Monday, 13 February 2017 15:00

“New Shape Prize” offers US$5 million for bold ideas on global governance for 21st century

Observatory (IOO). In this interview Andersson reveals GCF’s ground-breaking “New Shape Prize” which is aimed at “sparking fresh thinking around the kinds of global cooperation needed to tackle major global threats such as climate change and conflict.” Indeed the Western Indian Ocean is right at the centre of the key tenets espoused by this prize. It is an award that should spark the interest of the youth and idealists’ in the region as it calls for “ideas that remodel global governance for the 21st century.” It is an exclusive of immense proportions for those imbued with great ideas on how to tackle the world’s key challenges. Andersson explains in great detail the merits of the lucrative award and its genesis. Good Luck and Godspeed to “solution providers” in the Western Indian Ocean region as they dare GCF’s test. 

Read on.

Mats Andersson, Vice Chairman of the Global Challenges Foundation (GCF) speaks on the $5mn “New Shape Prize” [Image: LP]

What is the prize all about?

The Global Challenges Foundation’s New Shape Prize is aimed at sparking fresh thinking around the kinds of global cooperation needed to tackle major global threats such as climate change and conflict.  As the world is ever more interconnected and interdependent, the risks we face have become global. Risks like climate change don’t respect borders or nationalities – the pollution of a country on one side of the world can have terrible consequences for people on the other side. Global problems need global solutions and yet we’re trying to solve these problems with a set of organisations that grew out of the aftermath of the second World War. So the challenge is to submit ideas that remodel global governance for the 21st century.   

Why was it established?

We’re trying to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s tools. The New Shape Prize aims to spark fresh thinking for how to re-shape global decision-making to tackle the serious risks that threaten all citizens everywhere, not least in Africa. Through the prize, the Global Challenges Foundation is seeking to stimulate visionary thinking from the brightest minds in academia, politics, business and civil society around the world. The goal is to instil urgency in addressing global risks and identify and produce workable solutions to tackle them more effectively.  

Who is targeted by the prize?

The competition is open to everyone – to policy-makers, academics, think tank researchers, scientists, historians, organisational and political thinkers, activists, communicators and change-makers of all kinds.  Entries will be accepted from  individuals, groups of individuals, companies or associations anywhere in the world.  The Global Challenges Foundation is keen to publicise it widely on the African continent to ensure African voices and views are represented, as they have historically been marginalised in global decision-making.

Creativity and ingenuity merge on one of Mauritius’ streets. GCF is seeking for ideas to better the 21st Century [Image: CC-IOO]

Where was the inspiration to set up the prize derived?

The New Shape Prize is really the brainchild of one man – Laszlo Szombatfalvy – who founded the Global Challenges Foundation in 2012. He’s now 89 years old and an incredible person. Originally from Hungary, he lived through the bombing of World War Two there, fled communism in 1956 and arrived in Sweden as a refugee. Having taught himself Swedish and finance he then made a fortune by his rigorous scientific analysis of risk on the stock market.  Not content with being wealthy, he was troubled by the state of the world and turned his attention to global risks such as climate change, conflict and extreme poverty. He concluded world leaders were not giving them the enough attention because they had a short term approach. The New Shape Prize is part of the Foundation’s mission to draw attention to these risks and promote a more urgent response to them.

Who are the judges?

The Global Challenges Foundation’s New Shape Prize will be judged by an eminent international jury drawn from diverse disciplines and perspectives who each bring a particular expertise to the question of global governance of global risks. The Foundation will announce the full judging panel by March 2017.

What's the time frame?

Following the launch, participants will be asked to register their interest in participating in the prize competition by February 15, 2017. Participants will then have to submit their entries by May 24, 2017, six months after the prize is launched. We expect to announce the final results of the competition in November 2017.   

Why is it important for Africa and the world?

The global risks we face today are truly catastrophic in potential. We know that the impacts of climate change for example will affect poorer regions such as sub-Saharan Africa first and worst. Prize competitions have a good historical track record of drawing international attention to key issues. The question of how we address the most pressing risks to humanity is the most important question in the world. Why is there so little discussion about it?  Perhaps because for most people, even ‘governance’ at a national level is something that can feel quite remote to their lives. By investing $5m in a set of prizes, we aim to show that it is possible to think about these questions and to take on the greatest challenges. Yes, it’s difficult but we have to try to find a better way of organising global cooperation otherwise we are putting our children and future generations very much at risk.

How will it benefit the continent?

If the New Shape Prize can help to stimulate visionary new thinking around global organisation then it will help us to tackle some of the greatest threats to human survival. That is as relevant to Africa as anywhere in the world, and in some ways more relevant as many of these global risks will affect Africans more seriously than the inhabitants of higher income countries who are better able to pay to adapt and protect themselves. We very much hope that Africa’s best and brightest thinkers will see the relevant and give it their attention. We look forward to seeing many strong entries from the continent.

Making the world a better place for succeeding generations is the centre-piece of GCFs “New Shape Award” [Image: IOO Archives]

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