The founder’s story

Global Utmaning was founded by Kristina Persson in 2005. Until the fall of 2014, she was chairman and CEO of the organization. When Kristina Persson was appointed minister in the government, she left her duties in the think tank. In this text she explains why she started the think tank.

kristina-persson_sv_vit“I became politically aware and interested in society when I was around 17 – 18 years old, and after having finished my studies at the Stockholm School of Economics I started to work in the public sector. At the beginning of the 70s, I worked at what was and still is the center of power in Sweden – the budget department at the Ministry of Finance.”

I was already at that time amazed, if not shocked by the lack of focus on what I think are the crucial issues in politics – the complex issues that hold both a long-term and holistic perspective: sustainable growth, justice, work for all, international relations and democracy. The real difficult challenges in society that require thinking in terms of systems, not sectors.
As a member of parliament in the early ’90s, I found that it was possibly even worse there. The motion that I wrote about the need to analyze global changes with an aim for sustainable development would probably have been endorsed by 90% of the members of parliament. But instead it was rejected. Not because I was wrong but because there was no committee that was involved in such matters – which of course was partly my point with the motion.

The Government Offices and Parliament (not to mention the academic sphere) are organized according to a drainpipe principle that does not reflect how things are interconnected.

In recent years I have also started to think that the big issues are rarely possible to place on the traditional left-right scale: environment, Europe, equality, and democracy seldom fit into the usual block division. It would probably be easier to make progress on these issues outside party politics.

In the late 1990s – early 2000s it became apparent that we had entered a new phase of economic integration and interdependence. That is why more and more people began to talk about “globalization”. At the same time the debate before the referendum on the euro in Sweden 2003 revealed a weak understanding of what globalization actually meant, even among policy makers.

This carried a significant risk as ignorance constitutes a fertile ground for populism from both the right and the left. In case of an economic downturn, nationalism, xenophobia and protectionism could gain ground.

The Swedish Central Bank, where I worked from 2001 to 2007, had an extremely narrow but important mission, to safeguard price stability and to promote financial stability. This requires broad knowledge and understanding of global changes. Still, the work at the bank relied to a very large extent on the traditional, macro-economic methods and models that lacked the ability to predict new contexts and circumstances. During my time at the bank, I deepened my knowledge of macroeconomics and developed a stronger understanding of the risks of the financial and economic development that we were part of.

My experiences paved the way for me to found Global Challenge along with a number of individuals from different organizations and companies. The aim is to create dialogue, disseminate knowledge and a critical openness to the changes brought about by globalization, especially in the fields of employment, welfare, democracy and the environment.

Many of the problems that we then identified, have over the last few years become even more complex and urgent – regardless of whether they are environmental, economic, or demographic challenges. It is clear that the global challenges of today require a new mindset and a completely new kind of global leadership. This is the reason for the existence of the think tank Global Challenge.

Kristina Persson, Founder