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social change

What happens when historians and campaigners spend a day together discussing how change happens?

Duncan Green's picture

woman offers a flower as a symbol of peace to a Military Police OfficerDuncan Green provides a series of lightbulb moments from a recent conference bringing together historians and campaigners.

Part of the feedback on last month’s post calling for a ‘lessons of history’ programme was, inevitably, that someone is already doing it. So last week I headed off to Kings College, London for a mind expanding conference on ‘Why Change Happens: What we Can Learn from the Past’. The organizers were the History and Policy network and Friends of the Earth, as part of its excellent ‘Big Ideas’ project (why haven’t the development NGOs got anything similar?) About 70 people, a mix of historians and campaigners. Great idea.

The agenda (12 UK-focussed historical case studies on everything from resistance to the industrialization of farming post World War 2 to municipal activism in Victorian Britain to why England (though not Scotland and Ireland) hasn’t had a famine since the 16th Century) was great, as was the format (panels, followed by table discussions, no Q&A).

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 
How disasters drive displacement – and what should be done about it
IRIN News
The risk of people being displaced by natural disasters has quadrupled in the last 40 years and, unless governments adopt national and global plans to address the main drivers of displacement, increasing numbers of people will lose their homes to floods, earthquakes and landslides in the future. This is the main message of a report released on Thursday by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) ahead of the third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction due to take place in Sendai, Japan in the coming days. UN member states are expected to adopt a global plan to reduce disaster risk that will build on the Hyogo Framework for Action adopted 10 years ago.  The Hyogo Framework addressed disaster risk reduction but not the risk of being displaced by a disaster..

6 Ways Technology Is Breaking Barriers To Social Change
FastCompany
We all know that technology is changing the world from artificial intelligence to big data to the ubiquity of smart phones, but many of us working to change society are just starting to understand how to harness tech forces for good. The stakes are high: Some 2 billion people continue to live on less than $2 a day. Millions of women and girls around the world lack basic human rights. Forty percent of children in U.S. urban school districts fail to graduate. A slew of initiatives address these and other intractable social issues, yet often, even the most successful ones only address a fraction of the problem.

#7 from 2014: Being a Guide Can Be More Rewarding than Running a Marathon on One's Own

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2014.
This post was originally posted on November 17, 2014


I'm often asked what I think about as I run. Usually the people who ask this have never run long distances themselves. I always ponder the question. What exactly do I think about when I'm running? I don't have a clue.”    ― Haruki Murakami
 
This reflection was inspired by the contemporary Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami, in his 2009 memoir on his obsession with running and writing while training for the New York City Marathon entitled “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.”
 
I only read two books in my life in one sitting: Quo Vadis by the Polish Novelist and Nobel Prize Laureate, Henryk Sienkiewicz, and now Marakami’s funny and sobering, playful and philosophical personal contemplation. One of the reasons why I enjoyed the story is the fact that Tokyo, New York City and Boston are cities to which I have special sentiment. Tokyo due to its magnificence as the Mega City, The Big Apple is a place where both of my kids were born, and Boston due to my daughter’s Alma Mater, which instilled in her the joy of running along the Charles River banks in Cambridge.
 
I am a former track cyclist, where speed is the winning factor; as such endurance competition translates to me as boredom and long, self-imposed unnecessary torture. My relationship with sport is love-hate mixed with a lack of interest on a good day, but when I am in, I am into it big time. In my wildest dreams, I would not have dared to envision myself as a marathon runner, but what is so appealing in it: to do something which seems impossible. I was always fascinated with the notion of turning the impossible into the possible, and I was blessed to get a semi-regular taste of these sweet moments in my life.

Being a Guide Can Be More Rewarding than Running a Marathon on One's Own

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

I'm often asked what I think about as I run. Usually the people who ask this have never run long distances themselves. I always ponder the question. What exactly do I think about when I'm running? I don't have a clue.”    ― Haruki Murakami
 
This reflection was inspired by the contemporary Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami, in his 2009 memoir on his obsession with running and writing while training for the New York City Marathon entitled “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.”
 
I only read two books in my life in one sitting: Quo Vadis by the Polish Novelist and Nobel Prize Laureate, Henryk Sienkiewicz, and now Marakami’s funny and sobering, playful and philosophical personal contemplation. One of the reasons why I enjoyed the story is the fact that Tokyo, New York City and Boston are cities to which I have special sentiment. Tokyo due to its magnificence as the Mega City, The Big Apple is a place where both of my kids were born, and Boston due to my daughter’s Alma Mater, which instilled in her the joy of running along the Charles River banks in Cambridge.
 
I am a former track cyclist, where speed is the winning factor; as such endurance competition translates to me as boredom and long, self-imposed unnecessary torture. My relationship with sport is love-hate mixed with a lack of interest on a good day, but when I am in, I am into it big time. In my wildest dreams, I would not have dared to envision myself as a marathon runner, but what is so appealing in it: to do something which seems impossible. I was always fascinated with the notion of turning the impossible into the possible, and I was blessed to get a semi-regular taste of these sweet moments in my life.

Campaign Art: Africa Stop Ebola

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Since the start of the current Ebola outbreak, music has been a part of efforts to sensitize and educate people about the disease. Artists in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three most affected countries, have produced several songs to inform people that the virus is real and "don't touch your friend".

The latest song to hit the airwaves, "Africa Stop Ebola", was written by Kandia Kora and Sekou Kouyaté, both of whom are from Guinea and are among the performers. It is based on lyrics outlined by Carlos Chirinos, a professor at New York University who specializes in music, radio and social change. The lyrics express messages of caution and comfort, warning people not to touch the bodies of the sick or deceased and encouraging them to trust doctors, wash their hands, and take proactive steps if they feel the symptoms of Ebola.

The song aims to build confidence in the public health sector through the cachet of the artists. Across West Africa, music, theater, and radio are popular media to spread public information, and performers are well- respected public figures with enough social weight that people to listen to them.

In order to ensure the song's messages are clear regardless of the level of literacy or education of the listeners, it is performed in French and local languages widely understood across the region.
 
Africa Stop Ebola

It is Our Future. Include Us Now!

Ieva Žumbytė's picture

A few years ago I was on the streets alongside fellow students protesting against spending cuts to education and rising tuition fees in the U.K.  Although the government’s decisions did not apply to me directly (at the time I was finishing my studies), I empathized with the many students who faced increasing challenges in attaining higher education. We were protesting against a move which would limit the future choices for youth, and we did not think it was good policy to penalize the future due to the pains of the present.
 
Now I look at the events of the past three years as a social scientist. Globally, the youth cohort is the largest in history and it has increasing demands for opportunities, voice and justice – a global cry for social inclusion. The newly launched World Bank report Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity notes – “The Arab Spring may have been one of the most costly reactions to exclusion of educated youth.” But as one of those born into what media has called a ‘lost generation,’ I rather see us as a driving force for change in the current socio-economic and political environment. We can argue about the extent of our impact, but we are clearly a spark for discourse and action.

Underpinning almost every protest and social change movement – and even causing them – are young people, mostly students, or unemployed graduates, many of whom are now sadly being called “lost”. Young people are often more emotional, idealistic, passionate and less cautious about the consequences of their actions, and very often the ones who fight for the causes they believe in (remember the 14-year-old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai?). We are high-tech savvy and exploit social media to connect, organize groups, gatherings, events and use it to expose malfeasances. We want to be heard and be listened to, and at the forefront of global protests. We demand better alternatives for the sake of all people.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Mashable
Will Killing Google Reader Increase Global Censorship?

“After Google unceremoniously announced it would be killing Reader later this year, much of the outraged response focused on its use in the U.S.

But there's a whole other aspect to the service: for thousands of users around the world, it's one of the few ways they can get around their country's censors.”  READ MORE

Interview with Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Director of "Miss Representation"

Maya Brahmam's picture

At a screening at the World Bank of Miss Representation on March 8, I had the opportunity to interview the film's director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. What struck me during the interview was Newsom's firm commitment to changing how women and girls are portrayed in the mainstream media and her use of social media to instigate a conversation and advocate for change. Newsom also mentions that she wants to build a bridge to men and boys, who are a big part of the solution and talks about an upcoming project aimed at men and boys. Hope the interview provides some insights and provokes discussion.

Maya Brahmam's Interview with Jennifer Siebel Newsom

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Citizens In Want of Stamina

Sina Odugbemi's picture

This is the age of hopeful citizens where in almost every part of the globe citizens are mobilizing, marching and, often successfully, pushing for change. But this is also the age of increasingly frustrated citizens. In some cases, the frustration is occasioned by the failure to achieve changes in regimes even after an astonishing sequence of heroic efforts and sacrifices by citizens. In other cases, the efforts originally appeared successful. Long-entrenched dictators fell and citizens were ecstatic, believing glorious days were imminent. Yet, in many of these cases, one disappointment is jumping on top of another. Change is proving far more difficult to achieve; it is even proving elusive.

The Earth is Dying, So What?

Darshana Patel's picture

Public awareness campaigns about climate change can be real downers. This one was too scary for children and was eventually pulled off the air. This one scared even the adults and was pulled off the air within hours of its release.

Doom and gloom scenarios seem to be the dominant theme in most of these campaigns. But are they working? According to Futerra’s Sell the Sizzle, these campaigns completely miss the target with this type of negative messaging.  While it is true that climate change is aggravating problems like mass migration, overcrowded cities, and food shortages, our message need not be about Armageddon. We are trying to sell a version of climate change hell when we should be selling a low-carbon heaven, argues Futerra

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