Uncultured Economics – Shawn Ahmed at Davos and Beyond

Shawn Ahmed with students in Bangladesh

There’s gold in the them there hills. Beginning today, the World Economic Forum brings world leaders from all walks of life together to discuss challenges and present solutions regarding global economics. It “encourages businesses, governments and civil society to commit together to improving the state of the world,” by bringing leaders from all walks of life together to discuss and challenge each other’s ideas and ways of thinking. Among the billionaires, heads of state, and media tycoons, one Canadian underdog is already creating a stir and gaining a great deal of attention with his initiative and ideas.

Shawn Ahmed is a Canadian of Bangladeshi descent with a US education who is remarkably uncultured. He is also, perhaps, the poorest person to receive an invitation to the exclusive meeting of world leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Since dropping out of grad school, the soft spoken, modest, unassuming 29 year-old sociologist has become a YouTube sensation, with over 1 million views and 80,000 subscribers. He has given away all of his money, endangered his own life, and even cut family ties in the name of changing the way we look at delivering aid to the poorest of the poor. While he fits the description of a hero to a tee, Shawn would have you believe it’s no great feat. He is not trying to change the world. He is only one man doing what he can to make the world a better place. All in a day’s work. He is thinking small. In Davos, however, he hopes to lead a revolution amongst the most powerful people in the world. It takes a true hero to think that big.

While studying for a Masters and PhD. at Notre Dame University, Shawn was lucky enough to attend a presentation by Dr. Jeffery D. Sachs, economist and author of The End of Poverty. Sachs hypothesized that our generation can be the one to end extreme poverty worldwide. It struck a chord with the young Canadian in the crowd. Soon, at only 25, he had dropped out of school, liquidated his savings account, and boarded a plane to Bangladesh, beginning his mission to change the world as best one man could. Four years later, poverty is still rampant in Bangladesh and around the world. There has been no global awakening, no great development in the way we aid the poor, but by documenting his project through social media, Shawn has shown tangible evidence of the great difference one person can make.

A student showing off the new school chalkboard

It is called the Uncultured Project. An ongoing video blog on YouTube is Shawn’s main vehicle of communication, while Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr help to keep his followers, fans, and friends posted as to his progress. Through his series of vlogs, blogs, tweets, and updates, Shawn discusses his successes, failures, hopes, dreams, and fears as he feels his way through the sticky world of International aid. He also displays the simplicity of changing a life.

When people have very little, it takes very little to make a difference. When people have a lot, it takes a lot to give it up. Shawn Ahmed has given up a lot to gain very little. He gave up what little money he had saved for a well deserved self-reward, a prestigious education, a future career,  health, family, an easy life in a stable environment. While he has gained an amount of fame, that was never his desire. All he wanted was to make a difference and to change some minds. This week in Davos, he has the opportunity to change the most powerful minds in the world. And for that, we have all gained a great deal.

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2 thoughts on “Uncultured Economics – Shawn Ahmed at Davos and Beyond

  1. Shannon Leano says:

    Too bad almost all of those “great minds” in Davos are men. They are seriously lacking female representation, and with more than half the population not being represented they are never going to achieve a whole lot. That said, this is a cool story!

    • Blaine Wiseman says:

      Thanks for the comments, Sis! I have no doubt that’s true. I have little faith in many of the people who are “capable” of bringing about the greatest change (politicians). Whether it’s Bill Clinton or Angela Merkel, I distrust most, if not all of them and their true intentions. However, the more people like Shawn that are included, the better. Those politicians, male and female, are generally out for themselves and their legacy, but dreamers and doers like Shawn can open the eyes of the greater population. That seems to be his whole platform. We can change the situation by doing it ourselves. If he can get other dreamers and doers (ie: Bill Gates and the dozens of NGO leaders, etc.) behind it, the movement will only grow. He’s also a big proponent of women’s rights and empowerment, which is key to third world development, since the women do most of the work. The aid “industry” is quickly realizing that women are the key to making real gains against poverty, since men have managed to fuck everything up so royally.

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