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Uplifting Sustainable Development: The integrative improvement institutes project

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he word “sustainable” has acquired many meanings in recent years. However, in essence, the word means “able to keep going” and it is with this meaning which it is here applied to organisations and individuals as well as to their physical, social and cultural environments.

The challenges we face in our economies and societies in our divided unsustainable world are perhaps greater than at any other time. These challenges have arisen because of how we have been trained to think, plan and act as individuals and how we have applied this training to the way we organise and govern ourselves. We have thought, planned, organised, governed and acted as though our world is comprised of parts which can be separately exploited by humans and managed by us from one stable state to another. We have forgotten we are just one species in a complex natural world. We have tended to act without a sense of wholeness – without integrity. Meeting these challenges will require new approaches to how we are trained to think, plan and act as individuals and how we are trained to organise and govern. These new approaches will need to be based on our current scientific understanding of our world and the human mind.

How we think is not how we are trained to think!

Broadly, we tend to be trained in critical thinking. In educational institutions, at work and even at home we train what may be called our Critical Mind. We train people to reason in a disembodied way as though our minds were symbol manipulators like computers, unconnected with the remainder of our bodies and our physical, social and cultural environment. We train them to break problems down into parts, to put these parts into rigid categories with shared properties and to manipulate symbols representing these categories. We train them to hypothesise using these rigid categories ( thereby excluding all other possibilities) and look for a grain of the “truth” about these categories which is imagined to be “out there” in the “real” world and to justify that “truth” with propositions expressed in words or mathematical symbols joined together in accordance with the rules of logic. We train them to think in a straight line towards a conclusion. We train them as though the way we justify our thoughts – in logical statements – is the way we think. In short, we train people to think “inside the box”. We dehumanise reasoning.

The effects of this on our lives and work include:-

• People who are predisposed to be less comfortable with manipulating symbols tend to become alienated from the better justifiers.

• As justifications become more specialised the difficulty of communicating increases and trust decreases.

• We tend to become locked into our justifications.

• We make a habit of being critical first and thinking constructively second or not at all.

• We continue doing what has worked in the past even when circumstances change.

• Critical thinking based on different, crude and rigid categorisations often leads to unresolved conflict in groups and organisations. This unresolved conflict can surface later and undermine the group or organisation as may be seen in organisations in which management does not consult meaningfully with staff.

• Similarly, as individuals we can be left with unresolved internal conflict. This can damage the individual and others and lead to poor relationships and unhappiness.

• All this unresolved conflict leads to cruelty, unhappiness and inefficiency and hinders our creativity and performance as individuals, in groups and in organisations.

• Overall, this “parts” thinking is not compatible with the thinking necessary to achieve sustainable development, as explained by Paul Weaver in “The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century” (pp.246-253).

For instance, he states:- “In the process of breaking down real world systems into parts, most of the links and relationships that are the central concerns of sustainable development – the links between the natural and social systems or between levels in hierarchical structures or between time periods – are severed and are not studied by the specialized disciplines. Relatively new academic fields such as resilience and complex systems theory seek to address these issues by integrating the social and natural sciences.” (p.250).

Critical thinking has produced and will continue to produce much knowledge of parts of the world around us but it is inconsistent with the integrative way in which nature, our bodies, brains and minds function. There is mounting evidence in our increasingly interdependent world that in addition we need to be trained specifically in something like NEW Integrative Thinking (NEW IT) which is consistent with the integrative way nature, our bodies, brains and minds function. While continuing to train in and employ critical thinking we need also to train what may be called our Integrative Mind of which our Critical Mind is a part.

NEW Integrative Thinking (NEW IT)

NEW IT is based on extensive research in Mind Science in recent years. Mind Science draws on work from the brain sciences (which include neuroscience, immunology and endocrinology); biology; ethology; computer science; social, evolutionary and cognitive psychology; physics; anthropology; neurophilosophy (a new science established with a view to building a unified science of the mind and brain); linguistics; systems theory; complexity science including self-organisation, chaos, uncertainty, and emergence; the philosophy of mind; the philosophy of science and evolutionary epistemology (a branch of philosophy concerned with the origin, nature, methods and limits of human knowledge). Based on this work the human mind may be defined as the process of the living human brain interacting with the rest of the human body, which is interacting with its physical, social and cultural environment.

Among other things this research has shown:-

• Our mind and reasoning are inherently embodied, that is, shaped by our bodily interaction within itself and with its physical, social and cultural environment.

• Most thought is unconscious and much of our reasoning is done when we are not conscious of its being done.

• Over a lifetime of experiences we develop a number of prototypes in our minds which are reflected in patterns in our brains.

• It is difficult to change these prototypes so solving novel and complex problems in a creative way usually involves redeploying prototypes from another domain to the novel or complex domain.

• The more prototypes we have (the broader and deeper our knowledge) and the greater our ability to trigger those prototypes, the easier it is for us to creatively address novel and complex problems.

• We tend to be simplifiers because we can keep only about four items, plus or minus one, in our short-term memory while we are working on other information.

(For a concise introduction to the Mind Science which underpins my work please see the interview with leading cognitive scientist George Lakoff about his and philosopher Mark Johnson’s book “Philosophy in the Flesh” at http://www.edge.org/discourse/lakoff.html. For an annotated bibliography relating to Applied Mind Science in the field of Integrative Thinking please see NEW IT Module 1 at http:www.integrative-thinking.com.)

While encouraging and applying critical thinking when appropriate, NEW IT is a process of habitually and almost automatically making connections to create a whole new picture rather than habitually and almost automatically breaking down an old picture into its parts. NEW IT may be thought of as a more comprehensive successor to lateral thinking and using multiple intelligences but, not surprisingly, is fully integrated, not an add-on extra. It is a practical application of Mind Science so is a form of technology but it is human-based rather than machine-based technology. It is a NEW way of thinking which helps us think “outside and inside the box” and integrate the two as we plan and act.

The process of NEW IT may be thought of as our wondering (W) about a situation, creating a narrative (N) connecting our wonderings and managing our experiences (E) in acting out our narrative. It is distinctive in that it helps integrate intuition, reason and imagination. It involves understanding and learning what our basic human needs and aspects of our human will are, what guides us in balancing those needs and will, clarifying what we have and what we want to set our goal, exploring possible connections when relaxed, arriving at a strategy to negotiate the change from what we have to what we want, devising tactics to advance the strategy, taking bold, assertive and timely action to achieve our goal, reviewing and evaluating our performance.

Becoming an Effective NEW Integrative Thinker (NEW IT) Is Not Difficult

For example, the SOARA (Satisfying, Optimum, Achievable Results Ahead) Process of Integrative Thinking in NEW IT includes a comprehensive set of aids to memory to help trigger connections in our minds, help us see analogies in unrelated fields and provide a way of self monitoring our thinking and acting. All these aids to memory are joined together in a meaningful sentence so the Process as a whole can be learned in about the time it takes to learn to drive a car (about twelve hours) and is easily remembered. With practice its application can become almost automatic. At all stages of the Process provision is made for learners to record their reflections and possible actions based on those reflections. People can be introduced to the basic concepts of the Process at almost any age. The Process is culturally neutral because it accepts the uniqueness of each human being.

With practice, applying the SOARA Process of Integrative Thinking becomes a habit which empowers people and makes easier our struggle to achieve successful outcomes on a life-long journey among possibilities. It helps us refine our perceptions, expand our horizons, sense and respond successfully to emerging trends and events. By helping us to make analogies from other domains it brings out and enhances our creativity. By helping us to always consider a comprehensive range of variables it ensures we always take others into account including our “customers” and stakeholders. NEW IT helps us and our enterprises thrive.

By helping improve our creativity and performance NEW IT helps us gain a sense of meaning, a sense of belonging and a sense of personal power. This is because NEW IT helps us reconcile our needs and wants and balance and integrate our thoughts, feelings and actions in harmony with our physical, social and cultural environment. In this way NEW IT helps us to a self-reliant state of mind from which we can work towards uplifting sustainable development and the better linking of life and work.

In all contexts NEW IT provides an essential ingredient for sustainable successful connections, relationships and interactions – a common basis for communication between individuals.

Against this background, the Integrative Improvement Institutes Project directly addresses our challenges in a novel way. It is designed to improve the well-being of people and their physical, social and cultural environments through low-cost adaptive diffusion, refinement and implementation of a unique bottom-up Integrative Improvement (II) approach for uplifting sustainable development.

II emphasises dynamic connections, relationships and interactions in line with our current scientific understanding of the world as tending to be self-organising with human beings whose minds are naturally integrative. II improves in a balanced, integrative and sustainable way the lives people already have. II involves training individuals in NEW Integrative Thinking and encouraging and facilitating Integrative Governance enabled by technology in all government, business and civil society organisations. II progress is measured by a Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI).

The project is at the stage of seeking people and institutions which would like to advance Integrative Improvement in the world. In line with the adaptive tendency inherent in the Integrative Improvement approach, the current draft plan is designed to adapt as other catalysts join as one of a maximum of seven founding members of the Federation Integrators Team of the first Integrative Federation (IF) or in other roles as the project evolves. Alternatively, start-up or existing business, government and civil society organisations may like to apply the Integrative Improvement approach in their own organisations now.

The current draft project plan is as follows:-

Aim:- Improve the well-being of people and their environments through low-cost diffusion, refinement and implementation of the Integrative Improvement (II) approach for uplifting sustainable development.

Strategy:- Establish an adaptive networked Integrative Federation (IF) of largely virtual Integrative Improvement Institutes (IIIs)) in a number of countries using the training modules and templates at http://www.integrative-thinking.com and complementary tools for uplifting sustainable development.

Outline plan:- Have one IF website for teaching, research and consulting in Integrative Improvement with a page for each Institute, for each tool and for research related to NEW Integrative Thinking, Integrative Governance, Integrative Improvement, Integrative Capitalism and Integrative Democracy. A catalyst in each of 7 countries would attract and train 7 people to be the IIIs Integrators Team (IIIsIT) in their country. Each Institute would attract, train and license 7 people with experience in 7 industries to provide personal contact in 7 local areas to further diffuse Integrative Improvement and, for a fee, train successive groups of 7 people from government, business and civil society organisations based on material on the IF website. These trained people would implement Integrative Improvement in start-up and existing organisations and help in the further diffusion, refinement and implementation of Integrative Improvement in line with the model outlined here.

Tactics:- Sense and respond adaptively to other catalysts and end-users/citizens as the Integrative Improvement Institutes “virus” spreads.

Other relevant project information is as follows:-

Catalysts:- A provisional list (this and the whole project is designed to adapt as catalysts join) of the sort of catalysts needed is: a) people from a range of countries and practical settings; b) people committed enough to obtain all the modules and learn about the processes; (Money raised goes to advance the Project.) c) people with institutional bases which would lift credibility and lower overheads; d) web builder and webmaster to provide and maintain the virtual presence of the Federation and its Institutes as per the outline plan; e) facilitator for meetings – mostly virtual; f) executive secretary; g) people to seek content for and coordinate the pages on the website under the headings “Institutes”, “Tools” and “Research”. Overall, fields, interests and skills will need to cover Planning; People; Market; Product; Money; Physical, Social and Cultural Environment.

Affordability:- The basic modules offered at www.integrative-thinking.com may be purchased and learned one at a time so they should be affordable by even the smallest and poorest organisation.

However, if even the existing low prices are not affordable one copy of each module and template can be provided at whatever price an organisation certifies it can afford. Special arrangements can be made if multiple copies are required so all involved in the organisation can learn the processes and thereby acquire a common basis for communication – essential for success in any relationship or organisation. Each organisation is invited to suggest the financial arrangement that would suit it best.

Time:- The material is in easily digested small “bites” with a page at the end of each group of “bites” on which the learner records reflections and possible actions. In this way busy people can keep track of their learning. Moreover they can retain what they have learned because there are aids to memory and revision sections built-in.

Practicality:- The material is designed to be learned by each learner applying it to a problem of their own so each needs a copy of all the material to retain and refer to in future. It is designed to be accessible to people whose frontal lobes are more or less developed (mid-teens onwards) but the concepts could be taught to young children too.

Applicability:- To meet the many challenges we all face as individuals and in groups we all need integrative problem solving skills. This is what learning NEW Integrative Thinking teaches quickly, economically and permanently. Moreover, every organisation needs good governance policies. Douglas Integrative Governance 247 templates help organisations produce them quickly, economically and permanently. The potential market for a licensee would be huge as the material is applicable outside formal education channels and to people in the existing economy.

Joint venture basis:- Joint venture agreements are used to record contractual arrangements between all parties.

Uplifting sustainable development

Implementing the Integrative Improvement Institutes Project would be uplifting and sustainable for individuals because it would provide them with integrative problem solving skills to enable them to be self-reliant, innovative and reach with more confidence their full potential in the face the realities of life in general and the labour market in particular. It would be uplifting and sustainable for organisations because it would help them be adaptive in rapidly changing market conditions and assist their employees to contribute most to the organisation. It would be uplifting and sustainable for economies because all people would have an understanding of the need for and means of achieving sustainable development and economic activity would be generated by more people. It would be uplifting and sustainable for the global community as all could have a common basis for communication and problem solving.

Do you want to be involved in this uplifting project? Please contact Graham Douglas at integrative[at]optusnet.com.au

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Economy

Anglo-American Axis Needs Common Market, not Common Alliance

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With the eruption of the war in Ukraine, and considering the post-war situation, the alliance system in the West and its future should be something worthy of concern.

Anglo-American Axis is a concept that I proposed well before Brexit, and such an axis has already been fully formed today. With Brexit, the United Kingdom is now no longer part of the continental European alliance. It has instead re-aligned with the United States, and reverted to being a maritime nation that it used to be.

Such an axis would not be moved by the independence inclination of France, the wish of Germany to become the leader, nor the ambition of Turkey to be a regional hegemon. It cares even less about countries like Israel, Iran, and India. What the Anglo-American Axis focuses is to control the high ground of fundamental values, so that it can win the historic future as long as civilization continues to progress. Wars in other regions do not carry much significance to it. For NATO to play a role, it must negotiate conditions with the United States. It is not the Anglo-American Axis that needs NATO, but that NATO needs the Anglo-American Axis.

The United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the former members of the Commonwealth, have formed the largest single market in the world, with a coordinated monetary policy for the U.S. dollar and British pound. Such a market can consider certain African and South American countries, as long as they remain stable, and this usually means some “friendly dictatorships with open economies”, similar to Chile in the past.

Civilization is a dynamic force. Although many have studied monetary issues and finance, they fail to link these with civilization. In fact, these are appendages of civilization, and they are products of it. Humanity will inevitably move towards civilization.

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What are Market Anticipations and Policy Expectations as Shares Tumble?

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On April 21st, the three major A-shares indices saw a severe drop due to a combination of local and global causes. The Shanghai Composite Index dropped 2.26%, the Shenzhen Component Index dropped 2.7%, the ChiNext Index dropped 2.17%, and the CSI 300 Index dropped 1.84%. More than 4,400 stocks fell in both cities, while industrial categories led by tourism, fertilizer, agriculture, and photovoltaics almost across the board.

As April started, the Shanghai Composite Index has fallen 7.5%, down 10.5% from the beginning of March. The CSI 300 Index has dropped 13.40% from 4,614 in early March to the current 3,995.83, which tumbled 21.31% from 5,078 in mid-December last year. Because incremental funds were not injected into the market anymore, only stock funds were up for grab. Since the middle of March, A-shares stock trading has been declining, indicating a lack of investor trust.

Researchers at ANBOUND believe that this demonstrates the market’s pessimism about the future economic situation. With the downward pressure on the economy increasing, market confidence restoration and expectations stabilization are critical to helping in the healthy development of the capital market, as well as important in maintaining growth and averting risks.

Figure 1: The Shenzhen Component Index plunging more than 4,200 in the past 4 months

Source: Sina Finance

Market institutions have generally accepted the several factors that have caused the recent severe falls in the stock market. First, the worldwide geopolitical risk of distorting the supply chain and affecting company earnings is rather high. Second, since the Federal Reserve has escalated monetary tightening, the quick reduction of the interest rate gap between China and the U.S., as well as the inversion of the RMB exchange rate, is driving the RMB exchange rate to alter, raising concerns about capital flows. Next, the resurgence of the domestic pandemic has a substantial negative influence on China’s economy, particularly in consumption and real estate as indicated in the first-quarter economic statistics, which has heightened concerns about the country’s macroeconomy. Finally, the pessimism has been accentuated by a substantial disparity between recent central bank macro policy actions and market policy expectations. As a result, as long as present internal and external concerns persist, the A-shares market is unlikely to improve much in the immediate term.

Figure 2: The Shanghai Composite Index shedding more than 600 in the past 4 months

Source: Sina Finance

Historically, the fluctuations and transformation of China’s stock market couldn’t fully reflect China’s overall economic situation. However, in terms of expectations, the shifting trend of the A-share market, by acting as a barometer of the economy, continues to illustrate the genuine expectations of capital market investors on future business and overall economic developments. As observed in the March market trend, changes in external variables have been absorbed, but recent stock market volatility is more likely to be aggravated by changes in internal elements. As a result, changes in China’s economic circumstances and policy expectations are undoubtedly the cause of the stock market’s dramatic volatility. Investors are increasingly concerned about the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreaks, as well as a lack of trust in the stability of present economic strength and the rhythm of macroeconomic measures that sustain the economy. As things stand, despite the continued implementation of measures and policies aimed at stabilizing the capital market, these policies are insufficient to boost market confidence.

The pandemic and policy declarations are not only harming the capital market but are also major variables influencing China’s economic future. Notably, the recurrence of COVID-19 is concentrated in those economically developed regions such as the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta. The scope and depth of its economic impact may surpass that of the outbreak in Wuhan in 2020. In such a case, we believe that there is a demand to put dedicated unconventional policies into place. In this regard, it is necessary to implement targeted measures to stabilize economic fundamentals based on strengthening prevention and control. On the other hand, it is also essential to promote systematic easing among macro policies to avoid the catastrophic consequences caused by shrinking demand.

Since the beginning of the year, in the framework of the Chinese central bank’s monetary policy implementation process, it has taken a cautious approach to progressively easing, which is far from the policy expectation. Although the central bank has maintained “reasonably ample liquidity” as a whole, the reality of the domestic economy indicates the private economy and a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises are unable to obtain sufficient credit support from those “accurate liquidity provisions”. Such economic structural difference requires not only targeted structural reforms, but also overall easing to achieve the dredging effect from “loose money” to “loose credit”, which would reverse the passive situation. Zhang Jun of Morgan Stanley Securities also pointed out that the policy-level “fueling tactics” will cause a waste of policy space and may also deepen the risk to diminish the expectations.

Concerning the present external limitations that limit China’s domestic measures, ANBOUND has previously stated that variables such as interest rate spreads produced by economic and policy disparities are only one of the external factors impacting China’s economy, but not the most important one. Further concern should now be given to the fundamental factors that drive economic growth and structural improvement. In terms of policy, it is imperative to enhance the ‘autonomy’ of macro policies. We should occupy this window, fundamentally reverse the economic trend, and assist the capital market to construct stable market expectations and policy expectations before the international situation undergoes further evolution, hence coping with a better response to the changes in external factors.

It would be difficult to reverse the situation after market expectations have shifted. When combined with a self-reinforcing impact, it frequently leads to a downward spiral vicious cycle in the capital market and the actual economy. Hence, it is hard to reverse market expectations without stable policy expectations. Judging from the economic data of the first quarter, the overall economy is still resilient and possesses a stable foundation. However, to achieve the economic growth target of the current year, it is still necessary to strengthen the implementation of macro policies. This is not only conducive to the stability of the capital market but for the overall economy as well.

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Economy

Education Must Come First in our Global Economic Agenda

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A 13-year-old girl solves a maths sum at a school in Gujarat, India. © UNICEF/Mithila Jariwala

With leaders gathering at this year’s World Economic Forum, it’s time to prioritize the impact investments in education bring to businesses, economies and beyond.

As all eyes turn to this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, we call on world leaders and world-leading businesses to put education at the heart our global social and economic agenda.

Education is our investment in the future, our investment in sustainable economic growth and global security, our investment in the vast potential of our collective humanity.

To realize our goals of delivering equitable, quality education to every girl and boy on the planet – especially those caught in armed conflicts, forced displacement and other protracted crises –  we must activate a global conscience and commitment, and create a value proposition that shows businesses, politicians and the general public just what an investment in quality education means for our world.

This means pre-schoolers can learn to read and write in safe environments. It means girls can become entrepreneurs and doctors – not child brides. It means boys can be teachers and lawyers – not soldiers.

It means refugee children and adolescents displaced by conflict, climate change and other crises in hot spots like Bangladesh, Colombia, the Sahel and Ukraine can go on to complete 12 years of education and become leaders of a peaceful and healthy society.

It means college and beyond, a smarter workforce, and greater socio-economic stability. It means an end to poverty and hunger, establishing gender-equality, and advancing human rights for all.  

Unravelling the challenge

This is one of the most complex problems ever to face humanity. When Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the UN’s global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises – was established in 2016, an estimated 75 million crisis-impacted children and youth did not have access to the safety, protection, hope and opportunity of a quality education. That number has risen to an estimated 200 million in recent years as we see a rise in conflicts, displacement, climate disasters and a deadly pandemic that has upended our progress to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

While a minority of people on the planet are enjoying all the comforts of modern life – and football teams sell for more than $5 billion – over 617 million children and adolescents worldwide cannot read or do basic math. That’s more than the total population of ECW’s three largest donors – Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States – combined. 

Nevertheless, to date, less than 3% of government stimulus packages have been allocated to education, and in low- and lower-middle-income countries, the share is less than 1%. We can and must increase this government funding three-fold, following the example of the European Union, which announced in 2019 that it would increase education spending to 10% of humanitarian aid.

Government aid alone isn’t enough

The private sector, businesses and philanthropic foundations like The LEGO Foundation, Dubai Cares, Verizon and Porticus are already activating significant investments into the space.

We need to bring in more funding from industries closely connected with education – like Google, CISCO and Microsoft – and from those which have a vested interest in ensuring global economic stability and resilience, like the Jacobs Foundation, Western Union and Hilton Foundations of this world.

As we embrace the spirit of Davos – “to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance” – it is clear that this is a global issue that won’t just impact the rights and life trajectories of the world’s most vulnerable children, it will impact the bottom line for businesses, disrupt global socio-economic stability, and affect us all if we don’t act immediately with decisive action and collective humanity at the forefront. 

Building together

Education Cannot Wait has already mobilized over US$1 billion over a few short years and reached approximately 5 million children, but it is simply not enough.  

In the next three years, with the support of donors, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and individuals, we need to mobilize at least an additional $1.5 billion. This needs to happen with the leadership of the G7, the resources and know-how of the private sector partners featured at this year’s World Economic Forum, and the enhanced commitments that will make headlines at this year’s Transforming Education Summit, convened by the UN Secretary-General.

This will enable ECW and our strategic partners to respond immediately and effectively to the education needs of at least 10 million children and adolescents – including 6 million girls.

Think about the ROI. This works out to just $150 per child. If each of the world’s Fortune 500 companies made just a US$15 million contribution, we could surpass our goals and reach 100,000 children per donation! That’s 50 million more children with an education, 50 million more children breaking the hunger and poverty barriers, 50 million more opportunities to provide certainty in the face of very uncertain economic times.

Think about the future. If you could future-proof your business for the next 30 years with such a simple investment, wouldn’t you do it? Investment in education is good for the bottom line. With increased security and economic opportunity in the Global South, we are opening new markets, increasing economic resilience and building a more prosperous world.

Think about the legacy. For every $1 spent on girls’ education, we generate approximately $2.80 in return. Making sure girls finish secondary education could boost the GDP of developing countries by 10% over the next decade.

Think about scale. For every dollar raised, ECW and our strategic partners are leveraging about a dollar. This grows impact exponentially.

Think about our place in history. This is our moment to transform education for those left furthest behind. Please join us in ensuring every girl and boy – no matter who or where they are – has the opportunity to go school, to learn, to grow and to achieve their potentials not just for a day, but for a lifetime.

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