Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

The Bugs of Decision-Making – A Personal Experience from the Global Economic Workshop

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There was much to do during the one hour of the Global Economic Workshop of the GES 2011. It is one of the most spectacular fora for defining what has to be done – the main task of the GES this year is to find solutions, not only proposals. It turned out to be more complicated than previously imagined.

The main idea of the workshop was to come up with a preference list of the ten most popular issues. To define them, the participants formed around ten smaller groups and started to discuss different topics related to the challenges of the world. Issues such as improving intercultural understanding, the role of social media, aging society and the disaster in Japan came up, for example.

Halfway through the workshop the groups had to finish brainstorming and present their ideas. Each group could come up with at least two of them, but in many cases even with four or five. These ideas sometimes overlapped with the work of other groups, but in most cases they differed.

While listening to the participants’ ideas, “the invisible hand” (e.g. the organizers) tried to consolidate them into one list of ten titles. The consolidation was necessary as the ideas were to be voted on and overlap had to be reduced to a minimum.

This is the result:

1. Banks in the current crisis

2. Increased protectionism

3. Overcoming democratic inertia (Democracies 2.0)

4. Economic opportunities of the Arab spring (Role of Turkey?)

5. Improving the way solutions are actually implemented

6. Internet governance

7. Demography or democracy?

8. The role of women

9. Welfare and progress beyond growth

10. Debt crisis

These items were meant to be voted so as to order them by importance Before the voting, however, it turned out that some corrections were needed. Some participants pointed out that not all of their ideas were represented on the list, notably regarding agriculture and water. The result was the consolidation of 1. and 10. into “Banks and the debt crisis” and the addition of “Agriculture and water (speculation)”.

It was no surprise that these were not the only corrections asked for. One participant even went to the organizers to explain to them what they had left out. Somebody else said: “No personal lobbying, Sir!” But time was running out, and the workshop had to be finished by the end of the hour with some result. Therefore there were no more modifications on the list.

When the list was ready, everybody had to pick the point they found the most important. Here is the result of the electronic voting:


Agriculture and water (speculation)



Banks and the debt crisis



Welfare and progress beyond growth



Overcoming democratic inertia



Internet governance



Improving implementation of solutions



Increased protectionism



Demography or democracy?



The role of women



Economic opportunities of the Arab spring


Agriculture and water, the point which was added later, finished at the first place with 24%. Nearly every fourth person in the GES group of world leaders thinks that this is the most important topic of today, and it was almost missed out! Banks and the debt crisis is at the second place, the point which was put together from originally two different points.

If there had been more time, probably more corrections would have been made. Probably global society and some other points would have been added to the list. On the other hand, if there had been much more time, probably the perfect list still could not have been presented.

To quote the moderator, Wolfgang Munchau: “We have a list now. It is not a perfect list, but a good list.”

Anikó Mészáros Twitter: @dusmii

International Relations expert, in love with Central and Northern Europe, security studies and regional cooperation.