Visualizing Policy Decisions

There are 51 topics on the “Global Issues” matrix in a format that has a box connecting every issue to every other issue. An interesting exercise is taking one of the global issues and placing Xs in each box where that issue overlaps the other issues. The example below does this for the issue of Governance. The yellow shading highlights all boxes where Governance may overlap with any other issues. The twenty-nine Xs specify those global issues that could be said to have a first-degree relationship with Governance.


Global Issues Matrix Governance example


The specter of unexpected consequences necessitates thinking about more than simply addressing the problem at hand. Just as Governance had potential interactions, good or bad, with 29 other issues, any issue in the matrix will have multiple relationships, both direct and sequential.


The matrix below illustrates a series of impacts that could start with the link between climate variability and agricultural productivity. Consider the on-going international debate concerning climate change. Among other impacts, global warming is causing some locations to become less hospitable to farming. People involved in subsistence farming are being displaced. (See the Number “1” on the matrix at the intersection of climate variability and agricultural productivity.) People displaced from marginally productive land become “climate migrants” (Number 2 on the matrix) and, without land, find themselves unemployed in urban areas and at the lowest rung of their new locality’s social structure (Number 3). Dozens of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) exist to address the needs of these migrants (Number 4). In some countries the work of NGOs is viewed as a violation of state sovereignty and they are commanded to leave (Number 5). Ultimately the need for occupational education is recognized (Number 6), and the displaced migrants are prepared to find employment (Number 7). Concurrent with these events is the technological revolution in productivity and human worker displacement (Number 8). But technology itself must adhere to standards of energy use that do not exacerbate global warming (Number 9). While limitations may be placed upon emissions from agricultural machinery, use of the machinery will still replace manual labor, displace workers, and repeat the whole cycle.


Global Issues Matrix Linkages


This is just one example – how policy-making currently underway addressing climate change will have cascading impacts on migration, education, employment, technology, and more, and on distinct localities and international relations. The matrix is a visualization tool that enables decision-makers and stakeholders to consider and debate potential repercussion, both positive and negative.

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