Sensemaking theorists, who study how humans create meaning from experience, tell us that we often encounter a ‘cognitive gap’ between experience and our ability to understand it as having coherent meaning. This may help explain why, perhaps, we are collectively so slow to observe the changes that are unfolding in the international system, that tacitly agreed-on order of sovereign nation-states through which we govern ourselves on the world stage.
The public narrative about that order, as major Western newspapers have told it for the last year, is that we are in a grand battle between a liberal international order of sovereign nation-states, and globalization, which softens borders and permits disorder in the form of illegal immigrants, drugs and disease crossing those permeable borders.
A look at the evidence unfolding on the ground suggests a more dynamic situation. There are accumulating signals that the ‘liberal international order’ is not so much digging in its heels nor fading away but rather evolving into something new. In a future order, states, cities, global organizations, corporations and individuals may all play a role in shaping the global order.
Central governments, cities, and corporations are already performing practical experiments in new forms of governance, and close observers—from CEOs to international relations theorists to computer scientists—are generating new ideas about how to forms of governance systems that will serve us in a future suffused with new technologies, significant resource challenges and astonishing opportunities for human creativity and autonomy.
Of what must surely be many ideas, at least six are reasonably well developed: Devolved states, City governance, the Open Sector, New-medievalism, Self-management systems such as Holacracy and Networked governance.
Some are more theoretical than practical at this point, while others have been percolating in practice for decades. Regardless, all share four factors: (1) Reliance on new technologies; (2) Networked forms of organization; (3) Multiple layers of governance; and (4) Distributed authority. The presence of these characteristics across these various experiments is indicative, in my reading, that they will be critical elements of future systems. The lesson to take now is that it is important to sharpen how these practices work.
I’ve provided a brief explanation of each of these six models in a recent blog: HERE.
If you think there are additional governance models that should go on this list, I’d love to hear from you about what I’ve missed at Amy@StrategicNarrativeInstitute.com.