A short 20-second video with various animated maps showing scenes and data from all over the world

Problem-solving with a geographic approach

As we confront the greatest issues of our time, one factor is crucial—geography.

What is the geographic approach?

Our most serious challenges—such as climate change, sustainability, social inequity, and global public health—are inherently spatial. To solve such complex problems, we must first understand their geography.

The geographic approach is a way of thinking and problem-solving that integrates and organizes all relevant information in the crucial context of location. Leaders use this approach to reveal patterns and trends; model scenarios and solutions; and ultimately, make sound, strategic decisions.

An animated digital map of Europe showing pollution hotspots in orange and yellow, overlaid on a photo of diplomats meeting to discuss policies

Monitoring the earth’s health

The European Environment Agency tracks air quality and pollution levels to better inform policy decisions across the continent.

A geographic approach provides clarity

Geography is a way of pulling all key information about an issue together, expanding the questions we can ask about a place or a problem and the creative solutions we can bring to bear. 

Science based and data driven

A geographic approach relies on science and data to understand problems and reveal solutions.

Holistic and inclusive

A geographic approach considers how all factors are interconnected, uniting data types by what they have in common—location.


Maps are a powerful foundation for communication and action—a way to create shared understanding, explore alternatives, and find solutions.

A digital animation of the Port of Rotterdam with traffic illuminated as it moves around the port, overlaid on a photo of a man next to a shipping container entering information onto a tablet

Making the most out of complex data

Mapping all kinds of data about a system such as the Port of Rotterdam offers a full perspective, revealing opportunities to operate more efficiently.

Mapping transforms data into understanding

With so much data having a location component, a geographic approach provides a logical foundation for organizing, analyzing, and applying it. When we visualize and analyze data on a map, hidden relationships and insights emerge.

Geography delivers a dynamic narrative

Maps tell stories about places—what's happening there now, what has happened, and what will happen next.

Maps are an accessible analytic platform

Maps help us grasp concepts and tap into a visual storytelling language we intuitively understand.

High-resolution imagery comes to life

When viewed on a map, imagery transforms from static snapshots to compelling stories that enhance understanding.

A short video shows a true to life 3D version of San Francisco, then zooms in and changes to white building renderings with areas highlighted in pink along transit lines, overlaid on an image of someone riding a bicycle

Visualizing how to improve mobility

This 3D map of San Francisco demonstrates how walkability and transportation access (shown in pink) improve with planned transit service expansions.

Cutting-edge technology magnifies the power of geography

Geography is being revitalized by a world of sensors and connectivity and made more powerful by modern geographic information system (GIS) software. With today's sophisticated digital maps, we can apply our best data science and analysis to convert raw data into location intelligence—insights that empower real-time understanding and transform decision-making.

Learn about Esri's geospatial technology
An animated dashboard shows a simplified view of New York City with the live locations of buses and traffic incidents

Managing real-time operations

This live dashboard view of buses and traffic incidents in New York City combines historical and real-time data to avoid delays and keep people safe.

Global challenges require a geographic approach


Leaders use a geographic approach to guide the most successful sustainability projects and actualize resilience.

Learn about sustainability
A map of Southern California with areas marked in red to show the results of a green infrastructure analysis


A geographic approach to planning, prioritization, and operations helps leaders understand how infrastructure projects relate to surrounding environments.

View infrastructure management
A detailed 3D vector model of Cincinnati, Ohio shows buildings and individual contoured trees to help inform planning for 5G networks.

Climate Impacts

Leaders who need to understand climate change impacts rely on a geographic approach to build actionable climate change solutions.

Learn more about climate risk
A map of the Pacific Northwest shows air quality in colors ranging from green to dark red, poor air quality being a result of wildfires across the region
Dark color world map showing biodiversity hotspots in orange and blue

Location matters more than ever

Geographic knowledge creates essential context. We can't manage our world without it—whether it's global supply chain issues, equitable internet access in the US, or energy consumption for a multinational company. As we work together to address today’s challenges, a geographic approach, powered by GIS, will help map the common ground we need to inspire effective action.

Applying a geographic approach across all sectors

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Find out how a geographic approach can elevate your organization's work.