Can The World Be Wrong? Where Global Public Opinion Says We're Headed by Doug Miller, Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield, UK, 2016
Superforecasting: The Art And Science Of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner, Crown, USA, 2015
Patterns Of Commoning, eds. David Bollier and Silke Helfrich, Commons Strategies Group, Amherst, MA, USA, 2015
These three important books, Can The World Be Wrong?, Superforecasting, and Patterns of Commoning, focus on the global rise of grassroots citizenship, public opinion, social innovation and creativity, arguably the world's growing superpower. The worldwide rise of citizens demanding fuller participation in their governance and institutions is a potential force for positive change and more inclusive sustainable futures. These new forces are disrupting cultures, societies, legacy institutions and whole sectors of many economies. Ignored, denied or suppressed, these demands for inclusion can also turn rogue as we see in terrorist groups. However, these forces from the grassroots are overwhelmingly creative, and when their energies are tapped, their opinions sought and polled, their inventiveness, self-reliance and entrepreneurship can lead to social renewal and evolutionary change and progress.
In Can the World Be Wrong?, author Doug Miller, renowned global polling authority and founder of GlobeScan, documents his company's polling results over decades in many countries. GlobeScan's polls ask questions beyond the myopic "horse race" political polls that clutter our media. Miller lays out GlobeScan's polls on the key global issues of our time in chapters: "Where on Earth are we going?"; "A post-superpower world"; "Retreat from economic globalization"; "Toward a sustainable economy"; "A new social contract for business"; "The rise of the ethical consumer"; "War on terror to war on poverty?"; and "Whither the United Nations."
This kind of in-depth polling is scientifically impeccable and often produces startling results, tapping into deeply rooted human values, commonsense and sometimes wisdom. For example, Ethical Markets Media funded three GlobeScan surveys asking people in twelve countries (North, South, East and West) whether GDP was the best way to measure national progress or (in debate format) whether indicators of health, education and environment should be included. Large majorities in most countries agreed with adding these broader indicators (p. 60). These results informed the "Beyond GDP" conference held in the European Parliament in 2007 (www.beyond-gdp.eu).
This data-packed book is a must-read for sociologists, politicians and marketers as well as business and government leaders in all countries.
Superforecasting is a similar look at the wisdom of crowds. Authors Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner devised methods of asking ordinary people to test their forecasting ability against professional forecasters and pundits. The commonsense of the non-professional won out consistently. I became personally intrigued and examined these methods, finding them excellent and revealing. My only criticism concerned the short-range, often trivial questions on which forecasts were elicited. Unlike the long-range globally relevant questions in GlobeScan's surveys, those posed in the Superforecasting experiments made the effort seem largely irrelevant. I hope that as more meaningful questions are posed, authors Tetlock and Gardner will find additional troves of grassroots wisdom.
Patterns of Commoning compiles original research on grassroots creativity, enterprise and organizational skills. Its editors David Bollier and Silke Helfrich are scholarly researchers of the growing importance of the global commons, all those riches and resources which are the common heritage of the human family. It turns out that humans have always managed their common property and resources by devising rules of behavior and customs. This contrasts with the prevailing view in economic texts that unless property is divided and privately owned, it will be over-exploited. This view was propagated by biologist Garrett Hardin in his influential article, "The Tragedy of the Commons" (Science, 1968) which is still widely cited. Actually, as political scientist Elinor Ostrom documented, this economic view was disproved in many societies. Biologist Garret Hardin, who invited me as a Regent's Lecturer to teach in his course at the University of California-Santa Barbara was also taken in by this erroneous economic theory, but this Tragedy of the Commons idea still persists.
Authors Bollier and Helfrich in Patterns of Commoning dispel this error in economics with many well-researched examples of how human societies create social rules and norms that allow them to manage their common resources wisely, equitably and for long-term sustainability. This enlightening volume opens up vistas of new potentials and possibilities for new cooperative organizations. Many are now emerging in the shareconomy such as couch surfing, tool sharing, barter clubs, crowdfunding and local cooperatives and currencies. Indeed, cooperative enterprises now employ more people on our planet than all the private for-profit companies combined, as revealed in the UN Year of the Cooperatives 2012.
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