Mapping Dialogue for Social Change


We live in a world of
increasing complexity, where answers have a short life-span and
people have an inherent desire to
solve their own problems. Therefore, creating dialogue and mapping how it
evolves can be a useful way to stimulate social change according to Pioneers of
Change.

We live in
a world of
increasing
complexity
where answers
have a
short
life-span.
–Zaid Hassan

We live in a world of increasing complexity where answers have a short life-span and people have an inherent desire to solve their own problems, according to Zaid Hassan, a writer and facilitator of community dialogue. He makes this observation on the website World Changing.com.

These two points grabbed me. The first–that answers have a short life-span–seems so simple and so obvious, yet so often overlooked. If you’re like me, you want answers that stick and that can be applied for the long term. But the world doesn’t always work that way.

We attempt to apply old solutions to new problems and they don’t fit. This is one of the great challenges facing institutions such as mainline denominations and labor unions.

We act as if organizational structures are fixed and we make it nearly impossible to change them. But the problems they were designed to address are changing, sometimes imperceptibly, sometimes quite dramatically. There’s an interesting discussion starting about myspace.com. Are youth moving on to other gathering places? The evidence isn’t firm yet but if this is so it’s interesting since Rupert Murdoch bought the site to reach a young audience for Fox television. But answers have a short life span. The My Space solution may be old hat. Kids may be moving on.

The second–people want to solve their own problems–is more than a truism. It plays out in many ways. People want to take a hammer and build a house with Habitat. They want to have direct contact with partners who are attempting to create change and they do this by volunteering and working directly with those partners and not through an intermediary. They want to interpret and analyze situations with their own knowledge and tend to distrust third party analysis. Isn’t that what mistrust of the mainline media is about?

In this environment facilitating dialogue is a valuable and welcome role. But it requires a fundamental shift in thinking for institutions that have long thought they had the answers and their responsibility was to bring the ill-informed along. That role today is being rejected, for good or ill, and a new model is taking shape. It’s a model based on dialogue and participation. Given encouragement, it could change the world.

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