Risk, resilience and opportunity

03 November 2011


Is the world ready for major new shocks such as pandemics, critical food shortages, antibiotic resistance in human populations or cyber attacks? What can governments, business and civil society do to prepare for the large, long-term and complex systemic risks ahead?

The World Economic Forum has been helping business and governments monitor, map and make sense of global systemic risks for the past 7 years, since the establishment of its “Global Risk Report”. Now the Oxford Martin School has been brought in to help improve their efforts and bring deeper thinking around the management and mitigation of such risks.

Earlier this week the Oxford Martin School arranged a special workshop on risk with representatives from the World Economic Forum, Oxford academics, business leaders and policy makers to discuss and debate today’s biggest global challenges. The workshop was a key part of the intelligence gathering exercise for the WEF’s Risk Response Network, which produces an Annual Global Risks Report, and follows similar workshops in the US, China and Abu Dhabi. The resulting discussions will feed directly into the 2012 Risk Report, which will provide an intellectual corner-stone of thinking for the WEF’s next annual meeting in Davos.

The workshop considered four broad areas:

1) It tested and dissected the emerging risk themes from previous international workshops to see if this correlated with leading research undertaken at Oxford;

2) It explored the ‘known risks’ we face globally, such as the difficulties of forecasting, climate change, pandemics and cyber risks;

3) It considered those daunting ‘known unknowns’ with participants grappling with emerging challenges such as complexity systems, antibiotics, geoengineering and nanotechnology; and

4) Finally, it explored the interconnections and potential tools for mitigation as well as techniques for building greater resilience to deal with growing risks.

Systemic risk is a powerful emerging theme across the wide range of research at the Oxford Martin School. The workshop with the World Economic Forum is one of several initiatives the School has been developing to bring latest thinking to leadership audiences.