Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Local and Global Optimums: transformative moments in Cape Town


I’ve written about local and global optimums before, and I used this image of them during my keynote in Cape Town last August. The event was called Symposium: Making a plan ā€“ the reality of growing new forms of digital teaching and learning provision.

Local and global optimum

And I went through a transformative process where my original keynote message was different from the message I gave in my response talk at the end of the event!

My original point, when mentioning local and global optimums, was that when you have a goal, e.g to enhance equity, you may find yourself at a local optimum and feel proud of yourself. Each time you take a step from the top of your mountain, left or right, you find yourself going down, not up, so you keep going back to your local optimum, which is the best thing you can see. You may settle there and think there’s no better… but actually, if you look further, you will see that there may be a higher optimum out there. My original point is, when aiming for equity, always try to imagine that you can do better.

During the course of the conference, and seeing how other people throughout South Africa had such different contexts from each other, and how what is “best” for one context may be different from another, and what is feasible within their resources and constraints were so broadly different, that I changed my messaging. My message in the closing response to the conference was actually that in each of our own contexts, we need to discover where our local optimum is and reach for it: what is the best option for your context that is feasible with your circumstances and resources? And this means that different institutions will have different local optimums and that is just fine!

This can clearly be extrapolated to apply to something like best practices and how there really aren’t best practices that work in edu for all contexts, but practices that are good for certain contexts and purposes. These aren’t universal, but some may have more wide-ranging transferability than others. There may be something better out there, but maybe it’s not for every context and resources.


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