. India under Modi, Turkey under Erdogan, Brazil under Bolsonaro, the Philippines under Duterte, Russia under Putin, and yes – the US under Trump: the return of political strongmen with a weak sense for restraint and for safeguarding democracy’s institutional integrity have led many observers to issue alarming notes of ‘backsliding’, ‘democratic recession’, and ‘electoral authoritarianism’, to name only a few.

The liberal camp’s feeling of being besieged is reinforced by the rise of populist parties, especially in Europe: from Movimento and Lega (or Rassemblement National and La France insoumise) in the South to the Sweden Democrats, the Finns, the FPÖ or the AfD in the North or to FIDESZ and PiS (but also SMER in Slovakia and the PSD in Romania) in the East. These parties hold a hostile stance not necessarily towards democracy as such, but towards principles of liberal democracy: separation of powers, constitutionalism plus judicial review, protection of minority rights, a fine grained net of international commitments, and so on.

A century of diagnosing democracy’s demise

One could try to counter the apparent alarmism of current diagnoses by pointing out that, already in 1965, Canadian political scientist C.B. McPherson sighed: ‘We are tired of hearing that democracy is in crisis’ – at a time when democratic self-rule had just embarked on the so-called ‘second wave’ of democratization. Following McPherson, each post-WWII decade has seen diagnoses of democracy’s pending demise: in 1975, the Trilateral Commission, a US think tank, warned of ‘the crisis of democracy’. In the early 1980s, French journalist and philosopher Jean-François Revel analyzed ‘how democracies perish’. Some ten years later, French political scientist and diplomat Jean Marie Guéhenno diagnosed what Revel had forecasted: La fin de la démocratie, once again at a moment that in fact saw the substantial expansion of democratic rule in the world, namely the ‘third wave’ of democratization. In the 2000s Colin Crouch enlightened us that we already live in post-democratic times – not preventing the above-mentioned most recent diagnoses of democracy’s ongoing demise.

True, when Harold Laski in 1931, still under the spell of the Great Depression, gave his Weil-Lectures titled ‘democracy in crisis’, he obviously had a strong point and was, only a little later, tragically proven right – yet, most of his pessimism was based on an in-depht  analysis of the developments in exactly those two countries which then became absolutely pivotal in democracy’s survival, namely the UK and the US.

Should one then plea for a little less gloom and a little more confidence? To paraphrase Mark Twain: have democracy’s deaths always been greatly exaggerated? Well, the answer is likely to be (as it probably always has been in response to each ‘end of …’-diagnosis): past reports may have exaggerated – but isn’t this time different? In democracy as a system of ‘organized uncertainty’ (Adam Przeworski), nothing is ever fully certain. Crisis talk can therefore be seen as an inherent part of democracy itself. The bad news is: this alone cannot reassure us that democracy is alive and kicking. It might really be endangered this time. Even paranoids have real enemies.

Our current moment is different from previous eras

Our current situation is different from past moments of crisis in at least one important dimension. It should be remembered that almost all observers until very recently agreed that democracy – after 1989 – had become the only game in town. Far more popular than claims of an “end of democracy”, Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis claimed that history had ended exactly because both economic and political liberalism – i.e. capitalism and democracy – were now perceived as the only legitimate basis for social order. This leads us to  paradoxical situation that ‘the democratic ideal now reigns unchallenged, but that at the same time, regimes claiming to be democratic come in for vigorous criticism almost everywhere’ (Pierre Rosanvallon).

Today, at least in the West, democracy is challenged primarily in the name of democracy. We see direct juxtaposed to representative democracy, illiberal set against liberal democracy, even ‘the people vs. democracy’. Boris Johnson based his recent electoral campaign on framing the conflict as one between ‘the people’ and ‘the politicians’, Donald Trump answered to the initiation of the impeachment process by tweeting to his followers that ‘it’s not me, it’s you they are after!’, labeling the impeachment procedure an assault on democracy. The democratic principle is invoked on all sides, defenders and enemies of the status quo alike. Each camp accuses the other of undermining democracy, of being an enemy of ‘real’ democracy – but the camps invoke very different versions of what ‘real’ democracy is or should be: pure, rather unconstrained popular sovereignty vs. legally very much constrained liberal democracy.

Most populists do not challenge democracy as such, but its liberal institutional safeguards

It is very convenient to cast the political enemy as an anti-democrat. But that is all too often just part of the usual political in-fighting, and shouldn’t influence our analysis too much – as dangerous as this mutual denial of the other’s belonging to the democratic ‘we’ is for a democratic culture at large (crucially based on the assumption of equality). Perhaps more important in our context is that the populist revolt challenges the current democratic order in the name of an allegedly ‘truer’, less distorted, less corrupt, less elitist version of democracy. Populists claims they want to re-establish a ‘real’ democracy instead of the ‘shameless, unresponsive elite rule’ that – according to them – is democratic in name only, only sold to us as a democratic form of government.

One should not dismiss this too quickly as pure, self-interested propaganda. Pointing to their explicit commitment to democracy per se, Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde has proposed to distinguish the new radical left- and right-wing parties from their anti-democratic predecessors of the fundamentalist, anti-system right and left: “It is noteworthy that in the early 20th century, nationalism and socialism mobilised mainly as anti-democratic extremism, whereas at the beginning of the 21st century populists are mainly democratic but anti-liberal. At the very least, this shows that democracy (popular sovereignty and majority rule) is now hegemonic, whereas liberal democracy – which adds key features such as minority rights, rule of law and separation of powers – is not”. We, of course, don’t have to take the populist claim to be the defenders of a true democracy at face value. There is great value in arguments, as made for instance forcefully by German political theorist Jan-Werner Müller, that an ‘illiberal democracy’ (Victor Orbán) is no democracy at all. But the fact remains that the populist challenge takes place in the name of democracy, pointing to a less convenient truth: the populist claim was only able to become so forceful due to the widespread and profound disenchantment with our contemporary versions of liberal democracy.

Populism points to a deeper crisis of how democracy works in the West

To put it differently: the populists are not the prime problem of representative democracy. They just indicate that it has one. Populism is only delivering an uncomfortable message: ‘Democracy is not functioning well, if it were there would be no populist backlash’ (David Runciman). Currently, (almost) everybody seems fine with ‘shooting the messenger’, but in doing so one should not forget the message, because it will be hard to defend liberal  democracy if we continue to comfortably arrange ourselves in confusing cause and effect. And this then also has some rather unpleasant implications for liberalism’s enthusiastic defenders. It is probably much too simplistic to describe our current conflict as one in which sinister illiberal forces – unclear where they all so suddenly have come from – are endangering our beloved, tried and tested political order called democracy.

In this conflict, liberalism is not an innocent, passive victim. Rather populism can be understood as “an illiberal democratic response to undemocratic liberalism” (Cas Mudde/ Cristobál Rovira Kaltwasser), as a response to the increasing tendency of taking issues out of politics, constitutionalizing and therefore de-politicizing them, immunizing law from politics, substituting politics with law, in other words as a response to the overstretch of the (neo-)liberal project. In many respects this project itself has turned liberal democracy into technocracy and ‘juristocracy’ (Ran Hirschl); into a postpolitical administration of free markets and free movements – especially in Europe.

The old tension between popular sovereignty and liberalism manifests itself again forcefully in our times, and we can ask why this is so. But this conflict is not fully and fairly described as one between democrats and anti-democrats, and therefore between good and evil, because both camps, with some reason, invoke different versions of democracy. And both camps point, with some justification, to unhealthy developments to which the other only turns a blind eye.

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