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Two Ways to Get People to Care About the G20

The annual summit on global economic policy doesn’t have to be such a bore.

Photo via Flickr user South Bend Voice

The G20 leaders are meeting in Brisbane, Australia, this week. I know your eyes are probably already glazing over. Please keep reading! Outside of corporate boardrooms, some graduate school seminars, and really boring parties, the G20 is not a major conversation starter. It should be.

Founded in 1999, the G20 (Group of 20) is a meeting of the most powerful economies in the world. The meetings help shape policies that keep our fast and complex global economy running. G20 confabs were a big deal in 2008 and 2009 when the world economy was spinning out of control. Six years later, the worst of the economic crisis may have been avoided.

But we are still living in a world filled with massive inequality, unemployment, and environmental degradation. People sense intuitively that the G20 and similar institutions aren’t addressing the full scale of these problems.

To get citizens to tune in to these discussions, which will be organized this year around themes of economic growth and resilience, the G20 head honchos should take a look at some of the most exciting and hopeful trends in the social sector today. Here are two to consider.

First, it’s time for the world to seriously take notice of the cooperative economy. That’s right, it’s not just fancy food co-ops in Brooklyn and Community Supported Agriculture farms. Cooperatively owned enterprises, like the Evergreen Cooperative based in Cleveland, Ohio, employ lots of people and provide amazing social benefits. Author Gar Alperovitz argues that the growth of the cooperative economy will help create the next stage of economic evolution. Imagine the excitement and change G20 leaders could instigate if they encouraged cooperative economies.

Second, the G20 should take a look back at the People’s Climate March and #FloodWallStreet protests that took place this past September. Both actions featured critical masses of people demanding that the climate crisis be addressed fully and systemically. Many scholars already warn of the massive implications climate change could have on the global economy and the future of human civilization. That energy should fuel the G20 to seek real, durable solutions for global warming and its effects.

No doubt the G20 meeting will produce a few news headlines and maybe even some substantive policy actions. But in order for the G20 (and for that matter, other international bodies like it) to connect and build trust with the public, they need to look outside themselves for topics to discuss. Luckily for them, civil society is bursting with innovation.

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