Is “Multi-Solving” the Key to Solving Long Term Issues?

brain color colorful cube
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on

“How can you get politicians to enact policies that solve long-term issues when they can’t even pass an annual budget?”

“How can you get voters to care if they are focused on the latest tweet-storms out of Washington?”

Friends asked me questions like these when I started my blog–I would shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know yet, but I am going to try and find out.”

Beth Sawin of the Climate Interactive company may have provided a partial answer to these questions. She has been struggling with them in relation to climate change. After an unsuccessful climate conference in Copenhagen, she realized that all feasible political action is limited by the need of leaders to win the next election. They cannot win if they enact policies in which all costs are carried by current voters and the benefits will only be gained by future voters. Her solution is “multi-solving.”

Multi-solving involves breaking through the walls we build around our problems to find interconnections with other people’s problems. It means that we have to talk to people in different disciplines, departments or lines of work and ask, “How can solving my problem help solve yours?”

Her application of multi-solving was connecting solutions for climate change to other fields, primarily problems of public health and economics. She found tremendous, quantifiable health and economic benefits from measures that would also limit global warming.

Multi-solving sounds like a strategy that could have broad application for creating policies that would please voters and still make progress on our long-term issues. It is probably an approach that seasoned politicians use intuitively if they want to create a long-term legacy. I recommend spending 17 minutes to watch Beth Sawin’s presentation.

2 thoughts on “Is “Multi-Solving” the Key to Solving Long Term Issues?

  1. Here is a letter-to-the-editor that appeared in the Raleigh News and Observer January 30, 2019.. A young woman expresses concern for her generation’s future.

    Climate crisis
    As a youth in America today, the lack of action on climate change is frightening. My generation, and those who come after me, will experience the worst effects of climate change. I will have to bear the brunt of future hurricanes, endure the extreme temperatures, and accept the large loss of available food due to the climate-compromised agriculture industry. According to the 2018 National Climate Assessment released by the U.S. government, we can only thwart these impacts by preventing global temperatures to not rise over 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025, which is a courageous goal, but it is not nearly enough. In order to ensure a safe future for generations to come, we must switch to 100 percent renewable energies in the very near future. The Green New Deal, legislation proposed by Alex- andria Ocasio-Cortez, entails just that within the next 12 years. A select committee has been proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives to develop policies for the plan. I encourage all NC Congressmen to endorse and sign onto this committee.
    Ember Penney Pittsboro


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