In his most recent volume, the Nobel Prize winning economist Muhammad Yunus describes the privileged moment we live in. It’s a time, he shares, where it is no longer utopian or science fiction to imagine becoming the first generation in all of human history to eradicate extreme poverty from the planet, or to succeed at the once-in-a-civilization type transformation from a fossil fuel economic system to a 100% renewable energy economy, or to see a world where every child has access to school within a decade. Nor is it utopian—to imagine extending the longest era of relative peace, especially by leveraging peace through commerce and the kind of economic empowerment that brings unemployment to zero. As Muhammad Yunus and others such as Paul Hawken observe it, what we are witnessing is an increasingly shared vision, blooming and emerging everywhere, helping to bring about what may one day be recognized as the most profound transformation of human society. For the Nobel Laureate, the biggest hope—what he both called “a milestone in human history” and “the most important set of decisions ever made on the basis of global consensus with quantifiable goals” is the world mobilization around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The stakes are unfathomably high. To avoid some of the worst outcomes of climate change, the world must cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030. And that’s following decades of inaction. Moreover, we are facing systemic VUCA threats that are beyond normal comprehension: melting glaciers and surging seas; oil conflicts and the oil industry’s increasingly severe economic meltdowns; deforested tropical rain forests and depleted top-soils; newly destabilized nuclear relations; billions locked in human suffering; the predicted extinction of half the earth’s species by 2050; and now the spread of hurricane-like pandemics.
The Global Goals mobilization stands as the largest macro-project in history, dwarfing the collaborations to heal the ozone layer; dwarfing the global eradication of smallpox; dwarfing humankind’s leap to the moon; and dwarfing the re-building of the world economy through the Marshall Plan. Moreover, the Global Goals, as the most epic earthshot macro-project ever, is not so much about solution capacity or scarcity of resources as it is about unlocking heretofore hidden powers of unprecedented collaboration. We know that we already possess the capability to feed every person on earth, twice the nutritional requirements they need to thrive—and yet billions suffer. We know too, the exciting pathways to 100% renewable energy for 140 countries, that we can achieve the dream of nearly 100% clean, renewable, ever abundant energy (yes with only today’s present technologies) while reaping $80 trillion a year in economic benefits, including over 26 million net new jobs over a decade. The solutions, in so many other instances and domains beyond renewable energy, are there as well.
Yet questions of organization-wide, industries-wide, and systemic change remain elusive. In many ways, implementing the flourishing future that this volume envisions requires extraordinary approaches and abilities for mass collaboration, scaled-up innovation, multi-stakeholder and interdisciplinary design modalities, foresight-driven global learning, and methods for scaling up excellence. Assuming we already possess the capacity and abundance to enact, for example, the great transition to clean, renewable energy, then what’s the barrier?
How will our theory of change meet the moment? This track invites fresh “theory of change” explorations and synthesis from the fields of organization development, design thinking, systems change, large-group multi-stakeholder dynamics, societal learning theory, research on scaling up excellence, intentional change theory, complexity theory and tipping points, narrative change, tri-sectoral partnerships, global action networks and platform possibilities, conscious evolution work, and the positive psychology of co-elevation. Especially important are the ways of transforming deficit despair, learned helplessness, and denial into wholepower, willpower, and waypower. This track is created out of concern for the future of humanity and the earth and recognizes that how humanity responds today to the consequences of economic and global change will reverberate well into the future and across generations.
It was recently issued and framed by Nikhil Seth, head of UNITAR, “If anything imaginable were possible, and there were no constraints whatsoever, how might we design a multi-stakeholder world summit, or series of them or other interventions, to accelerate capacity building to enable humanity’s achievement of the global goals—on time, better, and faster—and in a way that builds new reserves of collective trust, greater global resilience, and more collective action capacity for what comes after the UN SDGs 2030 finish line?”