More Power to Glocals!

Corrupt leaders, terrorists, nationalistic actions of superpowers and “gnomes in Zurich and other financial centres” (a term coined in 1956 by former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson) share something in common. The reach of their influence and power far exceeds the extent of their beneficiary group:

Scope of power > Scope of benefit

“Scope” can mean geographic or demographic scope. Using the language of extended benefit-cost analysis, they generate private benefits for themselves and their small group at the expense of inflicting social costs on the larger public.

In Q23 on “Know-How without Willing-To” I wrote about organizational energy and showed that

Know-How X Willing-to = Effective Action.

which is a reformulation of

Capabilities X Intentions = Potential Action

in “Cutting the (Complex) Gordian Knot.”

If we add the geographic or demographic dimension to the above formulae, we see that the geographic reach or the public scope of an actor’s capabilities is different from that of his intentions. For example, the scope of interest of a corrupt president includes only himself and his immediate family, while the scope of his power and influence is the entire government bureaucracy and the nation. A nationalistic superpower pursues only its national interests, yet its power is global. The “gnomes in Zurich” or “gnomes in Wall Street” are profit-seeking actors working for their personal or corporate interests, yet the impact of their actions is global.

Narrow interests drive their global actions.

At the opposite end is glocality (from “global” and “locality”), a new word that has gained currency among development and civil society sectors, and among expat professionals who frequently move around the globe. The word captures the essence of the injunction: “Think globally, act locally.” A glocal person is one whose area of power and influence is confined only to her immediate small locality, yet her local actions are informed from her global perspectives and interests. Glocals are opposite to corrupt leaders, terrorists, nationalistic superpowers and “gnomes in Zurich and other financial centres.”

Global interests drive their local actions.


The dysfunctional situation where geographic or public scope of power and influence of an actor exceeds the scope of his perspectives, interests or intended beneficiaries, is met across a wide variety of circumstances:

  • a virus creator introducing his creation into the Internet,
  • a corrupt public official using his powers for his own or his family’s benefit,
  • a terrorist motivated by a particularistic ideology,
  • a factory discharging wastes in a nearby stream,
  • a psychotic with a gun in a large crowd,
  • a nationalistic action of a superpower,
  • a resource cartel such as OPEC,
  • a swimmer who secretly pees in a swimming pool with many swimmers
  • a conspiratorial group of shadowy foreign exchange traders with controlling market share in a country,
  • a government-sanctioned monopoly
  • a protectionist domestic manufacturer bribing a government official to keep tariff levels high against competing foreign products,
  • pirates operating near Somalia,
  • a smoker-turned arsonist who throws his cigarette butt and starts a forest fire.

I introduced the above concepts in a paper on “Relevance of Values in the Management of Corruption” which I read at the Conference on Integrity in Governance in Asia, Bangkok, Thailand, June 1998 and in another paper on “Information Technology and Security in the 21st Century” at the Asia-Pacific Security Forum Conference in Taipei, Taiwan in December 1999.

Counter-glocal persons spend their lifetimes “climbing the ladder” whether in business or in politics, but as their power and influence expands, their interests remain narrow. They learn to become masters in manipulating the external world around them. They seek Power of the First and Second Kind (see blog posts Q9 and Q10). The world becomes a riskier and poorer world as counter-glocals attain greater power.

To become a glocal person, you do not have to travel around the globe or get appointed to a high position. All you need to do is stay where you are, expand your perspectives and take the interests of Planet Earth as your own, and express these in whatever work you are doing now. Glocals are masters in broadening their own internal world of perspectives, motives and aspirations. They practice Power of the Third Kind. The world becomes a safer and happier world as more glocals attain greater power.

May their tribe increase!

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