Interview with Etienne Eichenberger
World Economic Forum
(This interview was conducted in 2002. Since 2004,
Mr. Etienne Eichenberger is Executive Director of Wise
– acronym for Wealthy Individuals – Social Entrepreneurs. )
As Program Manager at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Etienne is responsible for coordinating the identification of global issues of strategic importance to WEF’s membership, made up predominantly of private corporations. At the same time, the Forum seeks to interface with other sectors such as the media and civil society groups, and thus understand their interests. Etienne describes himself as the “agenda-setter” at WEF, giving direction to discussions and workshop-based activities among WEF participants such that action plans are developed to address their global priorities.
Most Important IPMS Lessons
Etienne experienced a variety of insights during his IPMS experience. As far as the participants and faculty are concerned, he found the group to reflect the diversity of disciplines and cultures that characterize the globalized world in which he and many other are used to working. The process-oriented activities such as simulations and de-briefing sessions proved very effective in helping him develop his skills as a negotiator in the mutual gains approach. Etienne also gained a unique awareness of the importance of establishing mutual trust in the professional environment. Finally, he came to see his fellow IPMS participants as making up a professional network that can continue to be a powerful source of support and insight in the future.
Applying IPMS Lessons
Etienne indicates that the skills that he acquired at IPMS have proven to be very valuable during the negotiation processes in which he often finds himself at WEF. He routinely relies on these skills when convening stakeholders, understanding the importance of his best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA), paying close attention to non-verbal behavior, and clarifying roles and expectations.
Suggestions for Improving IPMS
Etienne suggests that the IPMS curriculum develop additional case studies with broader substantive focus on areas such as globalization, poverty and social issues. He finds the process-oriented aspects of the programme, such as the simulations, to be quite good and indicates that more time should be invested in the same. He also encourages SCF to increase the involvement of private sector representatives in IPMS. In addition, Etienne recommends that IPMS be re-scheduled for March or April when many participants are more able to take time out from their responsibilities during the fiscal year. Furthermore, Etienne believes that the IPMS website can continue to serve as a very useful consultative device or substantive reference for past participants that require additional support for their sustainable development initiatives.
Suggestions for Other SCF Activities
Etienne indicates that regional IPMS programs are beneficial in that they may allow for a shared language among participants that facilitates easier communication. He encourages SCF to partner with regional institutions such as business schools at international universities in an effort to garner additional financial resources and promote the program. Etienne also suggests that SCF investigate the possibility of working more closely with social entrepreneurs through coordination with philanthropic organizations like Ashoka, Avina, and the Schwab Foundation.