How Relevant is Global Thinking? (Don’t click away from this post!)

May 12, 2010

“We don’t need a more global perspective. What we need is help in our own backyard”!

You’ve probably heard a statement something like this before. Somehow we separate ourselves into those who are enthusiastic about “global thinking” and those who see it as irrelevant to their day-to-day activities. But why the need for such polarization? Do “global thinking” and practical local help have to be mutually exclusive?

The above is an excerpt from an article I wrote almost a decade ago in an article with the  same title How Relevant is Global Thinking? The reason I now come back to those words is that they are still as applicable today as they were then.  And many of us and our organization’s leaders and staffs think the same way: either your organization does international work or it doesn’t.

Problems are local, but the solutions often are global.  In 1994 the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) initiated the Lessons Without Borders program. This program was designed to bring home lessons that USAID learned in its work in other countries. One of the eye openers was what the city of Baltimore learned from Kenya when it sent a team to look at how Kenyans were handling immunization coverage. As a result, over the next four years immunization coverage in Baltimore went from around 60 percent to above 90 percent, one of the highest in the U.S. In many parts of the “developed world” we are resource rich and have lost sight of many basic solutions to our challenges. “Programs like Lessons Without Borders oftentimes remind us of what we already know and re-enforces the back-to-basics approach to solving problems.” said Karen Anderson of USAID.

In the past decade many other domestic organizations from Chicago to Sydney to Shanghai have taken lessons from outside of their borders and brought them successfully home.  Most often, however, this activity has taken place under the radar of mainstream support groups and funders who still insist on dividing us into national and international, domestic and foreign.  You can help to lead the change.  So the next time you see an article or blog post with the words “international” or “global” in the title, don’t run (or “click”) away and encourage your (“international wary”) colleagues to do the same!  By reading it, thinking about it and discussing it with your colleagues, you can begin the first easy steps to expanding your organization’s global mindset and engagement with the world.