Elizabeth Sawin speaks on multisolving in two new podcasts

In two new podcasts, Multisolving Institute Founder and Director Elizabeth Sawin talks multisolving and system thinking. Read below to learn more.

“Multisolving is the idea that you can use one investment of time or money or energy to solve more than one problem at one time. So, in that way, my grandmother was a multisolver, in that she could figure out how to stretch a dollar in six different directions. And a small farmer who incorporates permaculture into his practice is a multi solver. It’s not a new concept as I understand it. What we bring to the Multisolving Institute is saying that in the space of climate change, equity and biodiversity, we can really do with more of that thinking.”

We live as part of a wondrous planet, an intricate web of interconnections and relationships. We have been taught, though, to think not in wholes and connections, but rather to break everything into simple, easy-to-digest pieces. What is often lost is our knowledge that we are whole, and that we belong here. Fortunately, systems thinking helps us to see interconnections and complexities, and learn from whole systems, like a body, ecosystem, economy, community, or planet.  Drawing on this way of thinking, multisolving helps us solve complex problems by taking actions that result in many interconnected benefits.

This conversation looks at systems thinking and multisolving – starting with a decades-long experience of cultivating an intentional community.


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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