The Path to 2030

Posted by Steve Waddell in Net Dev on March 9, 2017

What are the trends that will influence our ability to realize the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030? This was the question that I was asked to address in a keynote to the annual meeting of the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development. A very brief over-view and a video of the presentation are below.

Our journey to 2030 will be cast around our ability to deal with the dynamics of turbulence and connection: turbulence associated with hyper-change that disrupts traditions, and connections associated with hyper-connectivity that presents new opportunities. This means the complexity of our lives will greatly increase. We’ll learn how to work with the open-ended and unpredictable qualities of complexity, to move parts of complex challenges into a complicated action logic associated with management and greater predictability. We can already see this happening with movement of many sustainable energy experiments in complexity over the last three decades, maturing into complicated new sustainable energy systems. We must become expert in using the distinct tools and methods needed for complex versus complicated situations.

We can understand our current place in societal development through the lens of human development stages. These look at eras as dominated by distinct organizing logics. The lens provides two big insights. One is that the current socio-political fragmentation will continue because rather than left-right, it is dominated by a pre-/post-scientific division; data suggest about 50 percent Western populations are still basically pre-scientific and base their world on concepts of myth, religion, brute force, and magic. Second, driven by connectivity and environmental disaster there is a new social-ecological development logic gaining power with a new generation.

The new generation with this logic presents great potential for the rise of new governance forms that are already emerging to complement the big business/big labor/big government one that arose from the Second World War. These new governance forms are reflected in an organizational innovation called Global Action Networks that include the Global Compact, the Forest Stewardship Council, and the International Land Coalition.  They weave together diverse stakeholders to take on big global challenges. They operate as networks of committed participants in a very decentralized way.

A second organizational innovation is represented by the growth of “societal change systems”. These comprise all the change initiatives working to transform a production system – for example, all the initiatives integrating sustainability into the electricity production system. This also can be illustrated by the integration of financial inclusion as an imperative into the banking system in Kenya. Looking closely at this example, we can see a third emerging organizational innovation: “stewards” for the societal change systems. They are formed by stakeholders in the change process to ensure the change process can develop in a powerful way.

The finance system itself is undergoing great transformation, in large part driven by new crises and new technologies. These will render banks simple nodes in a network and very likely will challenge the government’s fiat money monopoly with crypto-currencies like Bitcoin. To realize the 2030 SDG agenda, the organization of the “ecosystem for financing change” must be greatly enhanced. This comprises all the financing sources to realize the SDGs; new ones include sovereign wealth funds, crowd-sourcing, remittances, high networth individuals, global public goods taxes, and impact investing. The system requires a serious organizing effort, and presents ODA with substantial opportunities and its own transformation challenge.

What 2030 year will actually be like is highly unpredictable. But in the turbulence and connectivity, we can close that gap between our highest aspirations and our reality. It requires renewed determination, personally and in our societies, to work for transformation. There is no greater endeavor, for it will determine the very future of our planet.

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