What does it mean to think global and act local? I used to think it was a reminder: don’t lose sight of the people around you, in your quest to save the world. But it can also refer to making small changes that have a large effect.
Working in healthcare, education, finance, or government can be overwhelming. There are enormous challenges, and it’s easy to get discouraged by terrible people doing terrible things. Yet the big picture still drives our work.
Let’s explore what it means to think global and act local.
My parents inspire me. While both worked in education, they take different approaches. My mother (now retired) was a special education teacher for almost 40 years. My father still runs a non-profit, which has brought together educators from around the world to transform the way teachers approach classroom learning. They both want to make a difference in the world around them.
Years ago I met one of my mom’s former students. He sang her praises, and told us how she’d changed his life. My father’s influence is harder to qualify, but may be seen in how the next generation of teachers improves upon education.
My brother and I also want to change the world. We both work in healthcare. He is an ER nurse, where a typical day might include setting a broken ankle, restarting a patient’s heart, and stabilizing a stab victim. I create strategies and content for hospitals, health systems, and nonprofits developing digital interventions.
Both my mom and my brother work with individuals. My dad and I work with groups. How does this impact our work?
When you act local (to my mind), you are accepting certain limitations. Whether that means marketing to a small group, or working in a single classroom or ER. I am also acting locally when I create content for a single intervention – but I must think globally, because what I do impacts people I can’t see.
To think global means to consider the bigger picture.
- Accessibility: how will people who I can’t see, and haven’t met, use this content?
- Unintended consequences: how will my creation impact people outside of the audience I’m intending it for?
- Context: what context is provided, and how might that change over time, after I no longer have control of the product?
Global Thinking Improves Local Actions
To stay optimistic – or even sane – I find myself focusing on the small things. I can’t overhaul the US’s healthcare system, but I can improve a single webpage’s readability. I work on a single intervention, and hope it can help a select audience quit smoking or reduce symptoms of mental illness.
But thinking small doesn’t mean I can ignore that big-picture thinking. So I learn from both my parents. I know the importance of the local actions, and I practice global thinking daily.