Global multi-stakeholder networks are emerging now in response to two fundamental forces. On one hand, the systematic failure of traditional state-based institutions to grapple with a more complex global environment has created a space for new actors. On the other hand, the digital revolution has enabled networks that connect and collaborate across borders, cultures and disciplines in ways that were impossible before.
Yet to date there has been no systematic study of this phenomenon or an attempt to understand the potential of these networks for improving the state of the world. Little has been done to evaluate what makes these networks tick, how they succeed or fail, what impact they have or how they address the tough issues of legitimacy, accountability, representation and transparency.
The World Needs Solutions
There is a fundamental change underway in how we govern ourselves on this shrinking planet. Emerging networks of civil society organizations, private companies, governments and individuals are coming together in powerful new ways, enabled by digital technology, to achieve new forms of social innovation – advocating for and delivering solutions for global problems. Enabled by the digital revolution, multi-stakeholder, self-governing networks are transforming how we solve global problems.
These multi-stakeholder global solution networks address every major issue facing humanity from poverty, human rights, sustainability, financial inclusion and youth unemployment to the governance of the Internet itself. Global solution networks advocate for inclusion of the disabled, develop emission standards, deliver education and knowledge and monitor ecosystem abuses. What was lacking until now is a language for describing these diverse networks and an understanding of their combined potential for improving the world. In three years of research we identified and studied 10 network types, what makes them tick and the challenges they face.
Don Tapscott was among the first Web analysts to call it collective intelligence; the aggregate knowledge that emerges from the decentralized choices and judgments of groups of independent participants. Author James Surowiecki calls it “The Wisdom of Crowds” and traces the application of collective intelligence across domains such as science, politics, and business. For us, the ability to pool the knowledge of millions, if not billions, of users in a self-organizing fashion demonstrates how mass collaboration is turning the new Web into something not completely unlike a global brain.
The Internet Governance Forum
The Internet Governance Forum serves to bring people together from various stakeholder groups as equals, in discussions on public policy issues relating to the Internet. While there is no negotiated outcome, the Forum informs and inspires those with policy-making power in both the public and private sectors. At their annual meeting delegates discuss, exchange information and share good practices with each other. The Internet Governance Forum facilitates a common understanding of how to maximize Internet opportunities and address risks and challenges that arise.
The Internet Governance Project
Our engagement with global governance institutions is guided by a distinct set of values. We believe unfettered communication is an individual right and support maximal freedom to deploy and develop information technology products and services, insofar as it is consistent with individual rights. We support a system of governance of the Internet that is distributed and accountable, rooted in nonstate actors, and based on open and voluntary technical standards. We favor a competitive market economy and open global trade in information services and technologies.
We oppose censorship, nationalism and jurisdictional fragmentation of online services. We embrace the institutional innovations required to adapt information and communications governance to the new requirements of a globalizing world.
Centre for International Governance Innovation
The Centre for International Governance Innovation is an independent, non-partisan think tank whose peer-reviewed research and trusted analysis influence policy makers to innovate. Our global network of multidisciplinary researchers and strategic partnerships provide policy solutions for the digital era with one goal: to improve people’s lives everywhere.
The Centre’s research programs focus on governance of the global economy, global security and politics, and international law in collaboration with a range of strategic partners and support from the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, as well as founder Jim Balsillie.