Champions of the Global Goals: Chirag Patil
“Of all the problems that Indian people face, which one, according to you, is the most serious?”
Matt Combs, YourCause CEO, was asking me on a busy street of Jabalpur (India) while our driver fixed the flat tire of our car in a barebones garage. We were trying to make it in time to a coworker’s wedding, but it looked like we had no option but to stand there and wait.
Matt was in a culture shock. In his few trips to India he had seen traffic jams, people as well as animals walking on the street. He already knew about the caste system, corruption, poor quality education and infrastructure. He had also seen beautiful sceneries, skyscrapers, immense diversity and the unity in diversity. I could see that he was confused, yet fascinated by the layers of complexity.
As I tried to answer that question, my brain conjured a rough outline of a PowerPoint slide with all the socio economic issues represented by big boxes connected to each other forming a giant scary web. Here’s how I picture it:
And don’t even get me started on the countless tiny circles, representing other smaller issues, I imagine sprouting around every box.
But there is no one word answer to Matt’s question. We would be setting ourselves up for failure if we tried to solve any one issue alone. Charity and donations would temporarily reduce a poor person’s dearth of money but they won’t create jobs or improve quality of life. Only concentrating on improving the infrastructure of a country wouldn’t reduce the socio-economic gap in the society. And better education alone cannot eliminate all the unemployment. We cannot solve one problem while ignoring the rest.
My goal: No Poverty
But as a national of a developing nation, the goal that is closest to my heart is ending extreme poverty.
Another time in the same trip, Matt saw a pile of trash by the road in an upper-middle class community and asked me, “Why?!” As I was about to explain, a woman walked out of a nice looking two-story house and hurled a plastic bag full of trash across the street aimed at the pile on the other side of the road. The bag flew across the front of our car and exploded on the side of the road, vomiting its contents everywhere. The lady had long disappeared back into her house, not interested in the outcome of possibly her only athletic endeavor of the day.
That lady represents our general attitude, rich and poor alike, toward the problems we face. We choose to avert our eyes from the problems that are staring right back at us which, more often than not, contribute to slowly morph into a huge crisis. When that crisis starts affecting us directly, we take the easy way out by trying to fix it using half-baked measures. Poverty is defined as “the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support.” But truly it is the lack of compassion and action in a society. Poverty is not the problem it’s merely one of the many symptoms of the actual problems.
My problems are your problems
We face global issues because we are a global society. When the fraudulent credit default swaps bring down Wall Street, it also affects businesses in China. And the rising pollution in China causes ozone destruction in the western U.S. We cannot afford to ignore our neighbor’s problems because very soon they will be ours. But we also have a unique advantage in that, for the first time, world leaders can join forces and decide on strategies together. Under the roof of United Nations, 193 world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Global Development by 2030. They have chosen specific targets that provide a framework and metrics for each goal. Last week (Sep 18th to 25th) was the Global Goals week. A week that is supposed to help keep the momentum going on after exactly a year since finalizing the goals. An annual week of action, awareness and accountability for Sustainable Development.
And they will need help from each one of us. So pick your goal and start making a difference.
Let’s stop relieving the symptoms and let’s start treating the root causes. Let’s stop blindly donating and let’s start investing in people. Let’s stop building businesses that do CSR out of obligation and instead let’s start building businesses with the social responsibility at their core. Let’s replace pity with compassion. Let’s stop toxic charity and let’s start philanthropy.
Let’s stop ignoring. Let’s stop procrastinating. Let’s start acting.
Learn more about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and see how you can support Global Goal 1 – No Poverty.