By Salem Samhoud
The Estoril Conference 2011 entitled Global Challenges, Local Answers has taken off. The first few hours consist of a warming up by the Academy parallel sessions. Erasmus University Rotterdam gives insights on ethical leadership and servant leadership. Then the CEO of The Africa Intstitute of South Africa, Dr Matlotleng Patrick Matlou, shakes the tree. He is in the audience and asks two questions. The first question is why the speaker from Rotterdam hasn’t mentioned any female examples of servant leadership. The second question is more to be seen as a remark. Dr Matlou says: “I don’t find your presentation very ‘global’.” These questions pinpoint the complexity of the conference theme; what is global and according to who and how do we track down these local answers?
The global challenges we face aren’t very new, we have this big topics going on for years now: growth of population, climate change, diseases, scarcity of food and water. Companies and governments are not going to respond fiercely because first they are dealing with a relatively new and profound challenge, the financial crisis. And politics, well, you know what politicians say according to one of the speakers, Pauline van der Meer-Mohr: ‘We know what we have to change but we don’t know how to get re-elected.’
What is interesting about Dr Matlou’s words is that although the earth has become a global village we still look at it too much from a western point of view. We invite him to have lunch with us and ask him to explain some more of what he meant with his questions. ‘We have to change our mindset and really exchange ideas on a global scale. If you ask me things can be made quite simple. Servant leadership is a good example. The most local interpretation of an organization is your family. And when you look at your family and consider the concept of servant leadership the best example is the mother in a home. That’s a leader with all characteristics mentioned and she delivers value through her children. To find solutions we have to look further than our own backyard. That is global thinking. Because, when you broaden your scope you will find all kinds of local answers, all over the world. The global challenges we face go beyond country borders and thanks to modern technology we can think off limits. We are global citizens tied to ideas, not to geography. Your passport is not the only thing you have. Your network allows you to become part of a different community, a community of ideas.’
Later that day speaker Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont and former President of the National Democratic Committee, backs up this idea: ‘Globalization shows results. Young people in the United States don’t make distinctions between race, religion or sexual preferences. They just run the world together. Barack Obama is a representative of these young Americans.’
Hillary Clinton once said ‘it takes a village to find solutions’. She must have meant the global village that hides the local answers. But, with a good network we can find them. And thanks to social media we can dig a lot faster.