Today’s governments are using 18th century tools to solve 21st century problems. These failures not only perpetuate suffering today, but also ripple through time, constraining choices for generations to come.
But while governments remain stuck, people are evolving. We are witnessing the rise of a global movement to rethink the relationship between citizens and governance. Now is the time to explore the widest range of future possibilities and to reimagine society for an age of planetary challenges and human responsibility.
This toolkit will lead you through a governance design process and help you become a more effective social inventor. Start with the four steps—investigate, re-think, design, prototype—then continue designing, testing, and iterating new forms of governance where you see opportunities.
Government is something citizens have handed over to a specialized group of elected officials and bureaucrats to run. Governance is broader and deeper—it is something we must all engage in. Our responsibility is to design, influence, and improve our systems of governance. We must begin by understanding where government is failing us and determining the core challenges we face in making it work for today’s and tomorrow’s realities.
In this series of talks, we investigate an array of the major challenges facing governance today, including issues with climate, security, social change, and the accelerating speed and shifting scales of governance.
In these talks, we explore why governments, as they are currently structured and practiced, are not producing positive outcomes for people, other living beings, the environment, or future generations.
These talks introduce on-the-ground experiments and novel proposals for how better governance models can be conceived, designed, and practiced.
Research Director, Institute for the Future
Director, Public by Design
David Evan Harris
Social Change Agent, Institute for the Future
Program Manager, Institute for the Future
UC San Diego
Founder of DivX, Board of Trustees SFI, Sante Fe Institute Board
Director of California Civic Innovation Project, New America Foundation
Assoc. Professor, Dept. of Media, Culture & Communications, New York University
Director of Laboratory for the City, Mexico City
Director of Strategic Planning & Creative Projects, Laboratory for the City, Mexico City
Attorney, City of Oakland
Director, Civil Service College
Distinguished Fellow, Institute for the Future
Editorial Director, Personal Democracy Forum
CEO, Vision Foresight Strategy
Professor, University of Tennesse
Professor, University of Texas Law School
Principal of Investments, Omidyar Network
Chairman of the Board, Santa Fe Institute
Deputy Innovation Officer, San Francisco Mayor’s Office
Director, CITRIS Data & Democracy Initiative
COO, Shackleton Energy
Coordinator, Barbets Duet
Advisor, UAE Prime Minster’s Office
Tanja Katarina Aitamurto
Visiting Researcher, Stanford Liberation Technology
Professor, University of Hawaii
Co-founder & Chairman of the Board, Institute for Alternative Futures
Client Technical Architect – Infrastructure, IBM
Foresight & Innovation Leader, ARUP
After investigating the failings and challenges of governance, re-examine the principles on which government is based and think carefully about the values, beliefs, and metrics upon which to build governance for the future. We need a conceptual framework that can provide an architecture to robustly address challenges for governance in the future.
Think about the broader social, legal and technological mechanisms at your disposal. People have used markets, laws, culture, the built environment, and commons to achieve desired social and behavioral outcomes. No single mechanism will provide a complete or unproblematic solution, so try to find ways to weave together strategies that will encourage the positive outcomes you seek while minimizing negative impacts.
Using your conceptual framework for governance and mechanisms for achieving desired social and behavioral outcomes as a guide, begin to prototype or represent what your system will look and feel like. You can use a traditional method, such as writing a constitution, or you can find new ways to express your governance design. Could your system be expressed as a software algorithm? A performance piece? An architectural blueprint? A speech? A graphic novel? Don’t limit yourself as you transform your governance design from idea to expression.
The inaugural ReConstitutional Convention is a global experiment in political system design for the 21st century—this so-called Anthropocene Epoch—a time of planetary challenges and human responsibility. The ReConstitutional Convention brings together a diverse group of social inventors to imagine and prototype original and alternative architectures for governing. It is meant to help generate a community of practice, pattern of language, and shared sensibility toward the practice of governance design.
The Governance Futures Lab brings social inventors and futures thinking to the challenge of designing better systems of governance. Based upon the premise that government today is failing, our mission is to reimagine and experiment with the basic architectures and processes of governance. The Governance Futures Lab, as part of the Institute for the Future, will utilize the Institute’s deep expertise—in rigorous foresight methods to explore the widest range of future possibilities, participatory systems to harness the wisdom and insight of the crowd, and innovative media and visualization tools to make alternative futures tangible and actionable—to reimagine the future of governance.
The Institute for the Future is an independent, nonprofit strategic research group with 45 years of forecasting experience. The core of our work is identifying emerging trends and discontinuities that will transform global society and the global marketplace. We provide our members with insights into business strategy, design process, innovation, and social dilemmas. Our research spans a broad territory of deeply transformative trends, from health and health care to technology, the workplace, and human identity. The Institute for the Future is located in Palo Alto, California.