Growing up in the U.S. with foreign parents was like getting a glimpse into other universes. Each summer, when we would visit Israel, I would marvel at the artists on MTV Europe -- who was Robbie Williams? And why wasn't TLC on? Every four years, my Chilean father would hole up in the basement watching the Mundial on Univision. These cultural phenomenon, which were huge in other parts of the world, were completely disconnected from Fair Lawn, New Jersey.
Nowadays, music, sport and culture spread easily across the globe. Everyone knows Shakira. The biggest hit of 2012 was Gangam Style, which was sung by a Korean artist in Korean. Memes such as the Harlem shake were recreated by YouTube enthusiasts everywhere. And the American team in the World Cup is followed closely by fans from home.
Do these universal elements of culture make us more tolerant? Can we really look at cat videos and feel like we have more in common than ever before? What about increasing protectionism, nationalism, and rising Islamophobia?
I'd like to suggest that these are two sides of the same coin. As our world becomes more closely intertwined, we want to hold on to the elements of our identity that define who we are. That is what makes today's globalised success stories so wonderful- they are uniquely and identifiably local.
As I head to Washington DC now for the Plus Social Good Gathering at the UN Foundation, I am excited to meet change makers from around the world, all working to make their communities a bit better. I want to learn more about them -- who they are, how they work -- and to adapt these best practices in a way that works for my own environment. Because in this globalised world, the local element matters more than ever.