Innovative ideas for avoiding collective failure

12 September 2013

As we work to address urgent global responsibilities, how do we balance the needs of the individual while avoiding the potential for collective failure?

This is the question Oxford Martin School academics tackled at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions, taking place in Dalian, China. Known as the ‘Summer Davos’, the event creates a unique opportunity for exchange between business leaders and key decision-makers from government, media, academia and civil society.

The Oxford Martin School team led a well attended IdeasLab, to explore innovative solutions to the question of ‘Avoiding Collective Failure’.

Recent decades have brought into sharp focus the devastating impact this conflict of need can cause. For example, an individual may need antibiotics to cure an illness, but widespread use of these drugs has put their future efficacy in danger as bacteria become increasingly resistant. In central Asia, different countries drew water from the Aral Sea crops such as rice, cereal and cotton could be grown on arid land. But excessive use has led to the collapse of the Aral Sea with falling water levels and pollution, destroying its once prosperous fishing industry and undermining the potential for sustainable irrigation of the crops.

Professor Goldin, the Director of the School, provided an overview, looking at on how we can balance pressing individual needs with long-term global responsibilities. This is a theme that underlines the research being undertaken by Oxford Martin School academics as they work collaboratively to tackle some of the biggest challenges of the 21st Century.

Professor Charles Godfray (Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food) discussed the tensions and trade-offs involved in feeding the world, while Dr John Frater (Oxford Institute for Emerging Infections) asked how antimicrobial drug resistance may be addressed. Professor Jim Hall (Oxford Martin Programme on Resource Stewardship) discussed solutions to the complex links in our infrastructure that make us vulnerable to the effects of natural hazards and other shocks.

2013 is the sixth year that the Oxford Martin School has taken part in the Annual Meeting of the New Champions. As Asia’s foremost global business gathering, it brings together more than 1,500 participants from 90 countries to share strategies and solutions and discuss global issues and risks.