Global Citizenship Building Momentum

Last Friday, I led a session at the Department of State’s Tech@State: Civil Society 2.0 event.  The topic I wanted to discuss was Global Citizenship.  This is a topic I’ve spent some time thinking about over the last two years.  The topic of Global Citizenship is mplex one.  Things have come a long ways since some of those first discussions.  Here is a summary of where this conversation has evolved to so far.  Some of these ideas are still a bit rough, but I wanted to talk about where we have come and see what additional comments or ideas you may have.  We still have a long ways to go!

Who is a Global Citizen?

A Global Citizen is everyone whether they know it or not.  They don’t have to know the term or even the concepts associated with the term.  The bottom line is if you live on earth you are now part of an ecosystem that is larger than your village, your tribe, you town, state, province, or nation.  People all over the world are more connected and dependent on each other.  Perhaps more than most of them even realize.  This connectedness has been brought about by changes in communication, ability to travel, and interdependence of financial, economic and environmental issues.

global citizen, atlas, world,

Photograph by Ciorra Photography

Although this connectedness isn’t new news, there are not many people who have thought about what this means on a truly global level, what opportunities have developed, what challenges need to be addressed.  Part of knowing you are a Global Citizen is being aware of these larger issues and their potential impact on more than just one person or country.

Part of recognizing you are a Global Citizen is recognizing you have the world on your shoulders.  You have the responsibility to help advocate for those who don’t recognize they are Global Citizens and are also responsible for helping to provide solutions to these issues.

Local vs. Global Solutions

Technology has evolved to a point not only are we more connected with other people, but we have the tools to connect with our local communities in ways we have never been able to before.  When we take into consideration the concept of Global Citizenship, the question arises about what kinds of solutions would a Global Citizen propose?  Would they be local, global or both?  Although Global Citizens recognize how what could be perceived as local issues could have global impacts they also recognize solutions for global issues start with local communities.  All potential solutions will need to take into account the local language and culture of the geographic location proposed for the solution.  The success of implementing these solutions will be largely dependent upon locals who can provide feedback on how to tailor solutions to be successful in the local environment.  What will make these local solutions different is they will be contributing to the solving of larger global issues.  All of the local efforts combined together will add up to a global impact.

A good example of this is the discussion associated with the environment.  Although governments have struggled with how to regulate environmental issues, many people are recognizing that through their own actions they can make an impact.  This rise of the Do-it-Yourself (DIY) thinking has empowered people to start recognizing how they can not only help themselves and their local community, but also contribute to a larger global solution that will have long lasting effects.

A great example of a government agency who has embraced the these concepts of acting locally, but having a global impact is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Pick 5 for the Environment. This project was the brain child of Jeffrey Levy.  It is an early example of people who recognize themselves and others as being Global Citizens.  Although there is no discussion of being a Global Citizen in the project, all of the characteristics described earlier are there.  The people who participate in Pick 5 may not recognize themselves as Global Citizens, but they are.

Changing Role of Governments

With the growing rise of consciousness around the concept of a Global Citizen the role of governments will need to change too.  Governments must begin to recognize that their citizens have strong ties outside of their respective national boundaries.  These ties may be social or personal (family living in one country while you reside in another) or could be motivated by trade and financial issues.  The point is people are no longer restricted by national boundaries.  The physical world makeup is changing so that we cannot tell where a person’s nationality is based on looking at them.  We are moving away from countries who have a distinct physical look.  Governments will need to recognize their role may be changing due to how their citizens view themselves and their complex relationships beyond national boundaries.

We have a number of organizations and events where countries gather together to discuss global issues and attempt to solve them.  Think about mission of the United Nations (UN) , the G20, and the upcoming COP-16. All of these respective countries spend millions if not more to support these events.  Each year we showcase where these discussions have progressed from our respective national views.  Although we make a good show of discussing these issues, governments are not focused on these issues full time. Even if they wanted to focus on all of these issues all of time it would be impossible to do so.  This is where we rely and perhaps should rely more upon Non-government Organizations (NGOs) and non profits who are dedicated to these issues full time for real solutions.  They are the experts, not governments.  They also tend to have some of the local representatives working for them which help make them successful.

An interesting model that was developed in the UK by Paul Massey, called We20, recognizes the power of the concepts of Global Citizenship.  It recognizes the limitations of governments being able to focus on some of these global issues all of the time.  It leverages a formalized crowdsourcing and DIY model.  The thought being that locally we have the expertise to solve these global issues through the implementation of local solutions.  We20 attempts to do just this through the meetup of small local groups of 20 people who will develop solutions to large complex global issues.  These solutions will be shared among a larger network of We20 meetups and developed into proposals for the next G20 event.

The genius behind this model is it recognized we have the expertise to solve the global issues that effect us locally through small local groups.  It is a flexible model that allows for agility and speed of implementation.  This is one of the primary advantages it has over governments or inter government events.  Contrary to popular belief this is not a UK only organization.  It is a global one.  Any one can participate, contribute, and take action.  The people who participate in these activities are Global Citizens.  They may act locally, but they are thinking on a global level.

The Role of Technology

Technology is only partially responsible for the rise of the concept of Global Citizenship, but it is also one of the tools that will allow us to successfully implement local solutions globally.  A good example of this is We20.  They are leveraging to organize meetups on a local level and provide readouts to others in the network about what local groups are developing.  They are also using Twitter and Facebook to build their communities and a global network.  These efforts will allow for the global awareness of each others efforts and the dissemination of issue from the global level to the local as well as allowing people at the local levels to be aware of others efforts in the network.  This is but one example of how technology can enable these conversations.

Another model that is developing is the Department of State’s Civil Society 2.o. This effort looks at developing the technology relationships that will be critical to solving global issues through the use of technology and the technology community.  It has government partnering with NGOs, non profits and others to accomplish mutual goals.  Government in this instance is the coordinator and in some cases the funder of these efforts.  This could be how the role of government changes and the model for other governments to solve these kinds of global issues.

Perhaps at some point in the future, we won’t have large physical gatherings of heads of states and foreign ministers at events like G20 or COP16.  Perhaps these types of conversations will be facilitated through an online platform or even a virtual world.  Image the concept of a virtual city piazza or town square where all citizens of the world will be able to participate in these events with their elected officials.  Technology could have a significant impact on how these discussions take place and who are the contributors to the conversation.  Not only would interested citizens be able to participate, but NGOs and non profits and others could actively collaborate with citizens across organizations and nations.  Not to mention technology may be the key to providing some of these solutions.

Next Steps

So, what’s next?  I am interested in seeing who else is interested in these ideas and who wants to help me build them out.  There is plenty of room for additional ideas here.  I hope you will share some of them with me.

In the mean time, the discussions are continuing through the Civil Society 2.0 initiative at the U.S. Department of State and they will also be happening as a pre event at the next Government 2.0 Camp in LA.  More details will be forth coming as they develop.  You can also get involved through organizations like We20 and others located around the world.  As President Obama stated in his speech in Cario, Egypt, “All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort — a sustained effort — to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.”  I hope you will get involved as a Global Citizen and start thinking about how you can help develop solutions.

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21 Responses to Global Citizenship Building Momentum

  1. Lovisa,

    I love this post–It embodies everything I’ve been thinking over and trying to soak in over the past couple of months, and want to continue delving into moving forward. I won’t be at Gov 2.0LA, but I’d love to be a part of the ongoing discussion and momentum building. For starters, I created a social innovation Twitter list a little ways back where I follow organizations and people that contribute to this idea of Global Citizenship that you and others might be interested in:!/list/SocialBttrfly/socialinnovation. Granted, I labeled it social innovation, but the idea’s about the same.

    Keep on keeping on,

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  3. Martha says:


    Another beauty! You hit on some great points in this point and I’m excited to participate in the discussion.

    What I’m finding more and more fascinating is the local to global connection. While this isn’t a new phenomenon, I think we’re now seeing how that ‘connectedness’ you mention is really starting to show.

    No more should we hear “what I’m doing doesn’t really matter.” As you’ve pointed out in your well chosen examples, it’s fairly clear that what one person, one app, one team is doing can matter a great deal.

    More and more we see federal governments taking the lead from local/municipal governments as to how better to serve or engage citizens. As we’ve discussed, how multiple federal governments to do this more collaboratively and successfully on key issues (climate change as you’ve noted) is yet to be seen.

    How do we take the spirit of the formation of groups such as the UN and make them more relevant in a global citizen context? Can we? Will it morph into a new version of itself with more locally represented views? It’s going to be interesting to watch.

    Until then, act locally, share globally.

    Fascinating discussion to continue. Thanks for starting it.


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  5. Dear Lovisa,

    When I read your post I partly find what were the fundamentals of the G8 & G20 Youth Networks, a network gathering students from 19 countries and exchanging knowledge, thoughts and opinions about the international trends.

    Our idea is that the Youth has to be part of this trend as an active actor to promote its ideas and ambition for a multilateral and sustainable world in which the dialogue between the generations and also between the global citizens are not only a dream but a tangible reality.

    We fulfill this ambition at two levels and both of them are mentionned in your post:
    – Locally by working hand in hand with student organizations, think-tanks and institutions. For instance, in France, Youth Diplomacy partners with Model United Nations, Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, ENA or ESCP Europe. And this is also the case in the other National Organizing Committees in India, Rusia, England, Germany, Indonesia, South Korea, Canada, USA, etc.

    – Internationally, every year we meet in the country holding the official G8 & G20 Summits and gather 150 international students to negotiate on global issues and promote a concerted communiqué intended to the Head of States and Governments.

    Internet and the new technology play a very significant role in these projects by providing us with the required solutions to communicate wherever and whenever we want in order to keep this dialogue alive. Therefore, on the edges of the next summits to be held in Paris in 2011, we’ll probably start a reflection about the way we can use these new tools to increase the visibility of our action and to increase the integration of the Youth voice in the public debate.

    A global citizen, aware of its responsibilities.

    • Stephane,

      Another example of people who are working in this area and need to be looped into the larger conversation of others doing similar work. Thank you for sharing. We’d love to hear what lessons learned you have had and what advice you would have for others who are just starting to think about issues on a global level like this.

  6. Arvind says:

    Awesome post Lovisa. Here is a Venn Diagram of how an individual is (can be) a part of larger social network called “Countries & the World”.*jtOXiU7/countryoverview.png?width=721

    A country is a silo limited by geographic & political constraints. The online world is limited only by local language/culture, which too can be transcended by technology itself. That’s the beauty of Internet.

  7. Arvind says:

    Uh oh, looks like ‘*’ in URL is sanitized on your blog. Anyway, I mean the Venn Diagram on this blog piece:


  8. Ahhhhh…this link worked! Thank you for sharing your post and your diagram. This is definitely an important addition to the conversation. I hope we can continue to collaborate and build on these ideas. Thanks!

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  10. Alan W. Silberberg says:

    First off, thanks for the Gov20LA 2o11 shoutout. We are indeed going to be trying to take this important conversation further down the continuum.
    As you know we started to have this dialog at this year’s Gov20LA with the panel session that you and Stephen Hale and Dillon Hosier did.
    I have been thrilled to be a part of this conversation and see huge advancements being applied from technology to a whole new definition of “civics” – globally.
    As technology brings us closer together – each day we become more and more entwined in each others lives through social media, and the immediacy of the contact/conversation cycles.
    I for one, cannot wait to see where this goes next.

  11. Great post. I will return for updates.

  12. Richard says:

    Great post, so many interesting ideas.

    One of the other things I think is worth noting RE your points about virtual worlds and so on is that technology can also challenge the legal definitions of citizenship in the real world.

    I was noting on my blog just recently that the spread of transnational vote-sharing websites represent the beginnings of a shift in power from states to citizens.

    States may be thinking that they get to set the rules on citizenship, but down at the individual level technology is letting people circumvent them and allocate the rights of citizenship as they see fit.

    Personally, I find that kind of disruptive use of technology fascinating.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more! There are lots of new wrinkles that occur with the rise of consciousness of global citizens. As they recognize they are part of larger world and may even feel more connected outside of their physical country’s boundaries it does being up the question of what is national citizenship and how do these power shifts impact the governments we have today. Definitely not easy things to answer, but very interesting to explore! Thanks Richard for you comments.

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