Big Problems, Small Solutions: Polycentric Governance and the Power of Mass Localism

From Stephen’s latest OSBR column:
“Marlo Raynolds, Executive Director of The Pembina Institute, a national environmental think tank, commented to me after the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change that for the first time in his professional life, he had come to the conclusion that our best efforts at adapting to the inconvenient truth of climate change are insufficient. “We’ve made good progress on all kinds of big issues up to this point ”, he explained, “from protecting endangered species to putting limits on pollutants. But this is different. It’s time to press ‘reset’ – we need new strategies”.
For central governments wrestling with persistent and pernicious problems like climate change, escalating health care costs, or school dropout rates, the question is where to find the policy lever that will introduce transformative change before it’s too late. Anything too drastic, or ‘top down’ and the likelihood of electoral defeat looms. There is also the problem that a decision at this level commits huge resources to a limited set of alternatives, with consequent escalation of risk, and rigidity arising from fear of failure. The contemporary paradox is that our challenges have become too big to address at anything less than a global level, but that to a worrying degree, we lack the means to effect meaningful change at this scale.”