2023, the year of the polycrisis

Anna Triponel
January 20, 2023
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Last week, we summarised the WEF report’s describing the top ten greatest risks for the next decade. The WEF reported that “[c]oncurrent shocks, deeply interconnected risks and eroding resilience are giving rise to the risk of polycrises – where disparate crises interact such that the overall impact far exceeds the sum of each part.”

I’ve been reading a lot about the polycrisis. We have Edgar Morin and Anne Brigitte Kern to thank for the term, since they first coined it in the late 1990s. But also others - former European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker who used the term in 2016, and then more recently Adam Tooze, with his excellent Op-ed: “Welcome to the world of the polycrisis.”

Why can’t I stop thinking about the polycrisis?

Because I think it captures perfectly where we are today. We are looking at a multitude of severe problems of such a scale that they are crises. These crises are social and environmental. They are also political and economic. They are all entangled with each other.

But also, because by its very definition, the polycrisis cannot be tackled alone. It will necessitate action from a full range of actors - companies, yes, but alongside others. Governments, investors, civil society, citizens, and others. Just as in the polycrisis, disparate shocks interact so that the whole is worse than the sum of the parts, the same applies to the solutions to the polycrisis. Once people, organisations and countries start to meaningfully work together, the ripple effect will be significantly more impactful than the sum of the individual actions. Bring it, leverage, inter-connection and collaborations.