Events - 04.05.2017 - 00:00 

Positive disruptions for the world

About 200 young people from all over the world were invited to the 47th St. Gallen Symposium. Six finalists in the essay competition “Wings of Excellence” championed their ideas for positive disruptions in a heated debate with the jury during the plenary assembly. The awards went to Sigin Ojulu of Los Angeles, Benjamin Hofmann of St. Gallen and Nathaniel Ware of Oxford.
Source: HSG Newsroom
St.Gallen Symposium 2017

5 May 2017. This year, about 600 students applied to attend the 47th St. Gallen Symposium. Two hundred were invited. The 40 most-creative minds of those formed a kind of coaching group called “Knowledge Pool of the Leaders of Tomorrow” for the symposium’s other young guests.

40 “idea coaches” from around the world

That group included, for example, Ekaterina Kotenko from Russia, probably one of the world’s youngest experts on space expeditions. Another member, Hosam Katan, had to leave his hometown, Aleppo, two years ago. Now the young artist is studying photography in Hanover, Germany. His pictures of turmoil in the Syrian Civil War were seen across the globe. Comedian Heben Nigatu, who has been called “America’s foremost public intellectual”, co-hosts BuzzFeed’s podcast “Another Round”. In addition to numerous awards, she also was rated among the “30 Under 30 in the Media” by Forbes magazine.

Martina Fuchs from the Canton of Aargau studied International Relations in Geneva, speaks nine languages fluently and currently works as a business reporter for the Chinese TV channel China Global Television Network (CGTN). Social entrepreneurship is the focus of Faraja Nyalandu, a lawyer in Tanzania. Through her start-up, the lawyer advocates a quality education for children and young adults. In 2016, the former Miss Tanzania (2004) received the award “Leading Woman in Technology in Africa” for her involvement with the education initiative “Shule Direct”, which she initiated. At the age of 25, CNN journalist Symone Sanders was arguably the youngest press secretary to a US senator. She worked for Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaign. American Brendan Alper prompted a small rebellion: the dating app “Hater” he developed supports the search for a partner ex negativo, true to the motto: “Nothing connects you more than a shared dislike".

Be it politics, media, the economy, education or even personal life and love – every one of the symposium’s young guests championed positive shaping and future change in all areas of life, according to the motto “…disrupt yourself, not others.”

Harsh criticism, keen advocacy

The “Wings of Excellence” were awarded to the winners of the essay competition on the last day of the symposium. To get to that point, they had to demonstrate their witty repartee with three other semi-finalists in front of the jury and the plenary assembly. The awards were not gifted to them: the jury members wanted to know in detail whether the ideas endured and came from the heart.

The more critical the questions were, the more keenly the young panellists defended their visions on the evening of the second day. The seven-person award jury conferred overnight. It included Prof. Dr. Georg F. von Krogh (ETH Zurich), HSG strategy expert Günter Müller-Stewens, BBC moderator Peter Day, Marcela Escobari (The Brookings Institution), Nigel P. Fretwell (Chief Human Resources Officer Swiss Re), Aditya Ghosh (President InterGlobe Aviation Limited) and journalist Riz Khan (CEO Global Media Productions).

“Wings of Excellence” for talents from Oxford, St. Gallen and Los Angeles

The results of the jury ballot were: First prize went to Nathaniel Ware, a student at the University of Oxford. He convinced the jury with his concept for “Tradable Income-Based Securities (TIBS) as a Mechanism to Improve the Provision of Services to Disadvantaged Populations”.

Second place stayed in St. Gallen. With an essay titled “Saving Liberalism: Governance through Global Hanses”, HSG student Benjamin Hofmann made an original contribution to the question of how disruption can be shaped positively for the community.

Sigin Ojulu won third place for her concept of empathy training with the help of virtual reality. Titled “Strategic Virtual Task Simulations (SVTS) & Learning”, her essay explains how mirror neurons can be activated so that people can quickly grasp complex situations thanks to a virtual journey and can thus act more empathically. Sigin Ojulu fled Sudan and currently studies at the School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California.

St. Gallen Symposium is looking for promising talents from around the globe

Since the introduction of the essay competition “Wings of Excellence” in 1989, thousands of up-and-coming talents from more than 1200 universities in more than 100 countries have applied. The jury of the 47th St. Gallen Symposium chose the winners’ contributions because of their exceptional ideas on the topic “The Dilemma of Disruption”. The three winning contributions can be viewed online at