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Ever heard of a polycrisis?

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

Holy crap, want to stay awake at night? Ipsos published its most recent Global Trends report earlier this quarter. Entitled A New World Disorder? Navigating a Polycrisis, the report kindof catalogues everything wrong with the world today in 122 pages. (Ok, not quite everything wrong with the world, but the reading is a pretty comprehensive downer.)

Edit: It's not all bad. The data is extensive, fascinating, and the report offers suggestions and thought starters throughout for those interested in working with these trends.

Calling this decade the “Twitchy Twenties,” they discuss six macro forces they say will shape the next decade – many of which you will already see at play in your lives and in your companies. The interesting thing is they say these themes are also playing out around the world.

Regarding the selection of the word polycrisis, they say “we can no longer afford to focus on the big issue at hand, because there are many interrelated issues at play.” Quoting Columbia University professor and author, Adam Tooze, they add: “a polycrisis is not just a situation where you face multiple crisis. It is a situation…where the whole is even more dangerous than the sum of the parts.”

Their biggest concern is that economic crisis “is sharpening an economic divide and raising questions around the role of business.” And although most people around the world believe globalization is good for them, they add that nationalism still prevails at governmental levels.

Climate change, meanwhile, “has become a visceral reality and existential threat: In 2022 we saw 10 climate related disasters top $3-billion each in damages. There is rampant debate about how to address it.” The report adds that brands, through their actions, can have an incalculable impact on the world addressing the climate crisis using the trust they’ve already earned. "While some are putting the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of governments and systems, others - particularly younger people around the world - expect brands and governments to step up and solve systemic issues."

The six macroeconomic trends going on around the world include societies that are in flux, technology, everywhere, inequalities and opportunities (these are combined in the report), environmental emergencies, political splintering and, at the same time, a force they’ve dubbed well-rounded well being.

Populations are aging, communities migrating and people are rethinking traditional life stages and markers of success. (Societies in flux.) Populations are more diverse, with spirituality and religion being less tied to geography. They also discuss identity fluidity saying “traditional definitions of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and identity are becoming less restrictive and more inclusive.”

Technology, meanwhile, is pervasive, immersive and increasingly automated. The report discusses artificial intelligence and computing advances.

Inequalities and opportunities is particularly interesting, as the firm says middle-class incomes are becoming less influential in advanced economies. “In many markets, there is growing wealth inequity,” Millennials are likely to be poorer than Gen X and baby boomers were at the same age.”

Inflation remains high in most countries, and global energy prices will continue to impact spending going forward, they add.

Notably, under environmental emergencies, they say “different countries are in different stages when it comes to decarbonization and setting polices to limit environmental impact,” they write. “Over-population and over-development are existential threats to humans who currently use 150 per cent of the Earth’s renewable ecological resources each year.”

Political splintering needs little discussion. As for being well-rounded and a focus on well-being, they say COVID-19 triggered a global increase in the prevalence of stress, anxiety and depression. At the same time, however, “many developing countries are closing the life expectancy gap,” they write, “life expectancy is increasing everywhere, but myriad inequalities exist that are continuing to determine life expectancy based on privilege, access to and availability of healthcare.” (Happy to live in the land of universal health care, I am.)

With that, I may need to go wash my brain out with soap. Hope this was helpful.

Related reading:

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