The Future of power and influence in a connected world - Scenario Report

Ideas change the world – and the world changes ideas. The scenario report analyses how regional power structures influence the dissemination of these ideas.

GDI’s Global Thought Leader Index, in partnership with the Berggruen Institute’s WorldPost, offers a unique annual overview of the relative influence of prominent thinkers in a diversity of fields from policy to science to the arts – across major world language groups. This influence is a form of power manifest in how these thinkers’ ideas spread, persuade, and catalyse action amongst their networks and wider audiences. Like other interrelated forms of power – economic, political, technological, moral and cultural etc. – the power of thinkers’ ideas is not fixed in its structure and dynamics but is rather subject to fundamental change.  

This project develops scenarios to help you explore various ways changes in the power of ideas might play out in different futures, drawing on views from leading experts on how power in the global networked age is being reshaped. By scenarios, we mean crafted narratives about possible futures, which provide a structured framework for spurring imaginative reflection about how stakeholders facing challenges might interact under conditions ranging from the expected and the plausible to the improbable and surprising. And through stretching our minds and expanding our conversation about the possibilities of the future, scenarios also help us develop insight into the complexities of our present.


For example, as portrayed in the four scenario overview chart above, we might consider how the future trends of two different fundamental driving forces over roughly the next decade might combine together to reconfigure the flows of ideas & influence underpinning networks of global thought leadership. On one axis, there is the driving force of either the resurgence or the decay of established power & authority, and on the other, either the further falling apart or coming together of cosmopolitanism (a crucial challenge, as Nathan Gardels of the Berggruen Institute has identified, for what he calls "the global thinking circuit" of ideas).

The scenario frameworks and analyses should help you to imagine the rise, fall, or transformation of various sets of ideas, represented by their leading proponents, it is important to keep in mind that the scenarios are not meant as a predictive exercise. Rather, they should be understood as generative "what if?" thought experiments to enhance our critical and strategic conversations.

Questions explored by these scenarios might include:

  • What might the decay or revival of traditional power structures and processes mean for well-established thought leaders as well as for the emergence of new ones?
  • What does global thought leadership look like if cosmopolitanism fades?
  • Which networks of thought leaders will benefit or lose out in different futures, and why?
  • How might these possible shifts in power dynamics vary across different language groups or regional networks of influence?

Project Manager: Zhan Li, Senior Researcher
Project Leader: Karin Frick, Head Research

More information is available on