Holistic Management

Sustainable-development cicles

Many developed countries can brag great social and economic success over the past century and huge efforts have been made to spread this success to other societies around the world. Swedish professor Hans Roslin points out in his Gapminder project that never in history have so many humans enjoyed such a high quality of life and maintaining the current trajectory will soon enable even the poorest people enjoy a reasonable quality of life.

However, most of us acknowledge that this remarkable picture of human success is not sustainable; using up finite assets is an easy way to get rich but obviously sets up a collapse as the accumulated wealth comes to an abrupt end. Like the proverbial frog in the boiling water, we are not responding adequately to the screaming warning signals that the resource base required to sustain our species’ voracious appetites is being consumed at a far higher rate than it can regenerate.

The resulting biodiversity loss is accelerating desertification at alarming rates and, as lifeforms disappear, the carbon that made up their bodies hangs in the atmosphere causing global warming and climate change. Most scientists now agree that the environmental malfunctions are now critical and a paradigm shift in the way we behave is required urgently to avert a sixth mass extinction which threatens the survival of own progeny.

The challenge of our times must be to find a ways to achieve social and economic satisfaction dependent on a regenerating resource base.

Making decisions is far more complex than we have realised hitherto; there are many factors to consider simultaneously and even the most advanced, well educated societies have failed to ensure that social and economic growth is based on a regenerating environment.

In order to make more robust decisions, successful organisations, companies or institutions usually rely on some form of policy framework to help staff keep decisions consistent with the companies aims and objectives. These are usually designed in the form of test questions to ensure that services or products are consistent and efficient so that profit is maximised and customers are satisfied. Few of these management frameworks, however, adequately consider the wider environmental factors.

Holistic Management HM is the first comprehensive framework to help decision- makers consider social, environmental and economic factors both short and long term thus reducing unintended consequences. HM was developed by Allan Savory et al of the Savory Institute and is gaining popularity rapidly to answer the sometimes overwhelming challenge of our times.

Imagine every time any of us make a decision, we consider the reaction by all the other stakeholders effected by it, the economic implications and the way the decision will effect our environment and resources we are trying to manage… sounds cumbersome at first but once one gets used to using the framework, it gets easier and more intuitive. Grassroots Trust have invested three years testing this approach on a diverse land user communities. We have found that helping communities consider the future in a holistic context usually stimulates enough hope and enthusiasm to inspire leaders to begin mobilising collective action among their fellows. Of course it is necessary to show people the tools they can use to accelerate regeneration while making more profit. Very soon it becomes obvious that little can be achieved by individuals alone due to the common fundamental threats like fire, water and fertility.


As Grassroots Trust improves its presentation of the holistic context, and spread the concept of Holistic Management we find it easier and easier to inspire people to join the collective action required to shape a viable future.

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