My experience with the UN and other systems has been very, very important — and I also want to say that I still believe in the ideals of the UN. I think the UN, the idea of the UN, is so incredibly important. We can see that in the world today, although we know that it’s not working as we would like it to work. Another thing that has to do with your first question and it may sound abstract, but to me it really isn’t, is the following: I think that we have throughout education in our, let’s say, Western culture, we have overemphasized the role and value of analysis and what we call rational thinking. We have underestimated education in how we can better harness our intuition and creativity, perhaps because that is more difficult to repeat and scale up. The value of everything that we can measure and weigh and touch with our fingers is really important, but it is just a small part of the human spirit and what goes on in our lives.
When I was working with the UN in Kosovo, my agency was working in a post-conflict setting for the first time, it was a pilot project. As such, we were not yet totally suffocated by the system, so we had a lot of leverage and that was amazing. I was the only international person in my office, and I was working with the people that we were meant to serve and support. That was an incredible experience. But then I got this permanent position with the UN and started working in Geneva and the idea is that you travel between different continents and have different roles within the UN. When I was in Geneva, I could just sense how we were so disconnected from the people and issues on the ground. I felt we were too consumed by bureaucracy and hierarchy to the detriment of harnessing talent, passions, and hands-on knowledge.
Even the way that you are rewarded for your job, for your work, what your people contribute, was skewed to the benefit of the system. It’s an indication of a bigger problem. We have had levels of burnout rising in the world — and it’s not just a privileged problem, it’s everywhere in the world. The main cause of disease and disability in the world today is anxiety and depression according to the WHO. It was the fifth highest risk 20-plus years ago. It’s now the leading cause of illness. What does this mean for our ability to think differently and to realize a different kind of world that is more sustainable and regenerative than the world we live in? We need to have the creative capacity to think those things. And when we are stressed, depressed, when we are under a lot of pressure, we feel undervalued and we’re doing something that doesn’t spark our lifeforce, our sense of belonging and sense of purpose, we’re not on the right track. I think that is part of the problems we have with systems all over the world. If we talk about education, we also have school systems where it’s easier to teach kids, teenagers and adults in a way that’s easily replicated and measured. That’s why we do more of it; it’s not because it’s best for us. It doesn’t create the agility and the creativity and the innovative spirit that we actually need. I could go on and on — I just think it’s a universal thing within our culture and it doesn’t have to be like that.
I want to cite Ian Goldin from Oxford, who says we are going through the second Renaissance in 500 years. He says it’s largely because of technology and our scientific capacities that we have today. From the point of view of intuition, human consciousness and intelligence, it is important that we are mindful of what we put into it. How this renaissance transforms our cultures will be very important for people on the planet and I worry that we don’t think enough about what we put into it. We need more love. We need to re-connect with ourselves, other people, the planet, and connect to the things that we are working on. When you mention the individual approach that I have, close to 30 titles and so much entrepreneurial work — I don’t do anything by myself. I am acutely aware that reality happens in relationships. When particles, people and dots connect, that’s when reality happens. That’s what creates life. Even though I navigate and I wayfind, nothing I do is all by myself. If you would look at my website and go to the bio page, I state in bold that I haven’t done anything by myself. It’s all about making connections and enjoying the ride with people.