What is a Multi-Stakeholder Network for Global Problem Solving? For the purposes of this program, a multi-stakeholder network for global problem solving must have four (4) characteristics: 1. Diverse Stakeholders. There are participants from at least two of the four pillars of society (government or international institutions, corporations and business interests, the civil society including NGOs and NPOs (e.g. Schools & Universities) and individual citizens who, thanks to the Internet, can now play an important role in solving global problems by forming a coalition of the willing). A “stakeholder” is “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the solution of the problem addressed by the network.” 2. Beyond One Nation State. The network should be global or at least multi-national, having participants from more than one country. There are to date few networks that are truly global and that operate on multiple levels—other than the Internet itself. But there is a growing number of problems that are truly global. 3. Networking. It must be a 21st century network in the sense that it harnesses some forms of digital communications tools and platforms to achieve its goals. Although there have been partnerships between various sectors of society that pre-date the Internet, the focus of this investigation is networks enabled by the Net. 4. Progressive Goals. The network seeks to improve the state of the world through developing new policies or new solutions, influencing states and institutions or otherwise contributing to economic and social development, human rights, sustainability, democracy, global cooperation, building empowering platforms and global governance. One way of thinking about this is that these networks seek to create global public goods, although the notion is a controversial one. Further, not all networks necessarily do “good” or actually help solve problems. “These new networks can be used as easily for ill as for good” says Barbara Ridpath, CEO of the ICFR and a collaborator on this project. “Indeed, there is an argument that it is far easier today, thanks to the web, to find instructions on how to cause havoc, self-harm or find like-minded lunatics than it has ever been before.” For this reason we exclude terrorist or criminal networks that cannot be said by thoughtful observers to have such objectives.
Knowledge Networks which develop new thinking, research, ideas and policies that can be helpful in solving global problems. Their emphasis is on the creation of new ideas, not their advocacy.
Prior to the Internet, such networks were relatively limited in their scope and global reach. There were various associations of researchers or research institutes that attempted to build networks. But with information moving around the world at the speed of the postal service or people flying on airplanes to events, the opportunities for knowledge generations were relatively finite.
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute; Global Network for Women and Children’s Health Research, Habitat Jam, Wikipedia, TED.
Wikipedia With the arrival of the web and information globally at the speed of light all that changed. Knowledge creation could be conducted on an astronomical scale. Most people would view Wikipedia as an encyclopaedia—free, collaboratively edited and multilingual. However it is fundamentally a knowledge creation network where articles written by experts, anyone in the world with an internet connection can edit almost any Wikipedia article. There are 100,000 active contributors, and over 34 million users have signed up for accounts. It is currently the sixth most popular web site in the world. Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia has attracted media attention for democratizing both access to and the creation of reliable, accurate articles on an incredibly wide variety of topics. The site encourages participation from individuals around the world, no matter where they live or what language they speak. To date, 22 million articles have been written in 285 languages. Wikipedia falls into the category of knowledge networks—it aims to solve the global problem of access to information by providing a simple way for people to create articles, thus sharing their ideas and knowledge. It’s a great example of how networks enable collaboration, as it clearly could not exist without the Internet.
Policy Networks create government policy even though they are not networks of government policy makers.
Powered by global multi-stakeholder collaboration they are becoming a material force to be reckoned with in global policy development. Their activities cover the range of steps in the policy process, beyond to policy proposals or lobbying, including agenda setting, policy formulation, rulemaking, coordination, implementation, and evaluation. Their expertise can often play an important role in global debates and norm establishment.35
Sometimes networks create government policy, even though they may consist of non-governmental players. Policy Networks may or may not be created or even encouraged by formal governments or government institutions. Some policy networks support policy development or create an alternative for policy. Policy networks also exist to create and encourage discussions on policy issues.
The Internet Governance Forum, International Competition Network, The PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment)
International Competition Network The International Competition Network (ICN)36 is an informal, virtual network of agencies with a view to enabling a dialogue about and building a consensus around competition policy principles spanning the global antitrust community. The ICN was created in 2001 following the publication of the Final Report of the International Competition Policy Advisory Committee to the US Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, with its first annual conference taking place in Naples, Italy in 2002. The purpose of the ICN is to benefit member agencies, consumers and economies by advocating for the adoption of best practices in competition policy, and it is the only international network exclusively dedicated to competition law enforcement. Since its inception in 2001, the ICN has grown to include 104 competition agencies from 92 jurisdictions. Representing national and multinational competition authorities, members participate in project-oriented working groups together with non-governmental advisors online.
Advocacy Networks seek to change the agenda or policies of governments, corporations or other institutions.
Of course, advocacy has been around since early civilization. Global advocacy is a relatively new phenomenon, paralleling the rise of globalization. In 1969 there was a global movement advocating withdrawal of US troops in Vietnam, culminating in a global day of protest in October 15, 1969.38 That day of demonstrations was 18 months in the planning and was coordinated primarily through postal mail and telephone calls. With the rise of the web advocacy has gone truly global, and is almost infinitely easier and faster to organize. The Kony 2012 story with its many problems is a case in point.
Avaaz.org, Keep a Child Alive, Conscious Capitalism (advocates to corporations). Hundreds of these networks are listed at World Advocacy.com.
Avaaz.org Launched in 2007, Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaign network that operates in 15 languages, served by a core team on 6 continents and thousands of volunteers. Avaaz boasts that “We take action—signing petitions, funding media campaigns and direct actions, emailing, calling and lobbying governments, and organizing ‘offline’ protests and events—to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform the decisions that affect us all.” The issues tackled by the Avaaz community are chosen by the volunteers through annual online polling. For 2012, human rights, economic policy for the public good and political corruption are the top three issues. Avaaz says that its model of Internet organizing “allows thousands of individual efforts, however small, to be rapidly combined into a powerful collective force advocating for change.”
Governance Networks have achieved or been granted the right and responsibility of non-institutional global governance.
They are different from “government networks” as described by Anne-Marie Slaughter (non-state networks of government representatives addressing a global problem) and include non-government players.
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, International Organization of Securities Commissions, Marine Stewardship Council, Forest Stewardship Council, The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)50 is the non-profit organization that coordinates the Internet’s system of unique identifiers, ensuring consistent access for people around the world. The original mandate for ICANN came from the United States government, and the organization was incorporated in 1998. ICANN’s vision is “One World. One Internet.” It uses a “bottom-up, consensus-driven, multi-stakeholder model” whereby members of sub-groups can raise issues at the grassroots level and almost anyone is welcome to volunteer for most of the working groups. This gives ordinary citizens around the world the chance to offer their points of view and influence the future directions of the Internet, rather than simply accepting the terms laid out by the Board of Directors.
Operational and Delivery Networks actually deliver the change they seek, supplementing or even bypassing the efforts of traditional institutions.
Such networks also predate the Internet and have been impactful on the world—the Red Cross being a prime example. But as the Internet drops transaction and collaboration costs, the opportunities to coordinate interventions took off. So did the power of self-organization, as individuals in concert with other institutions, or not, could take action to intervene, on the ground to deliver specific solutions to global problems.
Crisis Commons, Kiva, 350.org, The Standby Task Force, Digital Democracy, The Red Cross, World Wildlife Fund, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Global Health Program, Medicines for Malaria Venture, The Microcredit Summit Campaign
CrisisCommons Mass collaboration may well be the most important innovation in responding to crises in modern times. CrisisCommons25 is a case in point. It uses the web to bring together a global community of volunteers from technology, crisis response organizations, government agencies and citizens. These people work together to build and use technology tools to help respond to disasters and improve readiness before a crisis hits. Volunteers are not only technical folks like coders, programmers and geospatial and visualization experts. The organization also includes people who can lead teams, manage projects, share information, search the internet, translate languages, know usability, write a research paper and help edit wikis. Since 2009, CrisisCommons has coordinated crisis event responses such at the Haiti, Chile and Japan earthquakes and the floods in Thailand, Nashville and Pakistan. Over 3,000 people have participated worldwide in over 30 cities across 10 countries including France, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Chile and Colombia.
Global Standards Networks are non-state based organizations that develop technical specifications and standards for virtually anything, including standards for the Internet itself.
Whether for brick size, rail gauges, electricity, telephones or computers, standards have been critical to economic development, prosperity and human civilization for millennia. When it comes to international standards, state-based institutions such as the International Standards Organization have led the way. However given the growing domains requiring standards, the complexity of standards, the need for truly global standards and the requirements for vast numbers of stakeholders to be involved, the new networked models of standards setting increasingly make sense. The Internet itself is a case in point. Two networks below address the issue of standards for the Internet.
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), World Wide Web Consortium
The Internet Society and the Internet Engineering Task Force The Internet Society (ISOC)45 is the organizational home of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF),46 the Internet Architecture Board (IAB),47 the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG),48 and the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF)49—the standards setting and research arms of the Internet community. As explained earlier, IETF is a global community of network designers, operators, vendors and researchers whose goal is to make the Internet better, from an engineering point of view. Deliverables produced by the IETF are relevant technical documents that influence the way people design, use, and manage the Internet; the IETF is not concerned with the policy or the business of the Internet.Similar to many multi-stakeholder networks, IETF’s work is done by working groups who focus on various topic areas related to the technical aspects of the Internet. Two groups oversee much of the work of the IETF: the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), both of which are chartered by the Internet Society (ISOC). The IESG is responsible for the technical management of the IETF activities, including leading working groups, and the IAB provides guidance to the IETF and its board members. A completely open organization, any individual can participate in the work of IETF or contribute to issues that are discussed. All documents pertaining to the work of the IETF are available publicly online.
Diasporas are global communities formed by people dispersed from their ancestral lands, but who share a common culture and strong identity with their homeland.
Thanks to the Internet these people and their affiliated organizations can now collaborate in multi-stakeholder networks. One of the functions of many of today’s diasporas is to address and help solve common, global problems.
OneVietnam Network, International Diaspora Engagement Alliance, African Idea Marketplace
Watchdog Networks scrutinize institutions to ensure they behave appropriately., Basically, governments, companies and other institutions now operate in a hyper-transparent world. So if an institution is going to be naked—and it really has no choice in the matter—it had better be buff. To be sure, all organizations have a right to some secrecy. Companies have legitimate trade secrets. Employees should not violate confidentially agreements or the law. WikiLeaks notwithstanding, it is surely not in the public interest that all diplomacy be conducted in the open. But rather than defaulting to opacity as was done in the past, for many organizations it increasingly makes sense to opt for openness. Why is this true? Globalization, instant communications and organized civil society have changed the rules of the game. Firms and governments are being held to complex and changing sets of standards—from unrelenting webs of “stakeholders” who pass judgment on corporate behavior—to regulations, new and old, that govern and often complicate everyday activities. In an ultra-transparent world of instant communications, every step and misstep is subject to scrutiny. And every institution with a brand or reputation to protect is vulnerable. Customers and citizens can evaluate the worth of products and services at levels not possible before. Employees share formerly secret information about organizational strategy, management and challenges. To collaborate effectively, companies, governments and their business partners have no choice but to share intimate knowledge with one another. Powerful institutional investors today own or manage most wealth, and they are developing x-ray vision. Finally, in a world of instant communications, whistleblowers, inquisitive media and Googling, citizens and communities routinely put institutions under the microscope. A growing number of institutions are therefore opening up—communicating pertinent information to their various stakeholders, in many cases voluntarily. But for the countless governments and other institutions that have plenty to hide, transparency is powerful leverage for good in the world, as sunlight is the best disinfectant. And when it comes to global networks, what was once limited to Transparency International has now become a massive network of networks scrutinizing the behavior of governments, corporations and other institutions.
Topics range from human rights, corruption, and the environment to financial services.
Human Rights Watch, The Environmental Working Group, Amnesty International, The Global Reporting Initiative
Human Rights Watch One of the more effective and influential is Human Rights Watch41—a watchdog group for human rights. It was founded in 1976 as a private non- governmental organization, and its members are individuals, government and media. With more than 250 staff, the group investigates human rights conditions in over 70 countries. It relies on individual donations for its funding and with the rise of the Net relies fully on technology as a platform for its work. In Libya, the organization was able to get vast amounts of proof that Muammar Gaddafi and his regime were abusing human rights. This proof was used to persuade the International Criminal Court to issue a warrant of arrest for the dictator.42 In Egypt, the organization canvassed morgues to give real numbers of deaths during the nation-wide uprising, which the American government used to pressure the Egyptian military, and the Egyptian government to end its violence. In Syria, the organization had the trust of people and connections to get information that governments and other official channels didn't have. It obtained information that was used to get the American government to put sanctions on Syria, freeze assets, enforce travel bans of key Syrian officials and impose sanctions on its oil assets.
Networked Institutions provide a wide range of capabilities even similar to state-based institutions but with a very different modus-operandi.
Some networks provide such a wide range of capabilities that they could be described as Networked Institutions. They are not state-based but rather true multi-stakeholder networks. The value they generate can range from knowledge generation, advocacy and policy development to actual delivery of solutions to global problems.
The World Economic Forum, The Clinton Global Initiative, The Global Water Partnership
World Economic Forum Probably the best example is the World Economic Forum51 —“an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” Founded in 1971 as the European Management Forum it grew to the World Economic Forum in 1987. A true multi-stakeholder network it involves all four pillars of society, even though its funding is primarily corporate—1000 member companies. What started as a meeting for European executives has evolved into a platform to discuss and solve pressing global problems. With the malaise of Bretton Woods institutions and other international crises, the Forum became neutral terrain, best known for its annual meeting in Davos, a mountain resort in Switzerland. The meeting brings together some 2500 top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals and journalists to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world, including health and the environment. It also convenes a number of regional meetings around the world. The Internet plays large in the transformation of the Forum from a series of meetings to a 365-day collaboration involving thousands of leaders from business, government, civil society and academia. As it evolved from a think-tank into what might be described as a “do-tank” the Forum has developed a number of communities that are researching and taking action on many global problems. These are extensive and illustrate how networked institutions can perform many of the different functions of all 9 network types., The Global Agenda Councils are Multi-stakeholder groups of thought leaders who meet virtually and at the Summit on the Global Agenda to advance knowledge and develop solutions to issues on the Global Agenda. GAC members provide cross-disciplinary and long-term thinking to pressing global issues by monitoring trends, address knowledge gaps and provide recommendations to address global challenges., Global Shapers is a community platform for young people in their 20s to convene both virtually and in person to develop ideas and solutions to some of the world’s pressing challenges. Organized as a network of hubs in major cities around the world, Global Shapers work in their local communities and also collaborate between hubs to create a positive global impact generating knowledge, advocating and performing other functions., The Forum of Young Global Leaders is a multi-stakeholder, global community of exceptional young people who are committed to shaping the global future. Consisting of 700 leaders from 59 countries, the YGL works interactively and collaboratively to develop solutions to pressing global challenges., The Risk Response Network (RRN) provides private and public sector leaders with a platform to map, monitor and mitigate risks. The work of the RRN is focused in 3 areas: Risk research which includes the publication of various risk reports; Risk diagnostics which are delivered through a secure digital, collaborative platform “TopLink” that contains diagnostics tools like “risk radar” and “risk barometer;” and Risk response, a multi-stakeholder partnerships to exchange best practices and facilitate contingency planning in the event of a crisis or unforeseen event. As such they are a Knowledge Network, Operational and Delivery Network and involved in other network types such as Policy development., The Women Leaders and Gender Parity program promotes women leadership and global gender parity. The program has created a web-based platform to share successful best practices on how to close gender gaps and promote learning across stakeholder groups. As such they are also an Advocacy Network., The Forum recognizes and profiles technology companies (Technology Pioneers) that have a positive impact on the way business and society operate. Pioneers are selected on a yearly basis and profiled in the Technology Pioneers report. To date, more than 400 companies have been selected at Technology Pioneers by Forum., Global Growth Companies (GGC) have been identified as having the potential to be a driving force for economic or social change are invited to join the Global Growth Companies (GGC) community. GGC attend an annual meeting and collaborate through a private online networking platform providing the opportunity to seek new business partnerships, network with global policy experts, and knowledge share. To date more than 360 companies for 60 countries are a part of the GGC., Knowledge Advisory Group (KAG) is a network of academic administrators who collaborate and engage in peer-to-peer discussion and brainstorming on topics on the education agenda with the goal of incorporating academic perspectives into the work of the Forum., Global University Leaders Forum (GULF) is a group that meets by invitation only consisting of the heads of 30 leading global universities. Members participate in peer-to-peer discussion and share insights to inspire and shape decisions made at their home universities.
Platforms create the capability for other networks to organize.
This category is completely new, enabled by the Internet, which provides the technology infrastructure for platforms. Platforms are more than technology. They include some kind of technology but also organizational capability that facilitates collective action. Our research has uncovered some significant new initiatives creating powerful new platforms that hold the promise of further dropping the transaction costs of global problem solving. These will be described in Big Idea Whitepapers as they emerge. But today powerful platforms are already making a difference in the world.
Ushahidi, Challenge Post, Change.org, seToolbelt, Code for America, thesojo.net
Ushahidi “Ushahidi, which means ‘testimony’ in Swahili, is a platform that was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008.”44 It empowered ordinary Kenyans to use SMS, email or the web to report incidents of violence and create a map of such activity. The Ushahidi team now offers a free and open source mapping and content management system, with the goal of facilitating early warning systems and helping in data visualization for response and recovery. The system focuses on mobile phones, since many areas of the world do not have reliable Internet access. Ushahidi has revolutionized data visualization by using existing technology to facilitate the creation of citizen-generated maps and releasing the tool under an open source license. To date, the versatile platform has been used in Africa to report medicine shortages, in Gaza to track incidents of violence and in India and Mexico to monitor elections. The Washington Post even partnered with Ushahidi in 2010 to map road blockages and the location of available snow blowers during the infamous Snowmageddon, DC’s largest snowfall in nearly a century. With every new application, Ushahidi is quietly empowering millions of ordinary individuals to play a larger role in everything from democratic decision-making to crisis management to protecting public health. In doing so, Ushahidi highlights a profound contrast between a set of deeply troubled and stalled institutions that revolve around industrial age thinking and hierarchical organizational designs versus a new set of bottom-up institutions that are being built on principles such as openness, collaboration and the sharing of data and intellectual property.