Much of the democratic world faces a form of socio-political crisis. To varying degrees, four trends seem to be present in almost every case: declining institutional trust, failing leadership, increasing political polarisation, and weakened accountability. Although each trend has its own dynamic and causes, they jointly create complex challenges and governance problems for democratic societies. Furthermore, underlying them all is the persistent problem of inequality, which erodes trust, prevents the best leaders from rising to the top, polarises society, and shields elites from accountability. We propose a wide range of potential solutions to this crisis. Of the four, we propose that countries focus primarily on increasing institutional trust and improving leadership potential. Both aspects are particularly impactful and malleable, could influence the other two components and, over time, create a virtuous cycle pulling countries out of crisis. Proposed measures for institutional trust include expanded civic literacy, more expansive regulation of tech platforms, stricter media laws to foster better public discourse and a wider use of codes of conduct. For leadership, we propose more diverse channels and expanded selection pools for leadership recruitment, emphasising ethical conviction and targeted incentives for leadership roles. Essential to all of them, however, is tackling inequality.
Photo by Robin Benny