Cristiana Falcone Sorrell, Principal Adviser, Media Affairs, World Economic Forum

28 Nov 2018 10:57 | Anonymous

Cristiana Falcone Sorrell is a global leader in media, business, and social development. Throughout her career, she has worked directly with leading executives of multinationals, international organizations, and the media globally. She talked to us about the implications of technology-enabled disruption for the media industry, the importance of international experience, and her ways of giving back to the society. Looking for some inspiration? Read the interview to find our more!

You have extensive experience in the media industry. What are the most exciting trends in the industry? 

I am especially interested in the implications of technology-enabled disruption for the media industry. Content production and distribution have both been transformed by digital technologies and this transformation has resulted in new challenges and new opportunities. Contemporary journalism is facing two major problems, notably collapsing advertising models that supported journalism in the past and declining public trust in media institutions. The traditional advertising-based revenue model that has for long been used in this industry has not successfully adapted to the digital economy. Besides that, people have also lost faith in institutions and traditional media outlets and are increasingly looking for alternative sources of information.

Blockchain could resolve many of these challenges by encouraging new forms of journalism that guarantee transparency and provide a viable revenue model. I am interested in exploring how this technology can be applied in journalism and in the media industry at large. Blockchain has the capacity to enforce payment for content, ensure greater transparency and simplify a more reliable supply chain. If you are interested in the latest developments in this field, you should check out CIVIL, a new initiative that helps power sustainable journalism throughout the world by employing a decentralized model based on blockchain and introducing a new funding model.

Beside journalism, it might help the media and entertainment industry at large to manage its assets from the digital rights management to distribution, micropayment, and royalty management. Both Accenture and Deloitte published on this subject, while MIT and Cambridge offer online classes. It could be all a hype, or it could be the future. As always, the key is in the hands of the industry leaders who have the courage to explore, the power to adapt their old business models, and the ability to challenge current mindsets.

Blockchain could encourage new forms of journalism 
that guarantee transparency
and provide a viable revenue model.

You are also a passionate art collector. What barriers do women face in the arts and how can we support the next generation of female artists?

I am trying to support female artists by investing in female entrepreneurs and artists. Women face more challenges than men when it comes to fundraising. This is why it is crucial to invest in female entrepreneurs and equip them with adequate marketing tools. Even artists need to know how to manage their business!

My support is based on trust! I always try to learn as much as possible about the person I am working with. If you want to truly empower an emerging artist, you have to trust him or her. The role of an artist is to create and not to report. Micromanaging can take away the time and confidence of the artist!

If you want to truly empower an emerging artist, 
you have to trust him or her.
Micromanaging can take away 
the time and confidence of the artist!

An Italian now living in New York, you have studied and worked in several countries. How has your international background and career helped you master leadership skills?

For the past decade I have been living between New York and London and traveling a lot. Due to globalization, the internet, and falling transport costs, people expect to have more face-to-face interactions than they used to. Despite all the opportunities that the digital world is providing, the need for intimacy still exists. When you meet someone in person, you can get things done faster and with a longer-term impact than if you only had a digital conversation. Face-to-face interactions allow you to build meaningful relationships and engage in conversations that are not purely transactional. I hope that women will not be penalized for that and will have the same opportunities as men in this kind of face-to-face interactions.

My international experience has certainly shaped my identity. Despite working and living abroad, I have always kept parts of my original culture. My Italian cultural background has helped me immensely in my career, especially when working in non-Western countries. It has equipped me with positivity, flexibility, empathy, creative yet efficient problem solving. On top of this Italian layer, I have also built my global (I call it ‘Gypsy’) identity. The two layers complement each other and co-exist together. Had I stay in one country all my life, I would not have the same understanding of the world as I do today. Working and living abroad in continent very different from each other: from Latin America to Africa to the Middle East, Far East Asia and of course Europe and the US, gave me the opportunity to meet such a diversity of human beings who have all drastically influenced my way of thinking and inspired me. This made me realize that the more I learn, the less I know. We are one humanity and I think when the astronauts go to space and look down on Earth, they immediately understand that. Even when you build a wall, the wall is useless. 

You also serve as CEO of the Sorrells' charitable foundation, a non-profit that develops pioneering educational models. Why is it important for leaders to engage in philanthropic projects?

The JMCMRJ Sorrell Foundation was set up a decade ago thanks to a donation from my husband and focuses on health, education, and interfaith dialogue with the overarching goal of poverty eradication. Our approach is more “charitable” and aimed at forging partnerships rather than philanthropic. We give grants instead of launching and managing our own projects. Initially, we supported people, ideas, and institutions we were familiar with, mainly in the fields of education and cancer treatment. As we grow, we learn how to be more effective and efficient, we evolve and sharpen our focus!

Our projects are based on trust and the most difficult part of the process is identifying the right people and building long lasting relationships. It is important to trust the people who have committed their lives to improve this world and not micromanage their projects. Constant reporting and supervision are time and resource consuming! However, in several cases, we are directly involved with the management of the organization we have decided to support. Regardless of the size of the grant, we always encourage our beneficiaries to be bold, innovative, creative, and risk-prone!

We recently started a partnership with Tufts University. We set up a research fund for applied research on humanitarian assistance. Our money is used for research and scholarships. For example, we financially supported a professor who had been studying violence in Uganda for about 20 years. She wanted to systemize her research and thank to a grant from the Dignitas Fund she was able to hire a research assistant.  Their work was used during the proceeding of the International Court of Justice when they were asked to testify against one of the generals who perpetuated genocide in the region. Her team was able for the first time ever to provide impartial evidence that clearly showed how the second and third generations had been affected by the genocide.

We always encourage our beneficiaries
to be bold, innovative, creative, 
and risk-prone!


To learn more about Cristiana, have a look at her biography



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