On the first day of the Social Good Summit, listeners were introduced to the idea of looking at a situation holistically, and then take steps toward solving the problem with the bigger picture in mind. In the words of children’s rights activist Graca Machel, “Think globally, and then act locally.”
During the seminar “Women Power. Empowered Women,” Machel went into further detail. She explained how even if we can’t reach the entire world at once, if we proceed towards solving a problem with the entire situation in mind, it’s much more likely to succeed the way we want it to. During the summit, Machel and the three other women in her seminar were mostly discussing ways to solve the problem of childhood marriage. But when I considered what they were saying afterwards, I realized this advice to think holistically could be applied to several other issues.
For example, last fall I did a research project on Mississippi’s education program, and found it was one of the five worst programs in the U.S. Their standardized test scores are dismal, and only 60% of the student population ever graduates high school. That means almost half of the state’s youth has never achieved a high school education. I also learned that despite this, Mississippi’s government is taking its money out of its schools, and using it to fund bigger and better prisons in an attempt to combat the state’s rising crime rates. But does that actually solve their problem?
Let’s take a step back and look at the situation holistically–because if Mississippi’s government had, they would have realized that one of the traits most commonly associated with criminals is a lack of education. If you have an education, you’re more likely to get a job, and less likely to be out on the street robbing convenience stores. You’d also be giving back to the economy by working, and the state would be making even more money. I think it’s fair to say that Mississippi didn’t think this one through.
In contrast, the seminar which followed “Women Power. Empowered Women,” gave an example of how holistic thinking is successfully solving problems–even from across an ocean. In “One Year Later: Progress in the Pursuit of Conflict-Free,” the CEO of Intel Corporation Brian Krzanich explained how his company is refusing to purchase conflict minerals (slave-mined minerals from the Democratic-Republic of the Congo often used to build computer chips). Roxanne Rahnama, a student activist at the University of California Berkley, explained how her University and several other like it had pledged to only buy computer supplies from companies which, like Intel, had stopped buying into the Congo’s slave trade. This is an example of how looking holistically at a problem can help us find solutions that are not always obvious, but still get to the heart of the issue: These activists thought globally, and acted locally.
This concept is important to keep in mind, especially since we are out in the world now and making decisions on our own. It’s always good to look at a situation from every angle before deciding how to act. It can save you a lot of time, and probably get you closer to what you wanted in the first place.