The key to our transformation toward a network society is citizen sensemaking. The thinking that got us into our current state of affairs will not get us out. Hierarchical leadership, even in democratic governments, is inadequate for the complexity of a networked society. Our governments seem to be completely unprepared to regulate surveillance capitalism, let alone climate change. Leadership on these issues is coming from outside government and in spite of the market. “We want leadership distributed because this is too much weight even for the mightiest of us.” —Jennifer Sertl. A new form of cooperative leadership is needed today. It is emerging.
What network organizational models can we develop to address complex global issues? One local/global example is an initiative to adapt our forests to climate change, connecting governments with the market, through a non-profit — Community Forests International. One of the biggest climate change initiatives is being led by a 16-year old student from Sweden — Greta Thunberg. Now is the time to continue experimenting with new models, such as platform cooperativism.
My focus for over a decade has been to help people learn together. I have been a champion of social learning and developed the personal knowledge mastery framework to help people learn in networks, communities, and at work. The reason that learning is the work today is that our existing organizations and institutions do not have the answers. We have to create new ways to address what governments and the market cannot. First we have to be able to describe and discuss them. This kind of learning — making sense of our collective condition — has been ignored by schools and institutions. There is no curriculum to prepare us.
The authors of The Age of Discovery liken our current era to the European Renaissance of the 14th to 17th centuries. The Renaissance brought wonderful new discoveries — universities, astronomy, print — as well as new challenges — the pox, war, mass slavery . Our age is bringing similar discoveries — nano materials, gene therapy, artificial intelligence — and new threats — Ebola, extremism, climate change. Today, we are in desperate need of diverse thinking to create new ways of organizing.
“Aging contentions that ‘government’ (+I) or ‘the market’ (+M) is the solution to particular public-policy issues will eventually give way to new ideas that ‘the network’ (+N) is the solution. For now, I think that ‘social sector’ and ‘commons sector’ are the most promising of the foregoing ideas.” —David Ronfeldt