John Saul was a big fan of representational government. Perhaps larger projects could be managed by representatives of their constituency. The key is to engage people in problem solving in selfless ways, with policy and mechanisms that create the expectation of participation and feedback mechanisms (like social and moral pressure) that keep us in line. (Everyone has their weak moments.)
When Toyota had a key supplier destroyed by a fire in 1997 and only a three day inventory of parts, it wasn't Toyota's large size that saved them. It was hundreds of vendors, individuals, and line managers at Toyota, working together on a common goal in a decentralized fashion that solved the problem and new parts were being created by other suppliers in three days, with full production volume reached in a week. The problem was broken down, information was shared, and the pieces of the answer were crafted in a thousand different ways, but in the end it all came together.
Like Pollard, I am optimistic about the future. We need a thousand new solutions to move us forward, but we do need grand challenges and big goals. Saving the planet is a good idea, but most people don't understand that it has all gone horribly wrong. Like Kennedy's call to his generation, our leaders (ok maybe not the current ones, but maybe some future ones) need to step up and call on people not to make their own lives better, but to make the world better for their children and their children's children. By succeeding at that goal, we can look back on our lives with a sense of accomplishment and hope for the future.