Mother Pelican
A Journal of Sustainable Human Development

Vol. 7, No. 6, June 2011
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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The Widening Circle (TWC):
Campaign for a Global Citizens Movement

Summary of a Proposal by the
TWC's Circle of Allies

As originally distributed to
The Great Transition Initiative
by Paul Raskin, President, Tellus Institute, 22 April 2011
Reprinted with Permission


There is an emerging consensus that "business as usual" is no longer an option in dealing with the complex global issues confronting humanity. Global problems require global solutions and global action. A number of initiatives have been set in motion worldwide to raise awareness leading to timely action before it is too late. The United Nations' Millennium Development Goals program is an example at the highest level, and many national and international organizations are involved - at least to some extent. But top-down programs require support from the grassroots level; in fact, top-down programs often need to be driven and guided by people "on the ground" who know from experience what has to be done at the local, national, and even global levels. The proposal below is offered for consideration by Mother Pelican readers who might be looking for a "global citizen movement" in which they can participate. This proposal has been prepared by the TWC's Circle of Allies and covers the 2011-2012 time window. It is a proposal for the initial phase of a long-term project to create a "critical mass" of global citizens committed to sharing their intellectual and practical expertise to the cause of a human civilization of peace and justice in harmony with the human habitat.

The Widening Circle Phase One Proposal (2011-2012)

Why We Need a New Campaign

The bold initiative proposed here rests on three fundamental premises: a vision of the global future, a strategy for change, and an action campaign for moving forward.

Vision: A Great Transition

We live in a world in the midst of a turbulent transition to some form of interdependent global society. This shift is generating a host of ominous transnational problems: climate change and ecosystem degradation, economic instability and geopolitical conflict, injustice and dislocation. We stand at a perilous branch point of history with the shape of the future deeply uncertain and contested.

After a quarter century of effort to make development sustainable, we remain far from the goal of a just, resilient and peaceful future for all. National governments pursue narrow short term interests, civil society is fragmented, and transnational corporations seek short term profits, leaving environmental and social dimensions of global development inadequately addressed.

We still have time to change direction and forge a Great Transition to a just and sustainable world, a planetary civilization of lives enriched and nature resilient. But this will take a shift in consciousness and society – people with expanded identities as global citizens, linking with one another in solidarity, and building supranational institutions for democratically managing our common affairs.

Strategy: A Global Citizens Movement

More than ever, we need campaigns for rights, peace, and environment; scientific research on global change; educational and public awareness projects; and local efforts to live sustainably. These efforts are necessary, but not sufficient for the systemic shift to a just and sustainable mode of global development. Without a strong popular movement generating the civic will for the Great Transition, leaders will not muster the political will to do what is needed.

A critical social actor is missing from the global stage: a vast, ubiquitous, and coherent movement of global citizens expressing a supranational identity and building new institutions for a planetary age. Such a global citizens movement (GCM) would work on all fronts, comprehending the various struggles for the environment and justice as different expressions of a common project. It would promote a culture of peace and non-violence, nurturing ascendant values of human solidarity, ecological resilience, and well-being, understanding itself as an advocate and agent for a planetary civilization worthy of the name.

The GCM should be envisioned as a polycentric, dynamic and inclusive political and cultural rising, not a single organization. Here we can learn from other large-scale movements, such as national independence, civil rights, and feminist movements, all of which included multiple organizational forms and diffuse centers of influence working toward broadly shared goals. Likewise, the GCM will likely evolve as a complex social ecology of formal and informal associations.

The idea and practice of global citizenship is spreading, but a coherent GCM that engages masses of people across the planet remains latent, ready to be born.

Action Campaign: The Widening Circle

The Widening Circle (TWC) is a new organizing effort to nourish the formation of a movement of global citizens. The great complexity and scope of this task will require sustained effort and an adaptive strategy, a campaign that evolves and spreads across regions and issues in "widening circles". TWC will engage myriad individuals and organizations in a process of cocreation, spawning circles within a coordinated organizing process, always seeking to balance the equally valid principles of pluralism and unity.

Rather than a rigid blueprint, TWC will grow in distinct successive waves, adapting to changing circumstances as it expands and diversifies, while the underlying core mission persists: advancing a plural and cohesive movement for democratic global governance, justice, and sustainability. As it grows, TWC's internal processes will honor the democratic principles of inclusiveness and transparency. It will act as resource and advocate for the idea of global citizenship, conduct critical research, promote synergy across circles and allied movements mirror the multiple scales of our interdependent twenty-first century world.

Proposed Activities (Phase One: 2011-2012)

Following a year-long discussion by the 400 participants of the Great Transition Initiative, TWC was launched in September 2010 by leaders of 10 organizations, and 10 others participating as individuals, at the Global Synergizer meeting held in California. An initial Coordinating Circle was established to develop and advance the Phase One action plan described in this proposal.

TWC's work in this initial phase falls into three task areas:

  • Organization building
  • Resource development
  • Global Assembly

Organization Building

TWC's organizational structure includes five elements (illustrated in the figure):

  • Coordinating Circle: a core group that guides and manages TWC's development.
  • Circle of Organizers: activists who spread TWC ideas and seed regional circles.
  • Circle of Allies: organizations that advance TWC through publicity, funding and in- kind contributions. A highly-placed and well-qualified person within each organization serves as contact point.
  • Affinity Circles: TWC groups that focus their work on specific places (e.g., Regional Circles and Community Circles) or on critical themes or challenges such as global governance or climate change (Issue Circles).
  • Circle of Counselors: distinguished individuals who endorse and advise TWC.


A concerted effort of outreach and recruitment will expand and diversify each circle. To insure that TWC includes a diversity of perspectives, at least three meetings will be organized in Phase One to establish Regional Circles, including in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Each will engage 10-20 leaders in discussions of TWC's vision, strategy, and action globally and, especially, in their regions. Representatives from the Regional Circles will attend the TWC Global Assembly in June 2012 that will launch Phase 2 of the TWC campaign.

The growing Circle of Allies brings large pre-existing networks to this effort of outreach and expansion, including thousands of diverse participants in the programs of the Earth Charter Initiative, Awakening the Dreamer, Four Years Go, the Great Transition Initiative, Kosmos Journal and Transition Towns. This invaluable collective resource, forged over many years, offers a powerful point of departure for accelerating the expansion of TWC Circles.

Resource Development

The dispersed character of TWC will require the development of a high quality web platform to provide resources for the circles and to facilitate communication within and between them. The initial architecture will re-engineer web technologies that allied organizations have already developed to create a shared platform for advancing a GCM. Visitors to the site will be able to access educational resources, locate and interact with others in their areas, and obtain guidance for forming a new circle. Educational materials will integrate the rich library of materials that the Circle of Allies brings to TWC, including the Great Transition scenarios and Earth Charter principles, and provide a strong base for global citizens to learn, connect and spread the word. TWC will also have a presence on Facebook and other social networking sites, platforms of connectivity that will become an increasingly salient organizing tool as TWC expands.

A high-quality presentation packet will be developed to vividly communicate TWC ideas, mission and strategy. It will be designed to enhance presentations before diverse international audiences and prospective Allies, and will be accessible on the TWC website. The resource will be particularly useful for organizers launching new circles, such as Regional Circles. The work will evolve in three stages: a high-quality slide show, a short video, and a full educational program. The development of this resource will draw on Pachamama Alliance's experience with its widely-disseminated Awakening the Dreamer Symposium, inviting an existing network of 2,000 trained facilitators into the TWC Circle of Organizers.

Global Assembly

TWC will convene a major meeting in 2012 marking an end and a beginning: the culmination of Phase One and the launch of Phase Two. The four-day Global Assembly (GA) will critically review all aspects of TWC's experience, and fashion a revised strategy, program, and governance structure oriented to evolving conditions and opportunities. The educational resources developed in Phase One will be launched to support the spread of circles throughout the globe. The meeting will engage a diverse and committed group of 50 drawn from TWC's Regional Circles, Circle of Allies, Circle of Counselors, and Circle of Organizers.

In order to facilitate decision-making at the meeting, GA attendees and the wider TWC community will participate in an electronic discussion on critical issues. The Coordinating Circle will seed this discussion by preparing a white paper evaluating Phase One experiences and suggesting new directions for Phase Two.

The GA will be held in Rio de Janeiro during the week prior to the Rio+20 United Nations Summit in June 2012. Why this venue? Part of the motivation is to control travel costs, since many GA attendees will be in Rio anyway. In addition, following the GA, TWC will organize major civil society meetings during the Rio+20 week to announce its intentions and engage new networks.

The primary tangible output will be the formulation and approval of an action plan for an expanded campaign in Phase Two ("TWC 2.0"). Equally important will be the intangibles that a face-to-face gathering can bring: the strengthening of solidarity within the TWC community, the sense of ownership assumed by new leaders, and the nourishing of collective commitment and hope. Following the Assembly, a TWC 2.0 strategy document will be prepared that will set the direction for building the more extensive and diverse circles of the next phase of the ongoing campaign to advance a global citizens movement.


The time line below covers the full period of TWC Phase One ("TWC 1.0"): September 2010 to September 2012.



With the groundwork now in place and considerable momentum generated, we enter a critical juncture for launching TWC. The budget for TWC's two-year Phase One program is $400,000 (details available upon request).

Of this, $100,000 will be covered by cash and in-kind donations from the Circle of Allies. We are seeking $100,000 in grants for carrying this campaign forward, including expanding and strengthening our various circles, constructing the web platform and developing the presentational packet. The remaining $200,000 will be raised through separate proposals for establishing Regional Circles in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and for the costs of convening the 2012 TWC Global Assembly.

Tellus Institute will serve as fiscal agent for this project.

Founding Circle of Allies

Awakening the Dreamer
Earth Charter Initiative
Forum for a new World Governance
Four Years. Go.
Great Transition Initiative
Kosmos Journal
Pachamama Alliance
Tellus Institute
Transition Towns US
Coordinating Circle Members

Rick Clugston is the Executive Director of Earth Charter US and acts as Chair of the Coordinating Circle.

Salomeh Dastyari is a founding Board Member of Be The Change - Australia.

Raven Gray (Transition Towns US) is co-founder and President of Transition US, and a pioneer of the Transition Towns movement.

Rasigan Maharajh is Chief Director of the Institute for Economic Research on Innovation (IERI) based at Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa.

Gustavo Marin is a founding member of the International Council of the World Social Forum and Director of the Forum for a new World Governance (FnWG).

Paul Raskin is President of the Tellus Institute, founder of the Global Scenario Group and Great Transition Initiative, and author of Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead.

Nancy Roof is Founding Director of Kosmos Associates Inc. and Founding Editor of Kosmos: The Journal for Global Citizens Creating the New Civilization.

Jon Symes is Director for the Awakening the Dreamer at the Pachamama Alliance, and author of Your Planet Needs You.

Orion Kriegman is Coordinator of the Great Transition Initiative and serves as Secretary to the Coordinating Circle.


Rick Clugston
Chair, TWC Coordinating Circle
Telephone: (207) 865 0865

For more information about the Great Transition Initiative, the Global Citizen Movement, and The Widening Circles, readers are cordially invited to explore the following:

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