There is an African proverb – “a single bracelet does not jingle”. It is a good illustration to the general idea of how a social change could be achieved. The simple conclusion to the proverb is that when there are many bracelets, they will be able to produce sounds by rubbing or hitting against one another while a person is carrying or shaking them. In other words, they will generate some effect unattainable for one bracelet, and this effect is achieved by means of interaction and cooperation of the units, in this case - bracelets. However, in the case of people living in a certain community, it is only by mutual organized effort that a social change can be brought about. It is not meant to say that individual efforts are not important. On the contrary, efforts of a certain person will be especially effective with relation to the people he or she knows and interacts with. We can call such people one’s circle of influence. However, the problem with one’s circle of influence is that it is incomparably limited if contrasted with the impact of an organized group of people who collectively try to implement a change. On the other hand, if we put together the diligent individual efforts of many people, they will form into a considerable impact on the community and, thus, produce the social change required in the given area. People from a given community can be organized by means of text messaging or online campaigns informing them of the needs of the community and the ways how individuals can help through an organized team effort. They can be organized for more effective garbage collection, greening the communities, preventing the community youth from dropping out of school etc. People can be brought together for launching a grassroots organization serving, for example, the underprivileged and working class residents of a certain community. Likewise, such organizations can help residents comprehend and handle the issues of racial as well as economic injustice, and help develop the skills and leadership qualities to make wise vitally important individual decisions.
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Let me bring up several social change models. Direct Service is a social change model focused on helping others by providing what they need, for example, food, clothes or shelter (e.g. Red Cross). Self Help model is about a group of people trying to help themselves on their own. A popular example is Alcoholics Anonymous group meetings. An environmental advocacy group is an example of a group which would speak on behalf of other members of the community to prevent further pollution of a certain area. Direct-Action Organizing is about taking an active and forceful stand (usually non-violent) against an evident problem. An example of a direct action is a strike. Self-help, I believe, is the most powerful way of social change model, since in all other ways one has to rely on others either to help people in need or generally respond in some manner to their problem. The community that is able to do well in creating self-help grassroots organizations is strong enough in facilitating such a setting for the target groups where its members are able to learn from one another, share experience, encourage and eventually change one another just because they are together and interact openly. Usually such organizations help the community members to change on the inside, like in the case with Alcoholics Anonymous groups, which is a much more difficult achievement compared with direct action organizations’ efforts, which help mainly people’s physical needs. The main component of a Self-help organization’s success is, I believe, its focus on following a certain program, like “12 Steps” of the AA groups, and mutual accountability. It happens when people know that others depend on their behavior as well as they depend on the behaviour of others. It is the principle of mutual dependence, which, I believe, is the strongest motivation for a social change.
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