From goals to action: a four-part blueprint

`IT'S not enough to articulate the right goals.'' In that phrase, Amitai Etzioni addresses a central fact of the goal-setting process. Just as an agenda needs specific goals, so the goals need to be embodied in action. ``If we have nothing but list after list of desirable ends,'' says Shirley Williams, ``none of them will happen.'' How does a struggling world make them happen? How can we ensure that the year 2000 does not simply drown in accumulated lists and reports? Four points emerge from the preceding discussions: Use existing institutions

After some goals have been set, says Gail Lapidus, ``it seems to me that our concern ought to be how to get these issues onto the political agenda of other institutions - and, if there aren't those institutions, how to begin to think about creating them.'' Several institutions already exist:

Governments. Commanding large resources, governments generally operate with significant public support. Yet ``one of the great problems we have,'' says Mrs. Williams, ``is to make [these goals] grip on national governments.'' The challenge among Western democracies is the short-term nature of political thinking geared to the next election. Among developing-world governments, challenges range from the lack of mechanisms for addressing problems to a poverty-driven desperation more worried about surviving today than considering tomorrow.

Nongovernment organizations. Often specialized in nature, such groups are typically part of the not-for-profit sector in Western nations. They can have strong grass-roots ties, years of experience in solving local problems, and long-term commitments. Many, however, lack an umbrella of common goals linking them with similar organizations around the world.

The news media. Both by choice of stories and by the angle given them, the world's media help set agendas, promote goals, and publicize solutions. But their influence is too often dissipated by concentration on personality and sensationalism - and by scanty or biased reporting, especially on issues in the developing world.

Foundations. Major philanthropic foundations are increasingly interested in global issues. Professor Lapidus describes them as ``another powerful force in charting new paths, in crossing traditional boundaries, in opening new questions, and in devoting resources toward examining them and getting them on the political agenda.'' Foundations, however, rarely have the resources to engage in broad-based, long-term delivery of services. Invent new forums

While existing institutions contribute significantly to global advancement, they leave obvious gaps - sometimes because they are too nationalistic, too specialized, or too small. A second level of effort is needed: invention of new mechanisms. This process of invention, says William Clark, may sometimes be effective simply by developing larger versions of existing mechanisms. ``We have a number of models or experiments that have worked at some scales,'' he notes. ``We have to see how they work at different scales.''

He cites as an example the establishment of a regional watershed or ``airshed'' association to determine the level of stress on a local environment and determine appropriate controls - an idea that could be extended, he feels, to deal with global environmental issues. ``In very halting, very incomplete ways,'' he says, ``we are beginning to invent these fora.'' Involve individuals

A third approach, particularly appealing to a number of observers, entails the volunteer efforts of individuals at all levels. ``You have to worry about how to [carry out] this idea of empowering people and involving them,'' says Professor Etzioni. Or, as Dr. Clark puts it, ``We have to create a forum which is driven by public opinion itself.''

Here the nature of the goals selected becomes particularly important. A quick, appealing goal - on the order of the 1985 Live Aid concert, a global event designed to raise money to help end famine in Africa - may galvanize immediate support without building a base for concerted, ongoing action.

On the other hand, goals that are too lofty will prove fruitless. ``Psychologically,'' says Rodrigo Botero, ``for an individual, and I think for a country, if you offer a goal that becomes unreachable, the natural human reaction will be to reject that goal - because you're testing that person, that [nation], against an impossible goal.''

When the right goals are set, however, the resulting involvement of individuals can be significant and impressive. A recent report from Independent Sector, a Washington-based coalition of corporate, foundation, and volunteer groups, estimates that nearly 50 percent of Americans volunteer, with 23 million giving 5 or more hours per week. Such volunteering often begins with two questions: What are the most pressing issues, and what goals can I set for my own contribution? Change attitudes

Beyond such volunteering, however, a fourth kind of activity is needed. Andrei Voznesensky, reflecting on developments in the Soviet Union, spoke of a ``revolution in consciousness.'' Others talked about the need to overcome antagonism, develop better communications, build more trust, exercise deeper commitments, and foster more caring.

Such qualities, many feel, must characterize the interrelations among nations, too. But a nation embodies the thinking of its citizenry: Only as individuals express sound qualities of thought will nations prosper. Reaching international goals, then, will be meaningful only if the thinking of individuals progresses.

Then why set goals? Adam Yarmolinsky, articulating what may be the highest goal for problem-solvers in the year 2000, put it this way: ``I think it was characterized,'' he said, referring to the discussions upon which this report is built, ``by a vivid appreciation of the lack of limits for human aspiration.''

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