The following tool kit is a resource for those planning events and discussions around the Global Challenges Prize 2017: A New Shape. It is intended as a source of inspiration and direction for global conversations on the most urgent common challenges and threats to humanity, and on the new frameworks needed to manage them.  As institutions in different regions will have their have their own priorities in terms of the most pertinent issues, and their own approaches to creating a fruitful discussion, the toolkit and its list of questions should be seen as source material. Organizers, expert in their own audiences, can pick and choose, and indeed augment with new questions specific to a particular context, but we hope this serves as a useful discussion aid.

Prize Competition Background

The Global Challenges Foundation is launching the ‘Global Challenges Prize 2017: A New Shape’ in order to spark a global conversation and inspire fresh thinking about how international cooperation could be better organized to deal with the most pressing threats to humanity.

Catastrophic climate change, weapons of mass destruction, extreme poverty: the threats we face as a global community threaten our very survival. But unlike other communities we belong to and depend on – cities, villages, corporations, organizations, religious congregations, nations – the global community lacks a proper framework to make decisions and act effectively on matters of great common importance.

We need to re-shape the way we collaborate, the way we make decisions about challenges that affect everyone, everywhere, and the way we shape our responses to risks that threaten our world. For this to be possible, we must first start talking and thinking freely about what kind of new frameworks must be established for the global community to be able to tackle the great global challenges that humanity is facing today, and will face in the future.

The Global Challenges Foundation will award US$5 million in prizes for the best ideas on how to re-envision and re-shape global governance for the 21st century.

Prize competition launch events

As part of the global conversation around the launch of this prize competition, a series of roundtables, panel discussions, workshops and seminars will be held all over the world. These events will start with a panel discussion at London’s Chatham House on November 24th entitled How Should Global Catastrophic Risks be Managed? Regional events will then unfold over the subsequent months during the prize competition entry period from November 2016 to September 2017. Events could be organized separately or plugged into previously-planned events such as symposia and conferences. The Foundation is available for advice and support of these events.

The idea is to gather some of the brightest minds from different disciplines in different regions in a worldwide conversation on the most important question of our time – how to govern the world to secure a better future for all.

The aim is that the conversations result in concrete submissions to the Global Challenges Prize 2017: A New Shape . We are also keen to stimulate the creation of  “super teams”, experts from different disciplines who might come together to formulate submissions , and also provide some common ground and common understanding of the problems that the Global Challenges Foundation’s New Shape Prize is focusing on.

If you are interested in organizing an event, please contact the Global Challenges Foundation for further information on what assistance the Foundation can provide.

Target groups

This toolkit is primarily addressed to organizers or potential organizers of events or other discussions during the launch period of The Global Challenges Prize 2017: A New Shape, from November 24th, 2016 to September 30th, 2017.

The main target groups for these events, as envisaged by the Foundation, are scholars and practitioners with relevant expertise from the fields of global politics and international organizations, academia –whether it be international relations, political or social sciences, world history, organizational and systems thinking or other fields -, think tanks and policy institutes, civil society, business and technology.  We are seeking to partner with individuals and organizations capable of formulating innovative, visionary and practicable solutions to the problems the Global Challenges Prize 2017: A New Shape seeks to address.

An event could involve one specific target group, for example an academic conference covering a relevant field of research or a meeting of business leaders in a geographic region. Or it could bring experts from different fields together in order to explore common ground, cross-pollinate ideas and enhance the set of available expertise.

Since the issues are highly complex, the Global Challenges Foundation encourages the formation of cross-disciplinary teams to work jointly on more integrated solutions, and it also encourages bringing together and drawing on expertise from different social sectors – academia as well as business, politics and civil society.

In order to further facilitate such cross-disciplinary teams for the competition, the Foundation offers a concept for the formation of “Shapemaker Super Teams”. For more information on this,  please go to ‘Assembeling a shapemaker coalition’.

Questions for discussion

The following are offered as key question areas for exploration. For further background reading on diverse aspects of global risks and their management, see

1. What are the main global risks and problems that require a new global framework for decision-making and common action?
2. Why is the current international system struggling to address global catastrophic risks effectively and in a way that takes everyone’s long term interests into account? What are the main flaws in the current international system with regards to its capacity to address global catastrophic risks? Are there any areas of our global governance of major risks where signs for optimism can be discerned? What is the significance of the Paris agreement on climate change for example? And what can we take away from the successful collaboration to stop the expansion of the ozone hole?

3. What are the basic capacities that a new framework for global decision-making and action needs to have in order to be able to address global catastrophic threats effectively and adequately? According to the evaluation criteria for the Global Challenges Prize 2017: A New Shape competition, a framework for global governance must “have the necessary teeth to be able to apply its decisions.” What means are required for this? Is there need for a common global legal system? Is there need for power to enforce common decisions against the will of dissenting states? Might there be other ways to tackle the issues?
4. For each of the large-scale threats to humanity that the Global Challenges Prize 2017: A New Shape competition highlights – climate change, large-scale environmental degradation, violent conflict and extreme poverty – there are ongoing discussions among scholars and activists as well as in political institutions about solutions to that one particular issue. To what extent can a solution to one specific risk contribute to an improved ability to handle other risks as well?

5. Would an integrated global framework for common decision-making and action be preferable to ad hoc solutions tailored for each specific type of risk? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
6. Historically, there have been many proposals for improved global governance, ranging from ideas about a full-fledged democratic global government to more modest reform proposals for the UN system. What can we learn from these earlier attempts to design a functional framework for global governance? What impact have they had on the development of the international system? Are there ideas that are still relevant for today’s discussion? What are the main flaws and obstacles that have prevented the proposals from having more political impact?

7. What are the most recent developments in the discussion on global governance today? This is admittedly a very wide question, but is it possible to point out some important general conclusions from current global governance research that should be taken into account in the formulation of the proposals for this Global Challenges Prize 2017: A New Shape competition?
8. What are the best existing proposals that you know of concerning how to tackle the following challenges – climate change, large-scale environmental degradation, violent conflict and extreme poverty? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Which institutions would be required for them to be deployed on a large scale?

9. Do you know of successful solutions on a local level – city-wide, regional, etc. – that could be scaled up or serve as inspiration for a global framework to tackle the great challenges to humanity? What would it take to scale up such solutions to benefit all citizens of the global community?
10. In order for a model of global governance to be effective, and to last over time, it is important that it obtains a significant degree of legitimacy. That is, that it obtains a considerable amount of popular support in the world as a whole. Where, primarily, should an institutional structure for global governance seek such support? With national governments, business leaders, organisations in civil society, or private citizens directly?

11. A proposed model for a new shape of global cooperation should be possible to establish within a time period of 10 to 15 years because this is a critical time window to address global catastrophic risks, particularly those posed by global warming. This raises questions concerning the main obstacles to the establishment of such a new model. What would you identify as the main obstacles, and how can they most effectively be overcome?
12. How should short-term practicability be balanced against the need to have long-term visions and ideals? What role do long-term visions or ideals play in political development? How can long-term ideals be adjusted to political realities in order to become practically viable without losing the visionary power to expand the horizon of what is possible?

13. What actors need to be represented at the table when designing a new framework for global governance that is capable of tackling the great challenges facing humanity? What is the role of states? Business? Civil society?
14. How could equal influence for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion be guaranteed in the process of designing, agreeing on and implementing a new framework for global governance that is capable of tackling the great challenges facing humanity?

15. According to the evaluation criteria for entries to the Global Challenges Prize 2017: A New Shape competition, “proposals must demonstrate that the model described has the competence and material resources to be able to analyze, assess and address the problem.” What competences and resources do you think a new framework for global governance needs to possess in order to adequately deal with the great challenges facing humanity, now and in the future?
16. The evaluation criteria also state that “rules for decision-making must be constructed in such a way that decision-making bodies are able to act on important issues in all situations”. What are the implications of this criterion for a new framework for global governance? How can destructive deadlocks in decision processes concerning vital global concerns be avoided?

17. Are there risks involved in establishing a more effective framework for global governance? What are the risks? How can these risks be avoided or minimized? The evaluation criteria for the Global Challenges Prize 2017: A New Shape competition state that a new framework for global governance must guarantee transparency and prevent abuse of power, for example ”overstepping of authority, undue interference in the internal affairs of nation-states or favoring of the special interests of specific individuals, groups, organisations, states or groups of states”. What kinds of mechanisms are required to ensure this?
18. What are the main challenges in drawing the line between the internal affairs of a nation-state, and the common concerns of humanity as a whole? How important is it, for the prospects of a new model for global governance, that this line is drawn with precision? Does state sovereignty necessarily have to be given up to a certain extent in order to forge effective global collaboration? What are the most successful incentives to states to date to give up their sovereignty for the ‘greater good’?

19. A framework for global governance must be designed so that it can effectively and efficiently deal with today’s great challenges and threats to humanity. But it must also be flexible enough to be able to deal with yet unknown challenges. How can that be achieved? How can long-term commitment and protection against potential power abuse and expansion of mandate beyond what is in the interest of all be combined with the ability to change in the face of changing challenges?

Questions for participants from the private sector
20. Are there initiatives and solutions that have been developed in the private sector – by businesses, social innovation hubs or similar actors – that are relevant to the problem of managing common problems, and that could be scaled up or serve as inspiration for solutions to threats and challenges on a global scale?
21. How is it that the world can collaborate to run a functioning global framework for civil aviation or a global postal service but not a structure to handle the most pressing threats to our survival?

22. What would it take for such initiatives to be scaled to benefit all citizens of the global community? What political, legal or other institutions would be needed? Do these institutions exist, and if so, would they need to be amended, or would new institutions have to be created?
23. Which changes would you like to see in today’s framework for global governance, in order for businesses and other private actors to be able to play a more active and constructive role in finding solutions to the great global challenges?

24. What role can new technologies play in helping to create innovative new forms of global governance, particularly those that allow for greater citizen participation?

Documentation and feedback

These conversations, taking place in a large number of different places around the world during a limited period of time, and focusing on the same issues that are of vital importance for every human being on earth, will also be a unique learning opportunity for the future.

To ensure that the most insightful thoughts and conclusions from each discussion reach a wider audience, the Global Challenges Foundation will support filming of events and encourage feedback reports on the main points of the conversations. These reports will address the following points:

  • What were the main points made during the discussion?
  • Were there ideas that were floated that the participants felt deserved more international attention? If so, what were these ideas?
  • Were any initiatives put forward that served as examples deserving of wider global/public recognition?

Send reports to [email protected]


Download as PDF here.