For the purposes of this program, a multi-stakeholder network for global problem solving must have four characteristics:
1. Diverse Stakeholders.
There are participants from at least two of the four pillars of society (government or international institutions, corporations and business interests, the civil society including NGOs and NPOs (e.g. Schools & Universities) and individual citizens who, thanks to the Internet, can now play an important role in solving global problems by forming a coalition of the willing). A “stakeholder” is “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the solution of the problem addressed by the network.” The challenge is to integrate resources across the four pillars of society and to overcome the traditional ethnic, linguistic, geographical, political, and business-government-civil society division in a collaborative manner.
2. Beyond One Nation State.
The network should be global or at least multi-national, having participants from more than one country. There are to date few networks that are truly global and that operate on multiple levels—other than the Internet itself. But there is a growing number of problems that are truly global.
It must be a 21st century network in the sense that it harnesses some forms of digital communications tools and platforms to achieve its goals. Although there have been partnerships between various sectors of society that pre-date the Internet, the focus of this investigation is networks enabled by the Net.
4. Progressive Goals.
The network seeks to improve the state of the world through developing new policies or new solutions, influencing states and institutions or otherwise contributing to economic and social development, human rights, sustainability, democracy, global cooperation, building empowering platforms and global governance. One way of thinking about this is that these networks seek to create global public goods, although the notion is a controversial one. Further, not all networks necessarily do “good” or actually help solve problems. “These new networks can be used as easily for ill as for good” says Barbara Ridpath, CEO of the ICFR and a collaborator on this project. “Indeed, there is an argument that it is far easier today, thanks to the web, to find instructions on how to cause havoc, self-harm or find like-minded lunatics than it has ever been before.” For this reason we exclude terrorist or criminal networks that cannot be said by thoughtful observers to have such objectives.