Social Accountability and Abundance: Are We Connecting the Dots?

Posted on August 27, 2014 by

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photo courtesy WaterProject.org

photo courtesy WaterProject.org

As we continue our series on #SocialChange with a Social Accountability focus, I can’t help noticing the success of the ALS #IceBucketChallenge. For me, it ended as it did for many with a $100 check being sent to a good cause. 

But I was also intrigued by a thought shared by Sharon Mostyn in last week’s #smchat, while reflecting on its marketing aspects:

My gears went into overdrive at this point.

Follow me on this line of thinking. Can our Western culture, approaching social change from a position of relative abundance, truly hope to “connect the dots” with people around the world with a fundamentally different stake?  Do we truly get poverty?  Can we comprehend what it means to live that way?

To unpack this, let’s start with a list of abundance areas, to set some context. We’ll be generalizing of course, but it’s to get us thinking. In the West, relative to most of the world and the 3rd world in particular, we have an abundance of:

  • Freedom (speech, relgion)
  • Clean water
  • Diverse food supplies
  • Safety, shelter, health and quality of life
  • Educational opportunities
  • Employment

So what happens when we launch social change efforts in areas of the world where these things are NOT abundant? Owing to human nature, we are quite likely to view the world through a Western lens. We have trouble focusing on, connecting with, or even understanding what it means to not have those things. So when we seek to help, we can easily come across as out of touch, condescending, less than genuine .. or worst case, self serving.

Abundance is a blessing, but it can blind us. We take much for granted. And it impacts our ability to embrace #socialchange more deeply.

If we’re serious about enabling and advancing social change, it seems to me we need to do more to open our eyes, to see the world without Western filters. Social accountability demands it. So let’s unpack what that means:

  • Q1. What happens when our words/actions don’t align? #socialchange
  • Q2. Can we support multiple causes when their circumstances (or ours!) may be in conflict (clean water example)?
  • Q3. What steps can open our eyes enough to truly unlock and empower #socialchange
  • Q4. Do these points change our definition of social #accountability?

To end the generalization, it’s worth noting:  we do NOT want to minimize domestic shortfalls in food, water, health or housing that are closer to home. There is certainly a need for #socialchange at our doorstep. But the benefits of opening our eyes and our hearts can reap benefits everywhere, around the world and closer to home, wherever we are able to focus our time and energy.

We’ll continue to expand on these ideas as we work to define the building blocks of a Social Change framework.  I hope you will join our conversation, this WEDS 8/27 at 1pm ET.  We’ll be tweeting with hashtags: #smchat #socialchange

See you online!

Chris aka @sourcepov

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Posted in: Social Change