Imagination and a
Different Type of Thinking
Never have there been such massive opportunities for improving the human condition. Yet never has there been such uncertainty about our ability to grasp these opportunities. Protesters sense the rising anxiety and are speaking out. People everywhere are looking for some dramatic change in the way global problems get addressed—particularly since the U.S. decision to take distance from the Kyoto Protocol and after the events of September 11, 2001, both of which were real eye-openers. Deep down, people sense that there's a wonderful upside, but also a terrific downside to the way the planet is evolving. Intuitively, they sense that time is running out—that it is high noon.
It is precisely in times like these that the messy concepts of networked governance and of global issues networks could become viable: the networks' speed and flexibility fit well with the many issues at hand and the short time to solve them. And as we saw, for some issues, it may be simpler to start a G20-type group. You could say that these are all improvised, less-than-perfect solutions. But as Karl Polanyi, one of the most insightful observers of big social changes, mused more than half a century ago: "Not for the first time in history may makeshifts contain the germs of great and permanent institutions." 1