The idea of multisolving was developed by Dr. Elizabeth Sawin while she was the Co-Director of Climate Interactive; our research and training about multisolving was carried out as the Multisolving Program at Climate Interactive until the founding of the Multisolving Institute in 2022. As Dr. Sawin explains in her 2019 TEDx talk, multisolving emerged out of Climate Interactive’s engagement with the UN climate talks. As a leader of Climate Interactive’s analysis of pledges made by countries to reduce their climate pollution, Dr. Sawin felt frustrated by the limitations of the narrow focus of the climate talks on greenhouse gas pollutants.
We work with interconnection instead of against it, design for feedback loops and tipping points, and help small seeds grow to big changes.
The Multisolving Institute will emerge and grow during a volatile period marked by climate change, the pandemic, and the economic and political impacts of both. We are designing our operations and strategy to be as effective as possible even in the face of destabilizations.
We commit to address structural inequity wherever we can, within our organization, in our partnerships, in our analysis, and in the wider word.
Mitch Julis is a Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Canyon Partners, LLC. He is a student, practitioner and proponent of systems thinking as a result of studying and collaborating with MIT Sloan School of Management Professor John Sterman. Mitch’s special interest in the food-water-energy nexus from a systems perspective and an article on the connection between this nexus and climate change led him to reframe the benefits of dealing with both challenges together (see Financial Times article on this subject). Further discussions and efforts with the team at Climate Interactive contributed to the creation of the Multisolving Project there, focused on identifying and implementing solutions to climate change that also produce benefits in energy security, health and well-being, and food and water. The Julis-Rabinowitz Family is privileged to be a founding supporter of the Multisolving Project. In addition, Mitch’s vigorous and creative sharing of ideas and research in food, water, energy, complexity theory, and climate change were a consistent source of input and creativity for the Multisolving Project at Climate Interactive.
The Morgan Family Foundation was one of the earliest supporters of the Multisolving Project at Climate Interactive. Their support helped us to do research documenting bright spots of multisolving around the world and helped us better articulate the systems thinking foundations of multisolving. Development of Elizabeth Sawin’s TEDxSun Valley talk on multisolving was also made possible by the foundation’s support.
That opened a new front of research at Climate Interactive: what else would improve around the world if countries truly transitioned away from fossil fuels? From improvements in air quality to energy security we documented many co-benefits of climate action, and incorporated some of them into Climate Interactive’s well known computer simulation, En-ROADS.
But, the multiple benefits of actions to protect the climate remain mostly theoretical without ways of overcoming the obstacles to multisolving. That’s why, from the beginning of our work we have collaborated with others to understand the bright spots of multisolving around the world and to pilot multisolving approaches. First in Milwaukee in partnership with the Milwuakee Metropolitan Sewerage District and then in Atlanta, with Partnership for Southern Equity, we began to see what was possible by bringing the different parts of a system together in pursuit of actions and investments that lifted up many goals at once.
From this action research, along with a series of case studies of multisolving projects, we began to see attitudes and approaches that are in common across a wide diversity of multisolving projects, a topic we wrote about in Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Then came 2020. Pandemic. Escalating climate change impacts. Dire warnings about biodiversity loss. And more and more folks connecting the dots between each of these issues and structural inequity. Invitations to write, speak, and teach about multisolving came fast and furious and with it the possibility that what we’ve learned from multisolving bright spots could help support leaders around the world to respond to crises with multisolving. That spark led to the launch of the Multisolving Institute and our mission of supporting leaders as they pursue multisolving approaches