Today’s biggest problems defy simple, short-sighted solutions,” commented Ambassador (Ret) David Carden in the South China Post on February 19. Although Carden was referring to the global response in the face of Covid-19, his thoughts on complex adaptive systems are applicable to the whole gamut of crisis risks.
On p4 of this edition of CRJ, we discuss the Global Risks Report 2020, which forecasts a year of increased domestic and international divisions. It says: “Systems-level thinking is required to confront looming geopolitical and environmental risks and threats that may otherwise fall under the radar.” On p12 Michele Wucker points to the need for greater systems-level thinking when considering far reaching global challenges such as climate.
Wucker also highlights the benefits in terms of resilience in societies where people do not just consider themselves as individuals, but as part of a larger group.
“Thinking holistically is part of what transformation research is all about. We can’t all be running around doing our own thing individually,” notes Professor Wilson of Ohio State’s School of Environmental and Natural Resources, in a call for less focus on individuals and more work to inspire collective action in preparedness for climate threats (CRJ 15:1, p4).
As Amy Pope says on p16 of this edition: “No single government, or even a multilateral institution, is equipped to respond to any major disaster alone. In a world where major governments are choosing their own countries first, we are fighting disasters with one arm tied behind our backs.”
Pope continues: “Ultimately, we need to rethink the way that societies engage collectively. In the absence of leadership from governments, there is an opportunity for corporations, non-governmental actors and individuals to influence the debate, push for reform, build coalitions and fill the gaps...”
So in this fractured landscape, who is stepping in to fill the yawning gap in trust and governance? Interestingly, the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer (p6 of this edition) notes that: “Business has leapt into the void left by populist and partisan government.” Other factors in achieving a holistic, co-operative approach include cognitive diversity (p8), cultural understanding (p74), citizens themselves (p78) and spontaneous volunteers (p80).
Fractures can be healed. Admittedly, this can be a painful process, but it does appear that a fundamental change in thinking is now imperative. We all have a role to play in this.