What will the world look like in 2050? 2070? 2100? It’s impossible to say for sure, especially since the collective impacts of human civilization have altered the state of the world at unprecedented scales. We stand at a cross-roads with an uncertain future. And we have important decisions to make.
In this post, I’d like to suggest a promising path that lies before us. It is a road we can travel down if enough of us choose to do so. Imagine if the major social movements of the world — sustainability, global justice, world federalism, corporation reform, open collaboration, and social finance – were to congeal into a new way of being. There are trends that suggest this is already happening. We can help amplify this convergence. Or we can suppress it.
I’ve been following all of these movements throughout the last ten years and see a new economic paradigm emerging that brings them all together. We can help this process along by familiarizing ourselves with the various social movements that have been on the rise for decades:
The Sustainability Movement
What started out as big game hunters wanting to preserve natural lands grew into a multi-generational exploration of the relationship between human communities and the larger ecological systems that we depend on for our survival. This movement has been divided into categories like conservation, climate change, green urbanism, local foods and environmental justice throughout its history. And now it is all starting to come together in the form of whole system design for economic and urban planning.
The Global Justice Movement
As the last century pulled us through two World Wars and a plethora of regional conflicts, we have learned a great deal about the power of shared prosperity for lifting people out of poverty, weakening the influence of fundamentalism, and promoting compassionate responses to situations that place people in harm’s way. As new media pathways make us more aware of our profound interdependence, we are experiencing much greater consciousness about the social web of life and our moral responsibilities to improve the quality of life for all people.
The World Federalism Movement
Increasing sophistication across the global economy has led us to a place where global-scale governance is necessary for international business and economic development. This has taken the forms of regional federalist systems like the European Union and an explosion of transnational governing institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations. While these institutions remain too weak for addressing global challenges, they exemplify where we must go in order to make our global political systems responsive to the threats of regional conflict, climate change, and poverty.
The Corporate Reform Movement
It has been clear for some time now that the way we’ve designed publicly traded corporations is inadequate. Moving from critique and into the realm of superior design, we are now seeing new corporate forms created that seek to balance people, profit, and planet. These forms go by names like triple bottom line companies, social enterprises, and benefit corporations. At the same time it is increasingly the case that corporate brand strategies require that companies be responsive to the delicate web of values and shared identity that they have crafted through advanced marketing research over the last two decades. The semantics of these relationships have considerable financial power in the marketplace. And those companies that express a legitimate social mission are proving to be more adept at adapting to the desires of profoundly shifting consumer landscapes.
The Open Collaboration Movement
An undercurrent of change is pervading all social movements through the revolutionary changes in information technologies, mobile phones, and social media platforms on the internet. For the first time in history, crowds can self-organize and collaborate to create the largest repository of knowledge (Wikipedia), reveal large-scale consumer preferences (American Idol), build superior computer operating systems (Linux), and fund micro-scale projects (Kickstarter). The open collaboration movement is a paradigm shift in economic production that alters the range of possibilities for all of the other movements. And it makes possible the convergence we are beginning to see.
The Social Finance Movement
A particular example of open collaboration that is poised to transform the entire global economy is social finance. Emerging out of the micro-credit lending concept of Grameen Bank, this new approach to funding brings together social mission, community organizing, and finance into a configuration that unleashes the power of money for doing good. It has taken the forms of crowdfunding, social impact investing, strategic philanthropy, and pooled revenue to discover institutional frameworks that increase human well-being alongside the exchange of money.
Taken together, these movements represent an emerging system of global governance, business, and finance. We can encourage their integration and accelerate the transition to a new world order — one that is much more democratic and robust in the face of tremendous global change. The choice is ours to make.
I for one am going to do all I can to speed up the process. Will you?