Contribution to GTI Roundtable "Global Citizenship"

Liisa Horelli

Robert Paehlke raises the pertinent question of how to co-create and nurture global, citizen-based governance that will protect and enhance local political efficacy leading to a sustainable planetary culture.

We are leading our everyday lives in a glocal context which is becoming increasingly familiar, not only to the leaders of corporations, public institutions, and global citizen movements (GCMs), but also to ordinary citizens. The process of glocalization consists of a two-way traffic comprising macro-localization (expansion from the local towards the global, often aided by digitalization) and micro-globalization (incorporation of global ideas to the local level). Thus, there is buzz going on in urban neighborhoods in which residents seek to manage their lives by participating in urban planning, community development, and local co-governance involving “a play with the glocal.” Participation often takes the form of self-organization which has a direct local impact in addition to gradual systemic change. Therefore, these people are not laggards but an important population of future glocal citizenry.

Local co-governance tends to take place, at least in the democracies of Northern European countries, in different types of public spheres that are both informal (cafes, local Facebook walls), formal (city boards, councils), and semi-formal (neighbourhood assemblies, local web-sites). Citing philosopher Carolyn M. Hendricks, local co-governance can ideally be considered as an integrated deliberative system. Such co-governance seems to require the application of the Quadruple Helix model which comprises users, firms, universities, and public authorities. Therefore, the transformative strategy does not only depend on the citizen movements, although they are extremely important as change agents. Such partnerships could and should be upscaled to the global level as well.

It was also interesting to read what Paehlke wrote about the transformation of citizenship from civil rights to those of social and environmental ones. Citizenship is a psycho-social, cultural, and political construction that is negotiated between a variety of (democratic) institutions and the citizens in public spheres. This results in rights, duties, and emotional commitment (identity processes). But with whom can citizens negotiate global citizenship? Justice does not emerge automatically; the poor and fragile think fair treatment is a privilege. And in spite of several motivational theories, we still don’t know what makes people tick in terms of planetary issues.

Transforming cultures is a complex process that takes a long time to develop. I don’t think that the process is yet ripe for a fixed institutional solution, although targeted and radical actions are needed. Meanwhile, we have the time to test different multi-level models of action and co-governance and to co-create better theories of change and motivation.

Liisa Horelli
Liisa Horelli is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Real Estate, Planning and Geoinformatics, at Aalto University, Finland, and Visiting Professor of Designing for Smart Cities at the Polytechnic University of Milan.

Cite as Liisa Horelli, contribution to GTI Roundtable "Global Citizenship," Great Transition Initiative (June 2014),

Back to Publication

As an initiative for collectively understanding and shaping the global future, GTI welcomes diverse ideas. Thus, the opinions expressed in our publications do not necessarily reflect the views of GTI or the Tellus Institute.