Definition: in·ter·con·nect·ed·ness: the state of having different parts or things connected or related to each other
Synonyms: interdependence, interrelatedness. Near-synonyms and examples are highlighted in bold in the texts below.
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." — John Muir
"Alles ist Wechselwirkung” [Everything is interconnected and interdependent] — Alexander von Humboldt
"The author Frank White, a lover of space, was on a cross-country plane flight and had an epiphany gazing at the landscape below. If everyone could get an 'overview' of Earth like future space settlers would, he thought, they would grasp our interconnectedness and be forever moved to protect the planet and each other. He came up with a term: the Overview Effect." — Leslie Guttman
"All real-world problems are interdisciplinary, interprofessional, and international. . . . A committee of narrow thinkers doesn’t produce integrative outcomes. The best interdisciplinary instrument is still the individual human mind.” — Harlan Cleveland
>> Interconnectedness: What it is
>> The concept in practice: The G7
>> In our work: Current, ongoing, past
>> Integrative thought & action
From the introduction to the communiqué of the G7 Climate and Environment Ministers’ Meeting, London, 20–21 May 2021:
"As we continue to address the ongoing pandemic, we acknowledge with grave concern that the unprecedented and interdependent crises of climate change and biodiversity loss pose an existential threat to nature, people, prosperity and security. We recognize that some of the key drivers of global biodiversity loss and climate change are the same as those that increase the risk of zoonoses, which can lead to pandemics. . . . We recognize that climate change and the health of the natural environment are intrinsically linked and will ensure that the actions we take maximize the opportunities to solve these crises in parallel."
InterEnvironment Institute has emphasized interconnectedness since its founding in 1969, and started giving explicit attention to integrative methodologies in the mid-1980s. This has included the following activities, among others:
CURRENT AND ONGOING:
>> GLOBAL BEACONS OF HOPE
Launching Global Beacons of Hope, a program to identify, describe, and publicize places associated with extraordinary people, events, and ideas that symbolize the imagination, exploration, and moral behavior needed to move the world toward greater justice and sustainability. We believe putting a spotlight on them will help change minds and inspire action. California Beacons of Hope is a pilot project. One of the six main themes of Global Beacons of Hope is "Interconnectedness: Everything and everyone is interconnected."
>> NATURAL NEIGHBORS
Leading the Natural Neighbors initiative, which aims to introduce greatly increased numbers of people to the natural and cultural heritage of the regions where they live by promoting metropolitan and regional alliances of conservation and historic preservation agencies, museums, zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens, and their allies. Each of these organizations has its particular responsibilities and priorities, but many things can be done more effectively when they work on them together.
>> URBAN CONSERVATION STRATEGIES
Leading the Urban Conservation Strategies Specialist Group of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, which focuses on the complex interconnections among urban places, urban people, cities as governments, and nature and natural resources.
>> POLICY DIALOGUES
Convening, experimenting with, studying, and promoting high-level policy dialogues; this has included organizing an international workshop on methodology that resulted in The Power of Convening; and research on collaborative decision-making on hazardous waste in California that resulted in Breaking Political Gridlock.
>> Editing and publishing resource guides that "mapped" organizations and placed issues in broad context. These included The California Handbook, the standard guide to sources of information about the state (8 editions); the World Directory of Environmental Organizations (6 editions); and volumes on a wide spectrum of California topics and global problems.
>> Carrying out policy analysis and convening on an integrative ecosystem approach to natural resource planning that contributed to launching the interagency California Biodiversity Council.
>> Conducting research and convening on defining the integrative concept of sustainability in a global context, resulting in an acclaimed book, A Sustainable World.
>> Leading an international environmental strategy commission that included working groups on such integrative policy tools as landscape approaches to natural resource management, national and regional strategies for sustainability, and linking population and environment.
These activities are described elsewhere on this website. They have been supported by, among others, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Hewlett Foundation, the Haynes Foundation, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), United Nations programs, and California state and United States government agencies. See Partners and Donors.
Synthesis and analysis are both essential in public policy work and complement each other. Synthesis — integrative or "lateral" thinking — is needed to break out of old thought patterns and generate new ideas. Analysis (sequential or "vertical" thinking) is needed to choose the best course of action and carry it out. For various reasons, however, skills in analysis are more common and much more widely applied than skills in synthesis.
This has important implications for policy planning and implementation. A new understanding of the nature of politics has emerged over the past 50 years, drawing on advances in psychology and systems theory. In this view, the common conception of decision-making as a rational, linear process is erroneous. As the political scientist Kai Lee writes in Compass and Gyroscope (1993), "The policy process is not a process at all in the usual sense; rather than being a sequence in which information is assembled and debated and decisions reached, government is better understood as an organized anarchy ... instead of conveyor belts on an assembly line, there is a ‘policy primeval soup.’"
Step-by-step strategic planning, long the cornerstone of policy-making, is now widely questioned, even by those who have been its strong supporters. They include Henry Mintzberg, who concludes in The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning (1994) that the term "strategic planning" is an oxymoron: the key to planning and problem solving is synthesis, not analysis. Such ideas have strongly influenced management thinking in the private sector, but have been slow to penetrate the public policy community.
The images are of a California landscape from the painting Canyon Green by Franz Bischoff, CC0