The world is much smaller and more interdependent than at any previous time in human history. Global trade, migration and digital technologies are bringing an ever-greater diversity of people into direct contact.
Globalization has made borders less insular. Not surprisingly, societies across the globe are struggling to adapt. Some welcome and directly benefit from this liberalized flow of products, ideas and people. For others, the benefits are less clear and they fear the loss of local control and identity. Fear and uncertainty create fertile breeding grounds for extremism and demagogues.
The choice for humanity is not a binary one.
We need not live in a world defined by walls. Nor must we live in a world where local community and sovereignty are overruled by global elites and institutions.
The global exchange of human cultures and commerce will go forward one way or another, as it inevitably has for millennia. This is never a question of if. It is always a question of how.
How do we move into a near-future defined by increased global fluidity and change, while retaining the stabilizing forces provided by local decision-making, culture and community?
How do local communities maximize the opportunities (both economic and social) that globalizing forces present, while maintaining tangible control over the decisions that most impact their lives?
Can local communities act as a powerful third force for change – influencing both national and transnational institutions?
Empowerment is the power to say “Yes,” the power to say “No” and the ability to offer alternative ideas and solutions. Deny this ability to the average citizen and we will see increased social unrest. If we seek to reduce the future appeal of extremists, authoritarians and demagogues, reasonable people of all ideological stripes should take these questions seriously.
As recent global political and social events have demonstrated, relational progress in the 21st century may prove more valuable than technological progress. Without new ways for communities to actively participate in the decisions that most impact them, globalization risks becoming a hollow and disempowering experience for large portions of humanity.
Regular people can have a meaningful voice in the progress and direction of human globalization.
Big ideas such as responsive regulation, restorative communities, networked governance and B corporations share similar community-centric features that may well prefigure the future of local empowerment and participatory globalization.
The study of community – how to build it, restore it and maximize its potential – is at the heart of the emerging social science of restorative practices. We will need a much more thorough and explicit understanding of the science of community, and its relational technology, to meet the challenges of globalization in the 21st Century.
If you find these questions interesting, also check out the incredible speakers and topics at the upcoming 2017 IIRP Europe Conference, “Conflict in Europe: Meeting the Challenge.”