Popularity Contest? Yes & No.

Last year, I had expressed my disappointment with the Davos Debates. Not because I lost – but because of the manner in which the winner was selected. It seemed arbitrary, done behind closed doors, and completely undemocratic.

With this year’s winner being selected by popular vote, does this make this year’s Davos Debates nothing more than a mere popularity contest? Not at all – and I mean that even if I lose by a landslide.

The Davos Debates would have been a popularity contest if voting was the only method of selecting a candidate. In that case, it would make a lot of sense for any of those big YouTube mega-stars to submit a video (it could even be unrelated to Davos) and win by a landslide. Free trip to Davos!

But, what I like about this year is that it combines an evaluation of ideas and a way to prove a candidates campaign & rallying ability. The first round was all about ideas. The judges didn’t care if you have 1, 100, or 1 million YouTube subscribers.

How do I know this? Because the panel of judges were as independent as you can get. You have Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus, UN Peace Ambassador Paulo Coelho, and Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington.

Just to give you an idea of how impartial these panel of judges were: the head of a US-based charity that partners with the Professor Yunus’s Grameen Bank also submitted a video the Davos Debates. He was not selected as a finalist.

The second round, is all about a candidate’s ability to rally support for their cause. I like because it combines the best of last year’s contest (the search and selection of good ideas) with the idea of transparency and opening up the selection process to the people.

The way it is setup now, whoever gets to speak at Davos can say “I have an important message and I have a lot of people who want you to hear it”. It gives much needed weight that have been missing in previous iterations of the Davos Debates.

The only trouble now is getting there.

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