Permaculture in the final of $5m governance prize

Andy Goldring
Leading UK permaculture activist Andy Goldring was shortlisted for a $5m prize designed to find new ways to deal with global risks.

Andy, CEO of the Permaculture Association, put forward his idea of Emergent Dynamic Governance Ecosystems (EDGEs), which would mobilise and empower a ‘coalition of the willing’ as a complementary governance approach to current conventional systems.

The Global Challenges Foundation’s New Shape Prize looks to stimulate urgent global debate about how the world community manages global risk and to contribute to re-shaping global governance that can safeguard future generations.

During the past 18 months, 2,700 entries from 122 countries have been assessed by an international team of experts. A shortlist of 14 individuals were invited to present their ideas in Stockholm on 27-29 May.  

Inspired by nature

Andy’s EDGEs are inspired by nature, in particular the process known as 'symbiogenesis', a key factor in the evolution of living systems where different organisms combine and develop new life forms. Stigmergy, where complex systems are co-created by simple actions through interaction with signals within the environment, is also included as a powerful mechanism for change (it’s how ants build nests).

“Emergent Dynamic Governance Ecosystems are already forming across the world,” he explained. “Collaborations abound, aided by a revolution in communications technology, and the desire for change is huge. An enormous amount of work is already being done, but the full potential of networked governance has not yet been fully realised.

“If humanity makes it through the 21st century, it will probably be because we have learnt to 'work with nature' and each other in a collaborative, peaceful way that enables everyone to meet their basic needs and human rights.”

Permaculture has obviously been a huge inspiration for this project, from the perspective of systems design, ecological principles and the articulation of an inclusive ethical framework. The principle of 'use and value diversity' is particularly relevant.  Apply self-regulation and accept feedback', 'design from patterns to details' and 'integrate not segregate' are some of the other principles that have influenced his submission.

Involving people in the process

“EDGEs cannot stop nation-states going to war or conducting programmes of ethnic cleansing or withdrawing from key international agreements, nor can they force governments to sign up to international treaties and fulfil their SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) commitments,” said Andy.

“But then neither can nation-states or the UN at this point. The building of soft power through civil society organisations (CSOs) and eco-social business collaboration within ethically aligned EDGEs has significant potential to shift the goals and public consensus in ways that governments are more likely to respond to, especially when EDGEs and responsible governments work together.

“The aim is to research, design and facilitate the emergence of powerful EDGEs that can both hold government and corporations to account through data sharing, transparency and popular communication campaigns that build public pressure for change, whilst simultaneously supporting citizens and businesses to implement key solutions in the own places.

“Instead of saying 'this is the solution to global governance', this response says 'here are some promising elements that if combined and refined through a process of action research, could help appropriate global governance solutions emerge.

“Part of the solution is about involving people in the process - we all need to be part of the change.”