This is neither a geography question nor a simple academic concern. This question is the first step for anyone seeking proactive solutions to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, global climate change, food security, equity, racial and gender discrimination, and just about any other social ill one can imagine. For, if we haven’t learned to think beyond borders, and we don’t know how to help others do it, how can we expect to overcome the hurdles of economics, diversity of values and thought, and geography - the borders - that stand between misdirected actions and proactive solutions?
Thinking beyond borders is a process requiring specific skills. The better we are at these skills, the greater our capacity to offer leadership toward meaningful change. Such leaders work not only to understand diverse perspectives, but also to relate to them. They question their own assumptions about who they are and how the world works. They identify their core values and test them against the reality of others. Effective questioning serves them as a more important tool than articulating “answers”. Humility, compassion, and empathy serve these individuals as guiding principles not only with those that share their vision, but especially with those who oppose it. Critical analysis serves as a tool for personal reflection more than an opportunity to critique others.
Our world cannot wait for leaders who just happen to learn these lessons throughout the course of their lives. The global community and the challenges that await us must have dynamic agents of change working throughout society who have been trained to wield these skills with purpose and vision. Thinking Beyond Borders’ Gap Year Programs do exactly this. TBB has taken up this critical task by creating a learning experience designed to recruit high potential students and develop each participant’s skill set. The field-based curriculum, structured mentoring process for personal growth, and opportunities to translate learning into action are interwoven to build unrivaled capacities for proactive leadership.
As long as our society faces challenges, there will be well-intentioned individuals and communities working to address them. However, when we invest in young leaders to develop the fundamental skills needed to envision and create proactive change, we empower them and the people they will lead for a lifetime. These critically conscious individuals and groups are distinct from the simply well-intentioned; those who think beyond borders are uniquely capable of designing and working toward solutions that are truly just, equitable, and sustainable.