Method

When it comes to issues of global governance, what do we need to think about today in order to avoid surprises, mitigate risks, and make use of opportunities? In search of answers, the GGF 2035 fellows will spend a year exploring three topics and jointly developing new and better ways of thinking about a future that they themselves will help shape.

To help them in this ambitious endeavor, the GGF method provides an intellectually challenging framework that enables structured communication and rigorous thinking. The fellows will use a tailor-made ‘scenario approach’ to construct plausible future trajectories for each of the three GGF 2035 topics and arrive at a better understanding of the challenges they have identified. Along the way, they will challenge their own biases and perspectives, and combine their newly won insights with their individual convictions about the shape and role of global governance.

The GGF program provides a platform for intercultural exchange and exposes fellows to different national and professional viewpoints. Our fellows can safely challenge one another’s ideas while reflecting on their own assumptions and learn about the options and opportunities for policymaking in the face of an uncertain future. The results of this process reflect a shared understanding between nine countries and five world regions, while at the same time highlighting the divergences that states must overcome so they can jointly confront pressing global challenges.

Over the course of the program, the GGF 2035 fellows will distill and combine their insights and ideas into final working group reports. During the last session in Berlin, they will engage with experts, policymakers and other thought leaders to test and discuss their findings as well as explore options for strategic policymaking that will prove resilient to uncertainties while taking into account current political realities. On an individual level, the fellows are encouraged to turn the knowledge they have gathered into concrete recommendations for decision- and policymakers in their home countries as well as in international organizations, and to make their analyses and suggestions available to an interested public through outputs such as op-eds, podcasts and interviews.

Working Process

To better understand a wide range of future global policy challenges, the GGF fellows will divide into three working groups, each examining one of the three GGF 2035 topics. The working process is structured in three parts and corresponds to the three GGF dialogue sessions that will take place over the course of 2020 and 2021. During each session, the fellows will engage in intense discussions within their respective working groups, participate in workshops with experts, and take part in exchanges with policymakers, academics and representatives from the private sector.

Session 1 | Washington, DC (May 4–8, 2020): Research and Scenario Foundations

Before breaking off into their working groups the fellows will be given a thorough presentation on the GGF scenario approach and the different methodological steps they need to take throughout the program. In their working groups, they will exchange their understandings of the topic. Together with invited experts and the GGF 2035 senior fellows, the fellows will explore the full complexity of their topic in order to achieve a comprehensive understanding of all the relevant influential factors. The fellows will then single out the most relevant trends and key uncertainties to elaborate on during their working group’s scenario-construction process. This first session is primarily designed to allow the fellows to learn about each other’s perspectives, to systematically review mental models, and to identify their own as well as others’ blind spots.

Session 2 | São Paulo (January 17–22, 2021): Scenarios, Opportunities and Threats

The second session is designed for the fellows to explore potential future developments. Based on the key factors they have identified in the first session, the working groups will develop alternative assumptions, compared to what they believe today, about the long-term developments of these factors. Based on these developments, they will systematically create two scenarios that are not necessarily likely but plausible: one scenario they would welcome and one they want to avoid. The working groups will then highlight the parts of their scenarios that indicate who might be affected the most by the trajectories as well as which actors can prevent unwanted and/or enable desirable developments and how they can do so. At the end of the second session, the working groups will use an online tool to record their results.

Session 3 | Berlin (April 18–21, 2021): Outreach and Next Steps

During the final session the fellows will share and discuss their findings in closed-door meetings with experts. During these meetings, the working groups will develop ideas for what actions are needed in order to prevent the negative and promote the positive developments illustrated in their reports. This will help shape more precise ideas of what policies might be required today to positively shape the uncertain future of their topic. The reports and other products (including commentaries, interviews and podcasts) will be published throughout the sessions in a number of print and online outlets for wider distribution.

Joel Sandhu (GGF Team)