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  • Rose Challies

Why don't we act to prevent? The social change mystery


The way that society predominantly responds to social issues is perhaps understandable but unbelievably illogical. Yet the 'brightest' minds continue to commit time and effort and resources to the same thing over and over - innovative ways to deal with the issue once it is there. Where is the action for prevention?!

For example, I struggle to congratulate people who find ways to recycle plastic but in no way act to prevent the making of plastic, the choosing of plastic or the use of it in the first place. It's not that I am not in admiration of the time, energy and resources to find a creative way to reuse plastic, it just seems to be completely out of balance with the time, energy and resources to reduce, get rid of, eliminate plastic production in the first place. It's a bit like celebrating the marine ecosystem that a shipwreck has created but not addressing the damage the boat made first, the lack of a lighthouse, the exploitation of its waters. We are so quick to celebrate new innovations, new impacts but so much less insistent on stopping the situations arising again - doing the hard yards to get to the crux of the situation.

Why don't we automatically go there? Why don't we act to prevent things that clearly are in our control to do? We tend to accept that the 'problem' is there and it's our responsibility to respond to it, but we are much less good at being responsible for actions we could take to prevent in the first place.

I attended a conference once, where there were a range of experts and non-profit leaders, and they were discussing how terrible a particular country was for exploiting resources. How something ought to be done to stop them exploiting resources - sanctions, campaigns, protests, lots of other ideas warmly received by the group. I waited and waited for someone to state the obvious but it didn't come, so I popped my hand up and the compere said "yes, the woman with her hand up..." so I said "shouldn't we take responsibility for having created the demand from this country that exacerbates the exploitation - perhaps our main action ought to be a campaign to stop demanding products we don't really need". There was silence, no comments, no nodding agreement, no murmurs of 'good point'. Nothing. Then someone changed the subject.

The thing about getting to prevention is we may have to challenge our involvement, our complacency, our responsibility, in not doing something to stop it happening in the first place.

If we truly want change, we have to be prepared to support prevention work. Also, we need to value those who dedicate their lives to it and be far more critical of those who only address after the fact. Balance will be achieved when we all work together to ensure action for prevention, especially by those who want to make a difference in the world. Rather than finding innovative solutions, perhaps we could simply support the work that helps us be better humans in the first place.

One of the most effective preventative measures, taken by some of the best charitable organisations I've seen, is providing love, care and support at critical times. I have seen amazing results by people who provide preventative programmes to protect and sustain environments before they are exploited, to support a child in the first few years of life and into education - care and support before a crisis. Imagine a world where every single child and their parents and their teachers are cared for? Can you imagine the change that would happen?! No fancy app or tool will substitute the love and care of another human being and it is one of the most effective preventative measures out there. Imagine if we all started to support that. Imagine if we all started to demand that.

If people really want social change there has to be more responsibility for prevention. Demand for basic social needs such as love, care, a home, warmth, good substantial food, is on the up and yet there is no move to up the amount of resources committed to prevention. If social change is to happen, it will start there. Some say it's building a fence at the top of the cliff instead of providing an ambulance at the bottom. I say, why don't we make sure we are not living on the edge of the cliff.

#socialneed #socialchange #socialimpact #socialproblem #prevention

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