What It Means to Be “Global” in Seattle

Seattle evening

Photo by @GregJeffersonPhotography via Twenty20

After the Global Washington conference last month, the two of us have been going back and forth about something that came up during the opening keynote discussion.

The discussion, moderated by Akhtar, included UW President Ana Mari Cauce; John Kelly, Starbucks Senior Vice President of Global Public Affairs and Social Impact; and Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision U.S.

Several of the speakers argued that we need to immediately address several pressing problems in Seattle, including homelessness. Some in the audience and media took that to imply an “America First” attitude. What they seem to have missed, as we later learned in conversations with other attendees, was the point several speakers made that we must tackle these issues BOTH globally AND locally. This is not an “either or” scenario.

Homelessness, poverty, disease, and hunger know no geographic boundaries, as the participants pointed out; they are global problems. They exist and must be addressed in Seattle and Spokane, as much as in Sao Paulo and Soweto. As Ana Mari said, there exists a false dichotomy in framing Washington state’s issues versus global issues: “If you want to do the right thing for Washington, you’ve got to think globally.”

READ MORE about the 2017 Global Washington conference in our December newsletter

Indeed, we are all engaged globally precisely because we seek to address the most pressing problems, whether they arise in Washington State, across our nation, or around the world. To this point, Ana Mari shared a quote she often refers to from Eric Liu, co-author of the book, Gardens of Democracy: “We are all better off when we are ALL better off.”

Our worlds are increasingly intertwined at the university and we work hard to provide both local and global context to our teaching. Akhtar teaches a class on Global Business where students discuss the impact of globalization on businesses and how communities in the U.S. and Seattle are affected. By exploring underlying patterns of interconnectedness, we discover more effective solutions because in today’s world we cannot afford to be singularly local or mindlessly global. We HAVE to be appropriately local and effectively global.

Jeffrey Riedinger is the vice provost for global affairs at the University of Washington. Dr. Riedinger has leadership and administrative responsibility for the University’s diverse global programming including support for international research, study abroad, student and faculty exchanges, and overseas centers.

Akhtar Badshah is the president & chair of the board for Global Washington. Dr. Badshah currently teaches at the University of Washington at the School of Business, Bothell campus, and at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance. He is the founder and curator of Accelerating Social Transformation, a mid-career professional development certificate course on social impact.