Governing in an Age of Emergence


“A Way Forward”. This is an expedition into #NextGenGov that puts forward three core provocations:

  1. An urgent call to build a new statecraft for the age of uncertainty and risk.
  2. A recognition that we are operating in a new context of shared vulnerabilities, risks and interests which require new models of societal and transnational innovations.
  3. An acknowledgment that the mere response to the immediate set of cascading crises is not enough, we need to scaffold the transition to a new human contract with the world around us. 
In this context, this paper is the beginning of a journey, it is a request to not only reflect on the ideas put forward and to participate in the discussion on policy options, but an invitation to co-create new transitional  governmental alliances for the transition we face as humanity.

A Way Forward was initiated and inspired by Achim Steiner’s Future of Development (FoD) COVID-19 High-Level Strategy Lab dialogue hosted on 22 April & May 12 2020. It expands on the ongoing exploration of the Future of Governance, led by the United Nations Development Programme︎︎︎ (UNDP) and Dark Matter Labs︎︎︎.

It aims to bridge the discussions initiated in the FoD lab and the hundreds of conversations we have hosted or participated in over the last few weeks. Ours is a multi-dimensional expedition, seeking new paradigms for wellbeing and value creation.

This is a beta version of our initial findings. We aim to evolve them over the next few months of this expedition.
Future of Development - High Level Strategy Lab: COVID-19
Future of Development (FoD)
COVID-19 High-Level Strategy Lab

“Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

Milton Friedman, 1962

Chapter 1

Hindsight 2020


Over 1 million deaths and 34 million infected individuals

Social Inequalities

Global human development expected to decline first time since 1990

Economic Impact

Global economy contracts by 3%, close to 60 million people pushed into extreme poverty with close to 3.5 billion workers at home

Chapter 2

Normal was a problem: COVID has revealed systemic challenges

The pandemic has exposed the inadequacy of the current institutional infrastructures to deal with the scale, scope and nature of emerging risks that give rise to COVID-like events.

Global interdependence and mutual vulnerability
Accelerating system injustice & inequity
A suite of cascading risks

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Chapter 3–5

A Great Realisation:
Renewal strategies need to look beyond grand plans

In the midst of uncertainty, there seems to be one undisputed truth about COVID-19: no one knows what the long-term implications and legacy of the pandemic will be. The current institutional infrastructures of democracies and dictatorships, of high- and low-income nations, have been deemed ill-equipped to deal with the scale, scope, and nature of the emerging and cascading risks. Alternative renewal strategies need to look beyond the traditional Grand Plans.

“Fast is not a direction. For innovation to have a direction as well as a rate, governments must nurture their capacities for long-termism.” Rowan Conway, UCL 

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