Global Solution Networks

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  • Whitepaper, Global Solution Networks: Understanding the New Multi-Stakeholder Models for Global Cooperation, Problem Solving and Governance, 2012. By Don Tapscott.



Don Tapscott:

“Today, there are myriad fresh new collaborative models that are self-organizing to address twenty-first century realities. These models have various names including global action networks, multi-stakeholder networks, global alliances and stakeholder webs. In fact the entire concept of social innovation—new thinking and action for the public good—is being extended beyond communities and nations to the global stage.” (


"At the core of the model there’s a taxonomy 9 types global networks, as follows, each having a significant impact in the world:

1. Policy Networks, such as the International Competition Network

2. Operational and Delivery Networks like Crisis Commons

3. Knowledge Networks, for example, TED or Wikipedia

4. Advocacy Networks, like Kony 2012

5. Watchdog Networks, e.g. Human Rights Watch

6. Platforms for Global Problem Solving like Ushahidi,

7. Global Standards Networks such as the Internet Engineering Task Force

8. Governance Networks like the Marine Stewardship Council

9. Networked institutions, e.g. the World Economic Forum' (

More Information


George Por summarizes the ideas, based on a RSA talk by Don Tapscott [1]:

"Don mentioned that any of the global networks can overlap with other network types, but each one belongs primarily to one of these categories. A commons characteristic of them is that they are not based on alliances of nation states that are protectors of the national ego with a too narrow band of interest to successfully tackle our global challenges. As Don said:

“Often national self-interests take priority and make little room for the inclusion of authentic citizen voices, ignoring the self-organized civic networks that are congealing around every major issue. By slashing transaction and collaboration costs, the Internet is changing the deep structure of most institutions… Dispersed volunteers can create fast, fluid and innovative projects that outperform the largest and best-financed enterprises.”

Another intriguing observation that I picked up from his presentation was his point about cities that are becoming, in a sense more important than nation states. “Some of the most important governments in the world today are cities… That’s not to say that national or regional governments will go away…” His assessment is resonant with some of the observers of our global affairs, who talk about a shift in the center of gravity from a planet of nation states to a planet of cities. They include Shlomo Angel, author of the Planet of Cities and Marilyn Hamilton, author of the Integral City, whose work I referenced in my blog about Living into the Master Code of the Human Hive.

One more thing. In the Q&A following his talk, I asked Don what can happen when the 9 types of global solution networks start synergizing? He replied, saying that each of these networks is a tool to tackle a global problem, and mentioned the global monetary system that would need the involvement of all. In the Q&A, we didn’t have much time to unpack the meaning of my question, so I use this space for that.

If I am looking at each of 9 kinds of networks, what I see is a platform for developing an organ (and associated capacities) of the emerging, global metabeing. For example the policy and standards networks perform important coordination function of the global nervous system. The operational and delivery networks, like the Crisis Commons that connect people to help those in need, exercises a healing function. Platforms are nodes specializing in capacity building for the metabeing’s self-organization that can take emergence to scale.

Knowledge networks that create and deliver mission-critical new knowledge, play the role of the sensing, learning, and meaning making organs. They evolve using the same mechanism of the “neurons who fire together, wire together,” as our knowledge and memory do in our biological brain. Of course, those sensing, learning, and meaning making organs exist inside any of the 9 types of networks, otherwise they couldn’t perform their function. But knowledge networks are specialists in developing those capacities for the whole, even if they may not (yet) see themselves in that way.

For effectively dealing with the global mess we don’t only need all of those networks in the Tapscott taxonomy, but also, their synergistic collaboration. Only then we’ll have a chance to match the complexity of the “global problematique” (coined by the Club of Rome) with the requisite variety in humankind’s connected intelligence. (In that context it may be interesting to glance through the answers I received to my question on Quora about What are the key factors to consider in cultivating collective sentience at increasing scale?)

Before humankind, the global metabeing, can awaken to its sentience, the global solution networks need to become holoptical. “Holopticism is a combination of Greek words holos (whole, holistic, holography…) and optiké (vision)… A holoptical space is a space in which each participant gets a live perception of the Whole. Each player, thanks to his/her experience and expertise, relates to this Whole in order to adjust his/her actions and coordinate them with others’ moves. Therefore there is an unceasing round trip, a feedback loop that works like a mirror between the individual level and the collective one.” (Jean-François Noubel)

If we replace the “individual and collective” levels in the sentence above with the level of “network types and the Global Solution Networks, as whole,” then we open the possibility to envision the emergence of a global-scale connected intelligence. Nothing less will suffice to navigate our beautiful Spaceship Earth, through the turbulent times of today, to a tomorrow of higher-level complexity, harmony and prosperity for all." (