First, some context. CONCORD exists to apply precise "rules of war". In part, it also serves to protect the empires from capsuleers, who cannot be killed permanently and represent a borderline xenophobic threat to the empires, even as they represent the empires' key way of fighting each other.
But, Concord (no caps anymore, too annoying...) also serves to manage intel and payment for activity against pirates, as well as classifying the security status of every system of New Eden. Yet, Concord hasn't revised it's security status calculations in a very long time. To the point, they haven't revised them in response to the discovery of wormhole space, the change in customs office ownership, sleepers, drifters, and the general weakening of the military forces of the empires, both in comparison to the past and to capsuleer empires. A full fleet of capsuleer titans is a thing, yo.
I think it's high time Concord revises it's security status calculations to reflect this shift in power away from the four main empires.
Plus, it's time pirates get a seat at the table.
Leaving the Cradle
Let's get the elements of this suggestion that are going to annoy folks out there right now. We have to reduce the viability of players living in high-sec their entire game lives.
I'm not interested in destroying high-sec. As I said before, it's absolutely critical that new players have a place they can gestate when they start the game. Many players will never extend beyond this playstyle... for them, Eve is a diversion they play for a friendly little break, and making high-sec life unpleasant isn't my intention. I want high-sec to be entertaining and a source of some cute little fun.
If I sound a bit dismissive of this playstyle, it's because it fails to leverage the key advantages of playing an MMO in general and Eve in particular. But, some players prefer to engage with the game that way, and their money is as good as anyone else's. Plus, many players who decide to more deeply engage with the game will start out as bubblegum casuals. Let's not insult them because of where they begin, let's give them a compelling path to develop into something more. CCP needs high-sec activities to offer a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment to draw players in and keep them engaged in the game long enough to fall in love with the rest of the game.
But that's not the same thing as allowing them to feel fully satisfied spending all their time in safety. High-sec should not convey a sense of completeness - that they can get everything they care about in the game by remaining in there. And, unquestionably, you should not be able to get rich in high-sec (market trading is perhaps the only exception, but typically the capital needed to do that efficiently requires having played the game enough to accrue significant wealth).
High-sec life needs to be viable, provided that you temper your expectations to accept that your accomplishments are going to be fun experiences and entertainment, not wealth, power, or min-maxing. You should be able to dabble in every in-game activity - shooting, building, managing, conversing, mining, processing, etc. When you decide to size yourself up against others, become good at an activity, or dedicate yourself to one path, you absolutely should assume some risk.
High-sec needs to be a foyer in the house of Eve, meant to be a welcome and pleasant relief from the elements, but not so comfortable that you take your meals there and get a good night's sleep.
A Slipping Grip on Power
So, how do you make this conversion so we can achieve both aims: encouraging movement to low/null while still allowing for a rich, full experience for players who elect to stay in high-sec?
The four empires are losing their grip on power. Originally, the Jove provided a significant power behind Concord's authority, providing them with a wide range of technology to incorporate into their ships. But now, the Jove are, according to common wisdom, dead. In their place are sleepers and drifts, two powerful forces that are openly antagonistic to the Jove and everything they stood for. They've assassinated an Amarran empress, have destroyed entire fleets of the most powerful empire that remains, and are scanning everything in empire space with impugnity.
And, let's not forget that the drifters have been watching everything the empires have been doing for years. They reek of superior military intelligence, better technology, and the initiative.
Let's not forget the horrendous losses the empires have been taking as a result of years of factional warfare. Even granting that capsuleers have done most of the incursioning, they're losing five ships for every FW plex that falls... those kinds of losses mount.
The Caldari lost a Titan above Caldari prime, and the empires were unable to successfully stop pirates from escaping with illegal and dangerous research despite a full-court press on their part. Sansha charge into empire space pretty much at will and abduct citizens from nearby planets to slave with implants. The Blood Raiders demonstrated the ability to simultaneously charge into the space of all four empires, which suggests a massive failure of counter-espionage and intelligence.
And, through it all, capsuleer alliances are growing bigger and bigger. And - as evidenced by increased high-sec ganking - they don't fear Concord at all.
I think it's only fair to characterize the past few years in Eve as a full retreat in the power of the empires. I think it's time for Concord needs to reclassify the security status of systems.
Archipelagos, Not Continents
I propose a fundamental redeployment of security status that represents a general reduction across the board throughout empire space. High-sec would shrink considerably, by perhaps as much as 50%. Much of this space would become low-sec, perhaps even factional warfare space. As empires lose both power and the ability to successfully defend space, it only stands to reason that it would become a bit more lawless. And with more threats, Concord would be spread more thin.
The effect would be to compress those who live in high-sec and push more players looking for profits to the periphery. In higher areas of low-sec, CCP can boost the damage of sentry guns at gates and stations to provide a much more significant punch to protect high/low gates from gatecamps, allowing more pilots to freely access low-sec without immediately being obliterated. But the effect would be to create more scarcity of space in high-sec, combined with a greater ease of access to low-sec.
But that's not all. It's time for pirates to get a seat at the table at the Concord Bureau. What differentiates the Amarr empire - with its drugged slaves - from the Sansha - with its implanted subservient slaves? It seems only fair that the Sansha commit crimes no different than the Amarr. Or the Caldari, with their rampant poverty outside of the corporate elite. And the Guristas and Serpentis are simply businessmen, after all.
Opening the pirate factions to Concord creates the opportunity for an interesting gameplay dynamic: pirate high-sec and low-sec, where players can rat peacefully under the protection of their Guristas or Archangel overlords and run missions to boost up standing. And the "rats" you'd fight in Sansha space would be the Amarr trying to raid Sansha facilities, or the Caldari trying to attack the Guristas. I'd love to run a Caldari Troop Reinvigoration Camp and kill me some corporate slime! Imagine the joy of fighting for the Guristas in faction warfare, taking systems off the Caldari for the glory of the Rabbit! Does it make any sense that the rats you fight in Venal are Guristas, yet you're still allowed to dock in Gurista stations? I didn't think so.
So, let's keep the high-to-high trade routes between the Caldari and Amarr, the Gallente and Minmatar, but let's drop travel routes to low-sec for the rest, and keep only low-sec or null-sec routes between the pirate factions and the empires... at least for now. I can see a lot of options made available by pirate high-sec in Venal or Curse... cut off from the empires by null-sec yet still safe places to conduct business. It may not be extensive, but it'd be exciting to see nonetheless.