As the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened the world with successive crises and mounting risks, individuals and communities have shown less interest in opportunity, prioritizing instead survival and personal safety. Amid the individual and societal struggle against these risks, however, new trends have emerged, spearheaded by leading global models. These trends are driving interest and investment in opportunity and promise to change our views of reality, as they seek time windows conducive to bringing about positive change in communities. There is no better model of this trend than Expo 2020 Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The recurrence of the concept of opportunity at the Expo’s main events, for example, and the dedication of a pavilion and independent area for opportunities is a striking departure from the global trend post-pandemic. It reveals alternative visions for moving from "Risk Societies" to a "World of Opportunities," and looks eagerly toward prospects for innovation, creativity, and sustainability.
Positive Driving Forces
There has perhaps been no greater driving force for progress in human history than the sure belief that there are "periods of opportunity conducive to positive change," encompassing individuals, communities, and countries alike. Excellence consists in investing in the creation of a "wealth of opportunities" and contexts that generate new opportunities and support the ability of individuals and societies to take advantage of them. In this regard, it is possible to highlight several drivers that make opportunity a top priority in today’s world:
1. Adapting to and coexisting with the COVID-19 pandemic: Among the main motives for the interest in opportunities is the need to deal with the "new normal" represented by the COVID-19 pandemic – at least for the foreseeable future, especially in light of the rapid spread of variants and the imbalanced distribution of vaccines among the world’s countries. This is leading to greater attention to health and human security than ever before to handle the successive waves of the virus, strengthen the health system’s absorptive capacity, and develop the medical R&D sectors to deal with epidemic diseases in the future.
2. Boosting resilience and adaptation to sudden changes: In addition to the emergency response, there is the ability to be flexible and adaptive to sudden changes (resilience), learn from the lessons of the past by building a "national memory," enhance crisis management capabilities, absorb shocks and then bounce back to normalcy, and enact reforms aimed at mitigating the severity of unexpected changes and benefiting from them in the future.
3. Creating national models for managing opportunities: The purpose of focusing on opportunities rather than risks is to build national role models that enhance the soft power of countries as a "land of dreams," where hopes and aspirations can be realized due to a "wealth of opportunities," on which individuals can rely to self-actualize with the support of social contexts conducive to success.
4. Employing a policy of "centers of excellence:" This policy is based on establishing spaces for excellence aimed at spreading a "culture of opportunities" in communities, such as "smart cities," "business incubators," and "innovation zones," which provide individuals and institutions with unlimited opportunities to build their projects and launch their initiatives, whether for-profit or non-profit, within the guidelines of social responsibility for individuals and institutions. This is done by devising innovative methods and ways of living and thinking that use technology and innovative ideas to meet human needs, while maintaining environmental sustainability and optimal use of resources.
5. Adopting "niche" diplomacy and bright spots: A "policy of opportunities" seeks to establish excellence in specific fields and then deploy them in a country’s foreign policy as the main focus of its international activity: for example, the Scandinavian countries’ concern for human security or climate change and some Baltic countries’ focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. "Global cities diplomacy" is emerging as one of the most significant forms of using the power of opportunities in international relations. The capabilities of global cities as models of coexistence, innovation, and rapid modernization are relied upon to enhance the international status of cities and their impact on international relations.
Expo 2020 Dubai in the UAE puts opportunities at the forefront of intellectual vision, engineering design, and event organization. "Opportunities" is a central term within the experience of visitors and followers of the global event. The main types of opportunities at the Expo can be summarized as follows:
1. Empowering individuals and communities: The main theme of the Expo’s Opportunity Pavilion is "Unlock the potential within individuals and communities." The "World of Opportunities" creates an inspiring vision of the power of "small actions to make a big impact" and the ability of one person to change the world around them through global initiatives to achieve global sustainable development goals, such as ending poverty, protecting the planet, and supporting peace and prosperity by 2030, through inspiring experiences and pioneering individual examples.
2. Creating spaces for human communication: The AGi Architects design emphasizes the importance of open spaces for communication. Its pavilion is based on the concept of the "plaza" as a meeting place for communication between people, despite differences in age, language, and culture, to celebrate the shared human experience. The pavilion aims to provide a "platform for social participation across different cultures" to promote a culture of constructive coexistence.
3. Promoting "success stories": The pavilion focuses on promoting success stories and inspiring accounts of changing communities, improving quality of life, and conserving resources through the use of environmentally friendly technology, such as water extraction from fog, organic farming, personal energy use in homes, recycling of technological waste, and other inspirational ideas.
4. Using the power of "positive pledges": The exhibition includes a very unique experience called the Pledge Room, which includes a space for visitors to create behavioral maps to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others, and then shows how to turn these pledges into reality by changing their behaviors and daily lifestyles.
5. Achieving Sustainable Development Goals: This pavilion is the main locus for pushing towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, as it encompasses the space of United Nations Plaza and focuses on parallel tracks to deal with water, food, and energy as the most important resources for meeting basic human needs. It highlights innovative projects by individuals using limited resources to achieve public benefits in these areas.
6. Stimulating innovation and development: The Expo focuses on "the power of new ideas" and innovative solutions for everyday problems, in order to highlight and promote investment in these ideas. Here, innovators, creatives, and entrepreneurs are at the fore, whether individuals, institutions, companies, or countries that have produced inspiring models in the fields of environment, energy, technology, and management. The Good Place Pavilion provides an expansive interactive space aimed at exploring and forming a "community of creators" and stimulating creativity and innovation. The country pavilions also present the main innovations that represent their contribution to creating a better world.
7. Celebrating a common cultural heritage: Caring about progress and the future does not mean breaking away from the past. The exhibition celebrates humanity’s common cultural heritage and the rich history of ancient civilizations to guide the power of culture and human interaction in building a future for human coexistence, where ancient civilizations, the arts, architecture, mummification, antiquities, and other aspects of our common human heritage are celebrated.
In conclusion, Expo 2020 Dubai’s focus on opportunities promotes an enhanced belief in the ability of people to change and make a difference in their communities and the world through innovation, creativity, ongoing development, and a focus on sustainability and resource preservation. This requires changing traditional patterns of thinking that focus on risks and threats and shifting the focus to creating opportunities, even in times of crisis and turmoil, to achieve shared benefits for individuals, communities, and the world at large.