Globalisation has been a boon to some economies, tearing down barriers and shortening distances between countries and people.
At the same time, it has highlighted tremendous inequalities, sparking polarisation and exclusion in societies around the world.
Some cannot resist the temptation to look inward, building walls of fear and mistrust against anyone who thinks, looks or acts differently.
Last year, the United Nations and human rights experts warned of an alarming rise in racism and xenophobia across the globe.
Growing economic and territorial inequalities, coupled with a crisis of faith in public institutions, are only worsening the situation - paving the road for further inequality, isolationism and upheaval.
People are increasingly moving from rural to urban centres, where markets are stronger and job opportunities supposedly better.
Fifty-five per cent of the population worldwide now live in cities, according to the UN - a number expected to reach 68 per cent by 2050.
If we are to meet the needs and uphold the basic rights of the 7.7 billion people who inhabit the planet, we must find ways to address major challenges such as affordable housing, decent employment, access to education and healthcare and civic representation.
Instead of walls, we could be building bridges. Some people are doing just that. Coming from different countries, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds, they are devising effective local responses to global issues.
In this way, they are showing that it is possible to develop inclusive social, economic and civic solutions and to reduce the gap that is marginalising enormous segments of the world's population.
Transgender school dropouts in Argentina now have the possibility to finish their education without fear of discrimination, thanks to the world's first public trans-oriented high school.
In Uganda, a group of dance lovers is travelling the country, using traditional dances from each region to help the local youth out of drug abuse and poverty.
A start-up in Belgium has come up with a programme for senior citizens to mentor unemployed immigrants and guide them through the challenges of finding a job and integrating into their new home.
Initiatives such as these have the power to create a more sustainable, fair and resilient future for all.
That is why, over the next week, The Straits Times will join forces with Sparknews and other news media outlets across the world to bring these and other initiatives to readers, as part of the editorial project 7.7 Billion, supported by the Schwab Foundation.
Like the people behind these stories, these newsrooms have different backgrounds, cultures and languages. Still, they have chosen to come together to explore the issues that divide our societies and investigate constructive ways to address them.
If two heads are better than one, imagine what 7.7 billion could accomplish.
• Christian de Boisredon is the founder of Sparknews.