Cover: A Long Look Ahead

A Long Look Ahead

NGOs, Networks, and Future Social Evolution

Published Jun 9, 2005

by David Ronfeldt

Download Free Electronic Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.1 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

This paper — written in 2002 and now a chapter in a new book — speculates about the future of the environmental movement as a function of its increasing use of network forms of organization and related strategies and technologies attuned to the information age. The paper does so by nesting the movement’s potential in a theoretical framework about social evolution. This framework holds that people have developed four major forms for organizing their societies: first tribes, then hierarchical institutions, then markets, and now networks. The emergence of a new, network-based realm augurs a major rebalancing in relations among government, market, and civil-society actors. In the near term (years), there will be continuing episodes of social conflict as some environmental groups press their case, often by using netwar and swarming strategies. Over the long term (decades), new policymaking mechanisms will evolve for joint communication, coordination, and collaboration among government, business, and civil-society actors. Today, it is often said that “government” or “the market” is the solution. In time, it may well be said that “the network” is the solution. Excerpted from Environmentalism and the Technologies of Tomorrow: Shaping the Next Industrial Revolution by Robert Olson and David Rejeski, eds. Copyright © 2005 Island Press. Reproduced by permission of Island Press, Washington, D.C. For additional background, see David Ronfeldt Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks — A Framework About Societal Evolution, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, P-7967, 1996; and David Ronfeldt, Al Qaeda and Its Affiliates: A Global Tribe Waging Segmental Warfare?, First Monday, March 2005.

Research conducted by

Originally published in: Environmentalism and the Technologies of Tomorrow, Robert Olson and David Rejeskin, eds., Washington : Russell Sage, 2005, Chapter 9, pp. 89-98.

This report is part of the RAND reprint series. The Reprint was a product of RAND from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.