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Governance innovation for sustainable societies

How can we feel optimistic about the future if Europe is not making sufficient progress in achieving the UN’s global sustainable development goals for 2030? When even Sweden, known for its environmental initiatives, seems unable to reach its climate target of zero net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045?

Solving complex societal challenges is seen as crucial, and countless initiatives are underway focusing on everything from innovation and missions to legislation and behavioural changes.

At the same time, we are all required to navigate an increasingly complex world, marked by uncertainly concerning the future and difficult questions about the best decisions for the present. All while financial targets and economic concerns frequently clash with social and environmental sustainability goals.

Here at RISE, we are increasingly being asked to lend support to business and the public sector, which are struggling to change given the rigid processes and structures in place, and my colleagues and I see on a daily basis how development towards a more sustainable society comes up against obstacles. As a futurist, I have had the privilege of participating in innovative projects within Horizon 2020, policy innovation, and various studies, such as 2035: Paths Towards a Sustainable EU Economy, during my time at RISE, EU Policy Lab and the International Association of Public Transport.

Like so many others, I’ve concluded that real change happens on a very small scale and much too slowly, while, the enormous potential of our knowledge and innovations seldom makes enough of an impact.

Actually, it’s not particularly surprising, since society comprises a diversity of stakeholders with individual power of authority and scope of action, along with different missions and visions. And their willingness to change is also contingent on society’s structural capacity for change – where governance plays a central role. Governance is something that is often taken for granted, even though many obstacles exist in the governing and organisational structures of Sweden.

We need to join forces and pool our resources in order to understand how to best organise ourselves and take action in society so that we can achieve quicker results in a sustainable direction.

In this regard, my colleagues and I at RISE agree that we need to raise the level of knowledge. RISE seeks to collaborate with all stakeholders to create innovation in governance as relates to society’s processes, organisation, decision-making, (self)governance and leadership.

At RISE we call this governance innovation.

It’s a way of creating shared visions and agendas in collaborative efforts that are characterised by equality. We can cultivate greater readiness and the ability to use the future for the long-term, as well as more value-creating policies with new ways of working in Policy Labs. We can also begin to fulfil the potential of data to be utilised for governance, without compromising privacy and security. At the same time, we can strengthen Sweden’s competitiveness and prosperity, and take responsibility for democracy and ethics.

Governance innovation will enable us to exist at the forefront of international development and allow us to shape Sweden’s conditions for change together, so that we can use our differences to guide Sweden in the same direction. Doing so will empower us to speed up the pace of the nation’s innovation system for the transition to a sustainable society.

- Daniel Bengtsson, Senior Project Manager and Futurist at RISE

Magnus Carl Eriksson

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Magnus Carl Eriksson


+46 10 516 55 61

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