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After sovereignty: Six models of emerging forms of governance

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

Each month, the Catalyst provides a quick list of useful and provocative sources for thinking more deeply and building strong strategic narratives in our institutions, communities and nations. This month:

Briefing Paper: Towards a Unifying Narrative for Climate Change

Despite the scientific evidence of climate change, it is clear that making the public case for action can be difficult. This briefing paper issued by researchers at the London Imperial College Grantham Institute in April 2016, makes a cogent case that the lack of compelling communication between the scientific community and the public lies at the heart of this difficulty.

A solution to climate change must have at its core a cogent strategy, of course, but, as the authors of the paper relate,  “A set of strategic narratives—a story, or system of stories, that explain this strategy in a persuasive way—will be the most effective mechanism to provide relevance of the strategy, ensure engagement with a variety of stakeholders, and motivate action to realize the strategy.

Authors Simon Bushell, Dr. Mark Workman and Thomas Colley usefully analyze the effects of previous narratives, such as Al Gore’s approach in An Inconvenient Truth to a Greenpeace campaign to save the polar bears, to the idea that private market solutions can solve the problem. They also offer concrete proposals for shaping a more compelling narrative now.

The paper can be found HERE (in PDF form)

Contemporary Art: Widewalls Online Gallery of Posthumanism and Contemporary Art

Art objects, whether of words, paint, mud or light, invite us into a reflective dialog about creativity and what it means to be human.  But what about being posthuman? 

“Posthumanism” is a concept used in several disciplines with various meanings.  For some, posthumanism suggests the idea of having gone ‘beyond’ a previous understanding or embodiment of what it means to be human.  From this perspective flows the idea that people may embody many different identities. Posthumans may exist on a continuum with other beings, from animals at one end of the spectrum to machines and non-organic matter, at the other. 

How to envision and understand what is human about us is not simply a theoretical question in an era in which applications of new genetic and genomic research, artificial intelligence, and physical human enhancement through implants and augmentation are advancing rapidly.

The online art gallery and magazine Widewalls offers a wonderful entry point for contemplating this question.  You’ll find essays, video talks, resources and provocative collections of images, of art and artists exploring what it can mean to be posthuman.  The works that are posted invite us to consider how the human story might change radically, but also how it is a continuation and the different ways society has collectively defined what is ethical, normal and not least, beautiful, in different times nand places.

You can find the online exhibit HERE

  • The Kauffman Foundation, which supports entrepreneurs and their education in a wide variety of modes, is holding its inaugural ESHIP summit June 21-23 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Summit promises to be a unique opportunity for those who build entrepreneurial ecosystems to learn and share collective wisdom. I’m looking forward to joining as part of the Communities of the Future (COTF) network, a self-organizing group of leaders dedicated to empowering communities to create future focused economic development, governance, healthcare and social systems. More about the ESHIP Summit can be found here, and you can learn more about COTF here, and find a review of their book, Preparing for a World that Doesn’t Exist — Yet here
  • Assessment available: Strategic Foresight Readiness Assessment. You can enhance your organization’s ability to benefit from a planned strategic foresight activity by being properly prepared with the right mindset, resources and participants — take this brief self-assessment to grade your organization’s readiness and find areas where you can better prepare to make the most of your investment. The assessment is: here
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