As we meet leaders who are multisolving in their communities, and as we work in Atlanta with a group of community leaders on a project focused on equity and green infrastructure, we are learning that the ‘multi’ in multisolving refers to more than just solving several problems at the same time. In addition to solving multiple problems, multisolving also requires the integration of multiple perspectives.
The network forming in Atlanta includes academics, city government, philanthropy, and non-profits specializing in heath, water, community development and equity. And from San Francisco to Santa Fe, as we learn more about promising examples of multisolving, we notice that real progress happens when leaders focused on poverty or children or health and those focused on climate, air and water come together to implement options that neither group alone might have considered.
While our research and experimentation on the integration of multiple perspectives in multisolving is just beginning, a few common elements have caught our attention:
- Multisolving efforts often unite people around a set of values, rather than around a particular technical solution. People, process, and values come first; specific solutions come later.
- Often the strands of work that come together in a multisolving effort have existed for years as dedicated leaders cultivate expertise, knowledge and relationships. Multisolving happens when an organization or individual articulates a bigger picture and catalyzes the connectivity of these strands in a previously unimagined way.
- The belief that everyone deserves to thrive is a powerful starting point for multisolving. This belief widens the circle of who comes to the table, and thus the richness of ideas and experience. And if the solution must, by definition, serve the full community, partial solutions and quick fixes are ruled out early on in the process.
In the urgency of scaling up multisolving efforts in communities around the world, our multisolving research team is looking for additional common elements that distinguish multisolving efforts from projects that have more singular goals. If you know of a project in your community that has solved multiple problems by integrating multiple perspectives we’d love to hear your story – please send a short email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a description of your example. And stay tuned over the course of 2016 as we integrate and share our discoveries.