Over 200,000 young professionals have left Greece over the past six years in the highly lamented Greek brain drain. In the fragmented globalized world we live in where many opportunities and career growth are usually to be found in select global cities – this seems like this migration is inevitable anyway. The on-going financial downturn simply amplified the phenomenon. Young professionals across the world leave their local cities and small towns everyday, from inland China to try their luck in Shanghai or from Pennsylvania to strike opportunities in NYC.
What is the right question to ask: Diaspora engagement and ‘brain circulation’
I think the question for Greeks, diaspora and philhellenes is not how do we bring these 200,000 (and counting) people back – the question is how do we engage them in the new global transnational cultural and economic models unraveling in our generation?
The topic I’d like to talk about here, since I work in this industry, is conferences. I’m a conference producer in London and I’m fascinated by the high-quality niche conferences throughout the world which professionals flock to, to learn from innovative case-studies, network with others from their ‘professional tribes’, recruit talent and pursue investment deals.
From the Web Summit in Ireland, Aspen Ideas Festival, to Cannes Lions, SxSW in Austin, Davos, Milken Institute, mobile conferences in Barcelona, gaming conferences in Finland and consumer electronics conferences in Las Vegas, there are many high-quality gatherings where thousands flock to on annual pilgrimages. The Web Summit alone is reckoned to bring $130 million annually into the Dublin economy.
I read an article recently by Gillian Tett from the Financial Times, where she briefly highlights why conferences continue being extremely valuable, despite the contradiction that we already are so connected in the digital age we live in,
- to reaffirm professional identities and network with your global ‘tribe’ by forging bonds and expressing shared values
- serendipity: bumping into someone unexpectedly or hearing a new provocative idea – outside of your comfort zone and everyday social circle
- eagerness to meet face-to-face as we spend most of our days hunched behind screens
What exactly is a global conference: content, attendees, topics?
The truth is, like any business, there are conferences and there are conferences. The conferences I am referring to here are world-class conferences with a global audience, created diligently with top-level researchers, journalists, agenda committees and developed to recruit a broad perspectives of innovative ideas and timely panel discussions, case-studies and presentations from the top experts in a specific discipline.
Hastily re-written and recycled programs with pseudo-celebrities from the speaker circuit in tacky hotels are not proper conferences, but haphazard attempts that were pursued with the wrong incentives, whether for publicity, quick profit or to clumsily rally behind some cause without a proper strategy.
Should the conferences be Greek-themed or global?
If we are to tap into the big-fat pie of the global economy, we too need to think extroverted and be ahead of the competition to also take part some of the global economic spoils. The world-class conferences I imagine taking place on the Attica Riviera and Greek islands would be global themed and simply happen to take place in the beautiful backdrop of the East Mediterranean, rather than Cannes or Las Vegas.
Topics in business, education, culture, technology, media, advertising, health, urbanism, diplomacy, etc, with cosmopolitan speakers, well-researched timely content and with the local cultural DNA of Greek charm and hospitality; and of course in the effort of killing ‘two birds with one stone’, why not engage global diaspora Greeks and philhellenes in their own disciplines and invite them as guest speakers, part of your agenda committees, attendees and cultural ambassadors to give that extra oomph to propel the conferences even higher on the global agenda.
Greece is in challenging times and whether or not this bail-out eventually creates new jobs and economic growth is to be seen. But in the meantime, I’d like to add my part by offering an idea for entrepreneurship, innovation and carving out an extroverted global-niche business model.
See you in Summer 2016:
With a few friends: film-makers, journalists, bloggers, start-uppers from Athens we are planning on developing an annual cosmopolitan digital media event starting in summer 2016 in Greece (Athens or perhaps Mykonos) to connect local creative talent from the Mediterranean with international audiences.
If you find this idea exciting and would like to be involved please drop us a line with how’d you like to contribute.