Building an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation

In Search of Pioneering Enterprises

To involve fast-growing, innovative and dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises in its activities, the Forum selected and published the list of 100 Pioneering Enterprises in Europe.


Three major innovations introduced this year extended the European Management Forum’s scope of activities. First, informal, small and closed summits were integrated into the Davos Symposium to allow participants from specific areas, regions or industries to interact and brainstorm in a completely informal atmosphere. Second, the Forum held its first meeting in China. And third, the Forum took the first step in a long-term effort to recruit new members from among the world’s fast-growing and innovative small and medium-size enterprises.

The first “Mini-Summit” integrated into the Davos programme brought together central bankers who discussed currency issues including the potential for tensions in the European Monetary System (EMS), a topic still current more than three decades later.

After having sent delegations to China in 1979 and 1980 and received several Chinese delegations to Switzerland and Europe, the Forum held its first event in the People’s Republic. The China-Europe Business Leaders Symposium took place in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 23-29 June 1981, sponsored by the Chinese State Economic Commission and co-organized with the China Enterprise Management Association.

This ground-breaking effort to put the spotlight on such companies and recruit them as members would become a long-term policy of the Forum, eventually resulting in the creation in 2007 of the Community of Global Growth Companies, which by 2013 included more than 370 members from over 65 countries.

In the preface to the 1981 report on the Pioneering Enterprises, Klaus Schwab wrote: “We tend to base our view of present problems – political, social or economic – on conceptions rooted in the past. Since the framework has changed, those conceptions have become misconceptions…The premise of this report is that economic and social progress is the sum of the endeavours of pioneering enterprises that have dared to translate creative ideas into project, market, process innovation, and also into social innovation.”1

Schwab had articulated a vision of what would be called social entrepreneurship: combining entrepreneurial activity with social engagement. At that time social innovation was regarded as completely in the hands of governments and not the task of business.

The Forum convened a special Briefing in Washington DC on the policies of the new Reagan Administration in the US. This took place in the US Senate.

  1. 100 Pioneering Enterprises in Europe 1981, European Management Forum, 1981