The Overview Effect and Social Impact

Often – I find that the best ways of understanding and explaining social entrepreneurship comes from examples outside of the legal and/or start-up worlds.   This time, however, I found an interesting analogy that is quite literally out of this world.  It came in the form of the concept of “The Overview Effect.”  First identified by author Frank White in his 1987 book, “The Overview Effect — Space Exploration and Human Evolution,”  The Overview Effect describes the feelings and emotions of astronauts in space as they view earth.

Recently, Mr. White, through his Overview Institute, released this incredible video detailing The Overview Effect.  It is well worth 20 minutes of your time:


The astronauts in the video describe viewing the earth as a livi

ng organism.  The oceans, land, clouds, lightning storms, and even the lights illuminating our cities at night, create a visual of earth that is alive.  It is this experience that profoundly impacts their view of our culture and of the need to balance our society  on the planet.  The need to carve out a sustainable existence.

From space – the individuals in the video talk about the fragility of the ozone, of how the land masses passing underneath them illustrate how the planet is truly a single “ecosystem,” impacted by the actions of everyone.

At a very core level, The Overview Effect describes the realization of sustainability as a necessity, not an option.  It is a great example of the motivation and understanding driving many of today's social enterprises and social entrepreneurs.