"How do we enjoy the benefits of globalization without being vulnerable to its excesses?"
The key to our collective future success (from maximal wealth creation to basic survival), will be in how we mitigate the impact of black swans generated by global instability. One of the best approaches I've encountered is to add resilience to the very fabric of our global system, the community.
NOTE: From the controls engineering perspective this approach both simplifies and adds resilience to the design of the global system. In short, it creates a bow-tie control system that enables extremes of complexity without egregious loses in both stability or efficiency (it's a control system that we see in use with both the Internet and in the energy production subsystem used by cells in our bodies).
One of the early (and very smart) approaches to this can be found in the grassroots Transition Towns movement. This movement started in the UK, with an academic paper and a follow on experiment in a town called Totnes (see the excellent 3 part YouTube presentation by founder Rob Hopkins). The movement has expanded to 600 towns across the world at various stages of implementation.
How To Do It
To focus the effort, the movement assumed two of the many potential black swan scenarios (in this case Peak Oil and Global Warming) would likely occur and their arrival would damage local life. This approach led them to focus on a reduction in oil consumption (and thereby long-distance transportation) as a means to improve resilience (a good start). Through trial and error, they were able to generate a blue-print (PDF and more expansive Wiki) for building local resilience entitled the "Transitions Town" network (note that many of these steps use the approach of open source insurgency and even uses the rule of five). Here are the steps:
- Develop a steering group to get it started (a foco). Five people is recommended. Plan to disband this group when things get started.
- Raise awareness (basic education on the effects of black swans).
- Network with existing groups (go open source).
- An event to launch the initiative (the great unleashing).
- Form working groups.
- Leverage activity with technology (social tech).
- Develop visible examples of progress.
- Reskilling and teaching (sharing skills/knowledge).
- Connect to the government (financial risks).
- Connect to elders (narratives and skills).
- Let it run itself.
- Complete the effort by formalizing a plan through the contributions of the sub-groups.
An Economic Case via Risk Mitigation
One of the most interesting offshoots of this movement is that they were able to generate an economic case for their efforts. Through audits of the energy use by local businesses, they were able to demonstrate the financial risks the businesses faced if energy prices spiked. This provided the movement with the opportunity to help the business source local resource alternatives and/or develop new opportunities that presented less risk.
Author's Note: I'd like to flesh this out in more detail, perhaps through a investigative trip sponsored by a magazine looking for a great article on the future of communities/consumption/etc.