Tällberg Workshop in Cairo, Egypt

The Tällberg Foundation workshop—Leadership in a Disrupted World—took place in Cairo on March 24 and 25. In collaboration with the School of Public Affairs and Public Policy of the American University of Cairo (AUC), we explored together issues and trends that shape the challenges to leaders in the 21st century.

We live at a time of profound changes in global and regional political structures, real time climate change, increasingly disruptive technologies (whose potential—good or bad—beggar the imagination), and collapsing trust in leaders as well as in institutions. Too many people in too many countries are too afraid of their futures.

The workshop will parse these dynamics, seeking to refine questions but also to define answers. And, where better than Cairo: five thousand years of history, creativity, advance and retreat, wisdom and knowledge, success and failure. A city of the past, but—as one of the world’s most populated cities—also a window into the future.

The spirit of this workshop is captured in these lines from the American poet Howard Nemerov, in “Magnitudes”:

We stand now in the place and limit of time

Where hardest knowledge is turning into dream,

And nightmares still contained in sleeping dark

Seem on the point of bringing into day

The sweating panic that starts the sleeper up.

One or another nightmare may come true,

And what to do then? What in the world to do?

That is the challenge we face: What in the world to do?


Day 1 – Sunday, March 24

9.00 Visit to Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (optional)

Afternoon venue: Tahrir Square Cultural Center, AUC

13.00 Welcome

Who are we? Why are we here? What are the worries? What are the opportunities?

13:30 Politics, power, order and disorder in the 21st century

The top three risks identified in the 2019 Davos Global Risk Perception poll all were driven, one way or another, by fears of major power conflict. What are the implications and how can we lead our institutions and our countries in an increasingly fragile world? Can momentum towards globalism and globalization be recovered? How is power likely to evolve, globally and regionally?

Presentation on global dynamics by Alan Stoga

Presentation on regional dynamics by Nabil Fahmy 

Comments by Amb. Tomas Christensen and Kees Rietveld

Group discussion

16.15  Looking for new thinking 

Activism, like power, not only rings hollow but operates in an abstract space unless thinkers and doers understand context. There is a social, cultural and day-to-day fabric to historical experience that defines what is possible.

Presentation by Youseff Rakha

Comments by Baiqu Gonkar

18.00 Leadership in the Age of Disruption (public event)

Welcome by Nabil Fahmy

Tällberg’s search for leaders by Alan Stoga

Panel discussion: What makes a great leader?

Tom Cummings (moderator), 

What should we have learned about leadership from antiquity? Stelios Vassilakis

Audience questions, comments

Closing remarks

Day 2 – Monday, March 25

Venue: AUC New Cairo Campus

9.30 What did we learn, what can we build on from yesterday? What questions aren’t we asking?  Why?

10:00 Technology and society: good, bad or ugly?

Disruptive technology is already transforming how people live everywhere—and every indicator suggests that the pace and impact of significant technological innovation is accelerating. Global and national surveys show that many people fear that new technologies will adversely affect their privacy, their safety and their livelihoods.

But technology is inherently neutral; how technology is used can be good, bad or ugly. The potential for technology to change lives for the better seems to be under appreciated. How can innovative technologies solve problems today, rather than merely cause them tomorrow?

Case study by Pio Barone of the Innovation Design Lab in Namibia

Panel discussion: Using technology for good NOW!

Davis Plotnieks (moderator), Antonella Battaglini, Asaf Landau, Helmy Abouleish, and others TBD

12:30  New thinking for a new world

 We live in a non-linear world: what happened yesterday is no longer the best predictor of what is likely to happen tomorrow.  But, by habit and by training, too many of us are linear thinkers. How can we train ourselves to think differently?

Presentation by Mark Mitton

14:30 Mass migration in an Age of Disruption (public event open to students and faculty)

Mass migration is not a new phenomenon, but there are many reasons to believe that migration flows—within and between countries—could increase significantly in the coming years: climate change, technological impacts, real and perceived income disparities, growing conflict, weakening transnational governance capacity, etc. At the same time, barriers to migration also look to be growing. What happens when irresistible force meets immovable object? Where are the pressure release valves and who is going to turn them?

Introductory remarks: Nabil Fahmy

Video presentation: “Hegira”

Panel discussion: What would it take to turn migration into a positive phenomenon?

Mike Niconchuk (moderator), Dilsa Demirbag-Sten, Dr. Ibrahim Awad, Rasmus Brygger and others TBD

Audience questions and comments

16:00 The Tällberg/Eliasson Global Leadership Prize 

Video presentation and brief remarks: Alan Stoga

16:15 Session ends: coffee and informal conversation