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GVI Guest Blogger Gemma Burford: Will post-2015 development be truly holistic?

Gemma Burford is Research Fellow, Values and Sustainability Research Group, University of Brighton


Most contemporary development work focuses on what is visible from the outside (e.g. observable behaviour change, tangible outputs, or measurements of complex system dynamics).   An Integral Sustainable Design approach balances these exterior perspectives with discussion of interior dimensions – how people feel, what their subjective experiences are, and what’s valued within a particular organisation or community.  This is essential because human beings don’t usually analyse situations scientifically before taking action: many of our decisions are based on emotions and deeply held values.

An Integral approach is also distinctive in its recognition that different people are motivated by different things, and that we have to meet them where they are – not where we wish they were. If we don’t make space for subjective dimensions such as values, emotions and personal experience in the design of our projects, they may come back to haunt us later, like the thirteenth fairy in the story of Sleeping Beauty.  Social, environmental and economic projects are all equally susceptible to the consequences of neglecting subjective realities:

–          A new water pipe stands unused, because the women’s morning walk is the high point of their day – they value social bonding, and paying their respects to the spirit of the mountain spring, far more highly than `efficiency’ or `convenience’.

–          A microcredit initiative has disastrous consequences because the well-meaning founder is outnumbered by self-centred committee members, motivated by their desire for wealth and social status.

–          A coordinator is hired for a conservation program based on indigenous ecological knowledge, but constantly undermines it with her fundamentalist belief that there is only one ‘right way of knowing’. While Integral Sustainable Design is already becoming established in fields such as architecture, there is an urgent need to apply its insights to international development.

The emergent post-2015 process offers a unique opportunity to shape the global development agenda for the next 15-20 years, but most of the discourse is still centred on deciding whether goal A is more important than goal B: “Would you rather feed your children, educate them, cure them of malaria, protect them from rape, or mitigate climate change so they can survive to adulthood?”   Despite knowing in our hearts that these issues are all complex, messy and profoundly interconnected, we still persist in treating them as separate and attempting to rank them in order of priority.   An Integral Sustainable Design lens can help us to recognise the common roots of many global problems: outdated systems, egocentric values, feelings of apathy and despair, and destructive or unproductive human actions. With this in mind, the response looks very different.

We can stop designing projects to tackle one problem at a time, and focus on finding ways to foster individual and collective ‘mindshifts’ – from self-centred to planet-centred worldviews – to eliminate the root causes of multiple problems.  We can stop obsessing about what’s not working right now, and get on with empowering people whose vision is already planet-centred (and my guess is that there are plenty of those around…) to start co-designing and co-creating the futures that they actually want. There’s still time to campaign for a radical and genuinely holistic post-2015 agenda – but the windows of opportunity are rapidly closing.  To all Integral thinkers out there: this is our time to stand up and be counted.  Every minute that we don’t speak up brings us one minute closer to a global development agenda set out in the same old way, perpetuating the same old patterns.  Who can we talk to, who can we e-mail, what can we tweet, to infuse the post-2015 decision-making process with a new vision before it’s too late?



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Equitable and meaningful collaborations

“Not everyone thinks like you because we’re not all the same”


It’s a quote that’s obvious when hearing it but to put it into use is another thing. How often do we take this quote into practice? Especially within our own line of work, how often do we consider using projects and methods used in one setting and adapt it to another, even though the settings are different but the problems are the same?


As the post-2015 agenda continues to be a focal point of discussion as we near the end of the MDG’s, it has been stressed continuously that developed countries will be included in the post-developmental plans along with under-developed regions in efforts to highlight the need for a global collaboration in ending common world issues. For years, the work of UN branches such as UNICEF, UNDP, and UNFPA have been focusing on under privileged world regions, but with these new discussions at hand, will there be a need for collaborations to be made in efforts to bring this work to developed regions as well?


Will the focus on global partnerships mean more equitable and meaningful collaboration on development goals among developed and developing countries? And amongadvantaged and disadvantaged groups at the national level?


All nations suffer from levels of health issues for example (i.e.: AIDS, maternal mortality, etc), despite the variations from country to country. Such as the case with child mortality – while 4 in 1,000 newborns die from preventable anomalies and diseases in Sweden, it’s 260 in 1,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa. With this, it’s clear to see that a united effort would be needed, as well as a partnership, in effort to change these outcomes in both countries to make a change regardless of the scale in each country.


One example of a united effort being done within a first world context is in Australia, where despite the development of the nation and its first world status, it suffers from inequality among its aboriginal population. From education to health services, these people have been driven to the remote states of Australia and have fewer opportunities presented to them to change their circumstances. One concern is the lack of ultrasound scanning being done by mid-wives in the aboriginal communities.A main cause is lack of education. Recently, the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology (ISUOG), a part of the Partnership for Maternal, Child, and Newborn Health division of WHO, have begun conducting workshops in basic ultrasound in OB/GYN training in these aboriginal regions. For the project, ISUOG partnered with ASUM (the Australian Society of Ultrasound in Medicine) who have previously worked in Papua New Guinea to provide humanitarian outreach, for the first time in a developed region.


The effort is to train these midwives so they can properly conduct scans and detect fetal anomalies so as to take preventive measures to increase the child’s chances for life upon birth. Before then, the aboriginal community had never been exposed to such technology, which led to the deaths of many babies – deaths caused by something that was easily treatable.


This one partnership is an example of how collaboration can be done to bring work even to developed regions and collaborate to achieve developmental goals – in this case, MDG goals number 4 and 5.


Will this be just an isolatedexample, or will the focus on global partnerships mean growth in more equitable and meaningful collaboration on development goals among developed and developing countries?


Can progress towards participatory global governance, global partnerships and a holistic systems approach to child mortality and maternal health transform the outcomes?

Since the initial set up of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), a typhoon of initiatives, partnerships, alliances, and statements have been launched in effort to both promote awareness of the issues at hand and urge governments in developing nations to action. Most in particular, the push for the fulfillment of goal number 4 and 5 have led UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP and UN Women to launch campaigns that highlight the importance of these goals, given the touched upon child health and maternal mortality.


As we approach 2015 and the rushed consideration for how to proceed beyond the deadline becomes the main focus for all talks, a key  question to ask ourselves is whether, and how, progress towards participatory global governance, global partnerships and the holistic systems approach to child mortality and maternal health can transform outcomes?


The WHO had created the Partnership of Maternal and Newborn Child Health (PMNCH) division, which brought together NGO’s and international health organizations that focused on maternal health. The division highlighted that a global partnership was needed in order to tackle maternal health issues in countries such as Papua New Guinea and India while also supporting the unique differences of each organization to help contribute to the big picture. For example, the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology (ISUOG), with their Outreach programs focusing on ultrasound in OB/GYN training in under-served regions, joined forces with WHO in providing details of ultrasound needs worldwide and the particular benefit of the technology in improving perinatal and maternal mortality ratios.


This helped transform outcomes, through giving insight into a particular niche within women’s health that proved crucial in helping identifying issues and anomalies that could be prevented with this technology, and ISUOG has collaborated with other organizations of the partnership (i.e.: FIGO, UNFPA, etc) to deliver ultrasound technology or offer aid to doctors in OB/GYN.


But is this the most systemically effective method towards achieving both sustainable results post-2015 and help under-served countries finally improve their levels of female mortality? Are partnerships vital in general to help reach desired outcomes?


Let’s get the discussion following and answer below!



Relevant information:


They’ve posted and now it’s time to vote! Submitters have entered GVI’s Photo contest to show us what inspires them to continue to pursue their work within or around the UN system and how a project in mind helps fulfill their purpose. The prize for the winner is $1,000 in support money to fund it.  So help us pick the best and vote on which picture truly showcases their purpose and passion. To vote in the Photo Contest, click here.

A second chance: both for goals and development

It’s not always easy to see it, but sometimes we’re given second chances just when we’ve given up.

And it’s only natural at times to just give in. After weeks, maybe even months or years, of simply pushing and trying to make a dream or a project work, the reality of it all sets in and you realize that it might not be meant to be after all.

“What’s the reason for me even doing this?” you find yourself wondering. Maybe you begin to doubt the effectiveness of the purposeful role you had sought after and won within or around the United Nations system.

But that second chance kicks in to just change it all. In our lifetimes, this can be finally meeting “the one” after years of heartbreak and hardships. For others, this could be that magic day when after trying so hard for years that blue line in the pregnancy test appears – and your life is changed forever.

For our line of work, the blue line of new beginnings comes when a new breath of hope is released into a project or a purposeful mission that we’ve been pressing on for years. Securing ultrasound machines for a maternal clinic in your UNFPA division in Upper Mongolia? Receiving the support for more UNICEF “Education in a box” support from government aid investors so more can be given to Syrian refugees in Lebanon? Whatever the task, it’s always encouraging and hopeful that the purpose you felt you were set out to do when you decided to work under the banner of the United Nations or its networks is finally kicking in.

And that second chance can come as simple as taking a photo. Take part in the GVI Photo Contest and post a picture today that reflects your passion and purpose for why you are committed to working within or around the UN System and you could win up to $1,000 to finance a project of yours that helps you fulfill that sense of purpose.

And if you don’t have a project quite yet then worry not for more are bound to arrive. With the new development plans for post-2015 in the making, countless second chances are being offered to those who felt they were forgotten. Perhaps your mission is to bring funding on raising the momentum of adolescent importance? Or maybe your project was highlighting high rates of maternal mortality in the Western World, while others only saw it in developing countries?

Post-2015 brings change – but above all, it brings a second chance.

Relevant information:

You can sign up to enter the photo contest to show us what inspires you or how your project helps fulfill your purpose within the UN system and you can win $1,000 in support money to fund it. To participate in the Photo Contest, click here.

Back to work blues? Fresh ideas and possibilities with just a picture


The day back into the office post-vacation can always be a bit brutal with a swirl of thoughts flooding your head as you make your way through the familiar corridors and offices of your department. You sit back down at you desk, which feels familiar but at the same time completely alien to you. And for a second, as you try to log into your computer, you completely forget your password.


Such are the instances of returning to work after having spent four meticulous months away and catching up with all of life’s simple pleasures; friends, old hobbies, book, and the latest episode on from your favorite sitcom. But while you may be releasing a sigh of despair as you check back into reality, there are still endless possibilities that can be revealed on that first day back.


You could have finally gotten that email from the contact you been trying to reconnect with on a particular project.


You superior may have finally gotten back to you on the results of a long awaited decision item.


Or better yet, a whole new possibility for a new project; something that you can do for you.


Without a doubt, GVI’s Newsletter has greeted you as you are skimming through the incalculable number of emails that have blasted your inbox. But while most of the messages relate to past projects or inter-department communications, GVI’s Newsletter offers a fresh new start – and all through the Photo Contest.


Have you ever had a project that you wanted to get initiated but couldn’t get the funds? Or maybe the budget for one that you’ve been working on for a while now isn’t just enough to properly get it to the level you want it to be.


Well fear not – you’re off to a new start.


You began your career at or around the UN with purpose and a sense of will to make a change.


You believe that and so does GVI.


Take part in the Photo Contest and post a picture today that reflects your passion and purpose for why you are committed to working within or around the UN System, and you could win up to $1,000 to finance a project of yours that helps you fulfill that sense of purpose.


Submit your photos and viewers will cast their votes and rate their favorite picture against yours to reflect the passion of each submission in pursing their purpose within or around the UN system. The picture with the most votes will receive $1,000 to support a purpose-driven project and give inspiration to continue to succeed.

So why not? You’re back from vacation and with a new fresh mind, so with fresh ideas and fresh initiatives, anything is possible.


Relevant information:


You can sign up to enter the photo contest to show us what inspires you or how your project helps fulfill your purpose within the UN system and you can win $1,000 in support money to fund it. To participate in the Photo Contest, click here.

A little more: the difference that could help reach your goals

Just a little more.

It’s for that project that you’ve been working on. It’s taken you weeks of planning – maybe even months – and the proposal has been through all the major heads of department to review.
The problem is that they tell you it’s too ambitious, or maybe even too complex and too expensive? Perhaps if you only had that additional set of funds – $500 or $1,000 extra to support the work you’ve been wrapping your brain around for what seems like an eternity – it could be funded.


You believe in this project because you feel it defines everything you believe your role within the UN system has set you out to do. The project has given you that purpose; that drive and creativity which makes you feel like for once, you’re finally doing something right.


What if you received that help? What if that extra support could be given to you? What if you were told that all you had to do was take a photo and it’s yours?


You’re shaking your head; not so easily convinced, it seems? Well, it’s not as farfetched as it might look. Global Vision Institute believes in your project but wants you to show us that you do as well. Post a picture (or even a selfie) that describes your purpose for working in or around the UN and why you believe your project fulfills that goal for you – to potentially win $1,000 in support of your project.


A picture says a thousand words but will yours accurately describe the passion you have for this goal of yours?


Post your picture today and have viewers cast their votes and rate their favorite picture, to reflect thepassion of each submission to continue in pursing their purpose within or around the UN system. The picture with the most votes will receive $1,000 to support a purpose-driven project and give inspiration to continue to succeed.



Relevant information:


You can sign up to enter the photo contest to show us what inspires you or how your project helps fulfill your purpose within the UN system and you can win $1,000 in support money to fund it. To participate in the Photo Contest, click here.

Passion. Vision. Purpose – What’s your purpose?

Passion. Dreams. Vision.


At one point in our lives, we took a moment to stare at the stars and dream big. Maybe you were a child of ten with candied visions of what the future was for you or perhaps a recent college graduate with hopes and fears that stretched wide into the horizon. Either way, we dreamt with visions as wide as the very sky we stared at. We had hopes for the future and for possible change. Inside, there was a passion that burned to serve for purpose and serve for what was right.


It was for this reason that the many paths in our lives have brought us to commit ourselves to the work of the United Nations. Because we believed in what the organization valued and to promote a greater cause in the world in order to fulfill a united mission we believe in – a better world.


So what was that dream you had, so many moons ago, when it illuminated your desire to work within the UN? Does it still motivate you? Does it still give you purpose?


We want to see it.


With so much vision and passion, GVI, with its vision to empower actors within and around the UN to take values and turn them into behaviors, has taken the initiative to have you post what your purpose is for working within or around the organization -with the now up and running contest asking to know what inspires you.


A picture says a thousand words and we’re excited to see all the words that permeate in the photos that are submitted. Viewers will get to cast their votes and rate their favorite photo, to reflect the submitter’s passion to continue in pursing their purposewithin or around the UN system. The three winnerswill receive $1,000 each to support a purpose-driven project and give inspiration to continue to succeed.


So tell us – what inspires you? What makes you dream? Tell us your purpose.



Relevant information:


You can sign up to enter the photo contest to show us what inspires you and you can win $1,000 in support money to fund a project to reach your goal and inspire your dreams. To do so, click here.

Welcome to the new GVI site!

GVI  (Global Vision Institute) is a network, catalyst and think-tank for creating a universal-values-driven international system. GVI empowers actors and teams in and around the United Nations to translate values into behaviours, relationships and organizational culture, as well as the processes, programming and policies of the international system.

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What inspires you to pursue your purpose in the world?

Tell us all about it and capture it in a photo. You can win $1,000.00 for your project.

See all the details!

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