chris newman

General Practitioner, NHS

This conversation is closed.

How to effect social change most...effectively??

I currently live in Colombia, and on Sunday there will be a peaceful masked march in Cali against corruption, rather like V for Vendetta. It is a ´general ´protest, against corruption as a whole.

It got me thinking. ´Is this going to affect anything?´

Of course it wont, the corrupt politicians, officials, police etc will all be sitting at home laughing at the futility of it all.

Protests such as these, against building new highways, closing hospitals, don’t achieve anything. The government will not react to a peaceful march unless it suits them. Unless it will help them to get re-elected.

The thought of a huge protests gives me mixed emotions. Happy because lots of people the world over CARE about their world.

Sad because the average citizen, even a huge group of them, is almost powerless to effect change in the things that really matter.

The ´best protest´ at the moment is the hunger strike chap – Anna Hazare – in India, because he is being a leader and motivating others to stand up and be counted.

But the reason his protest might work is because
1) It is against something specific: a parliamentary bill which does not go far enough, something physical which could be changed easily.
2) He is putting his safety on the line, making it more personal. And the government has reacted, causing civil unrest. Governments listen to generalized focused civil unrest (as opposed to feral rioting and looting like in London).
3) It is against corruption, and this is something about which there is no argument, there is no black and white – corruption is wrong.

I believe that are a LOT of like minded people interested in the same things, but we never focus our energies on the same problem at the same time or in the right way. If we can do that then perhaps ´people power´ can achieve something.

So what is the best way to make governments listen and change, with those things that are a little less black and white,3rd world poverty, environmental exploitationfor example?

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    Aug 19 2011: So an idea on how to best effect change...

    1) Join forces and recruit: There are lots of people in various groups/societies eg TED who want a better world but we are not united in one place with focus on one issue.
    2) Agree on a specific goal of ´what we want the government to change´. To use a business tool, the goal should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). If a modicum of success could be achieved with something smaller first, it would create hope and momentum for larger things.
    3) Educated discussion: what is the current situation, why the current situation has occurred, how it can change for the better, laws and impediments to change, and negative aspects of change (e.g. economic). There are many essays/books /websites written about how best to deal with our current world problems. Essentially any campaign needs to have a workable solution to the problem that we want to government(s) to implement, which should be in writing, clearly thought out and ideally with backing or input from a recognized authority on the subject.
    4) Get backing from politicians, celebrities, media etc.
    5) Use of appropriate tools to stimulate public interest: eg Mass Media (facebook, twitter) Viral videos, Petitions, Marches, Stand in Protests, Hunger strikes (if governments really do fail to listen…).
    6) Demand of a debate in Parliament/Congress and a written reply to the document.

    Essentially any change that improves the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves would financially impact ourselves. However if an organization could be formed that could help turn our society slightly more democratic, the increased sense of power and decreased sense of hopelessness amongst the masses would perhaps make up for it!

    II have little experience in activism up to now. So I´d love some comments, suggestions, advice etc.
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  • Aug 28 2011: Possibly a bioterrorism.

    Alternatives would be lots of social networking, activism, spreading ideas, educating people, participating in government maybe, becoming a public servant? But don't worry things are changing gradually for better - generally, and will continue to do so unless some idiot starts a bloody revolution, which will have dysgenic effects on human population in general and will roll us backwards somewhat.
  • K JAI

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    Aug 28 2011: A great activist never gives up'

    Public awareness/education is essential to creating change

    You be true to your beliefs others will follow

    Radio/DVDs street art lobbying governments 'you do everything you can"

    "never give up '
  • Aug 23 2011: Too many people think of power flowing downwards. The king/president/prime minister being at the top of the pyramid, and making the calls he wants, the rest of us having no choice but to obey, or we could be severely repressed. We can ask for social change, and hope the elite will give it to us, but if they don't there's nothing we can do short of taking up arms, right?

    Wrong. Power flows upwards. A tyrant's ability to rule is directly dependent of everyone else's willingness to cooperate. This is what was discovered by Eugene de La Béotie, David Henry Thoreau, Ghandi, Martin Luther King and several others.

    Protests don't work because they have no coercitive value. Tyrants don't change their policies just because you ask nicely. They have to be made to change. They have to be made to understand, they will lose more from keeping their policies than changing them.

    Protests are still useful as a means to get the message across and gaining public support. You need that to win. By all means, use all institutional devices at your disposition : protests, petitions, marches, letters to the media, letters to your local officials, etc. Try these in good faith. If the government gives you what you want, you win. If he doesn't, it becomes more obvious to the casual observer that they are ignoring the will of the people.

    What change governmental policies are massive amount of people refusing to cooperate with the system. Boycotts, strikes, blockades... A protest can work if everyone there is resolute about refusing to leave until their demands are met. Numbers have to be big. Arrestations and police brutality is to be expected, but this will just help your cause in the end ("Wait, the government would rather arrest hundreds of citizens who are peacefully protesting, rather than ordering a public investigation on matters of corruption?")

    In the end, if your strategy is sound and you persevere, you stand a pretty good chance bringing about social change in your community.
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    Aug 22 2011: Hi Chirs,
    I am personally tied to this discussion because I am Colombian, and it is interesting to me that you have been intrigued by the current situation, although obviously this is a problem that we face all over the world.
    I have only one word for you, and anyone who has ever tried to effect change:


    Whatever the strategy is, if it is not kept up long enough, through the indifference, the hatred and any bad circumstances, it will not have any effect at all.
    You would think that it goes without saying, but it is very easy for fed up citizens to give up on a cause because the opposition has been to great, or they have been waiting for too long.

    There are many cycles to break, and corruption is the biggest of them all, it leaks into every aspect of our daily lives and though most of us ignore it,or are not even aware of it, it grows immensely as it engulfs more countries, takes what belongs to them, enslaves them, and leaves them to die slowly as it simultaneously destroys their environment.

    We are in urgent need of change!
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    Aug 21 2011: I don't know. The CIA is pretty good at taking down governments, no? Maybe just people are incapable of bringing justice from the corrupt. Maybe it takes corruption of the good people to bring good out of the corrupt.
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    Aug 20 2011: BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED. Only heart to heart connections will bring peace within and without.
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    Aug 19 2011: I have basically no experience in activism.. and I don't know a lot of all the technicalities they use to bend the rules in favor of their pockets, but I'm very happy to see that you're trying to get people to expose and tear down corruption :^) And yes, slowly gaining weight in things feeling more democratic and less hopeless could definitely help sway things for the better! Far better!
    Thank you for being an outstanding human being! I am but a cheerleader at the moment, but hopefully more people who understand the inner-workings of the beast's underbelly will join together and get some really good ideas rolling in motion :D