Social Awareness -> Social Change, in the middle: Civic Engagement

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Today I took some time and watched Billions in ChangeThis short film centers on Manoj Bhargava, the creator of Five Hour Energy Drink, and his philanthropic work.  And let me tell you, it was quite inspiring.  The work he is doing will change the world.  His inventions shop, Stage 2 Innovations is creating inventions and technologies that will make a difference in everyone’s life, but they concentrate on;

“inventing stuff that makes a difference in other people’s lives. Specifically,  focusing on inventions that can help the poorer half of the world make their lives better, that’s what we define as a great invention.” 

As a Mass Communications professor, I teach the technologies of media but believe that as “the media”, and good people, we are responsible for creating social awareness/social change in our world.  I work this into as much of my curriculum as possible.

But in order to get from Social Awareness to Social Change, we need to create Civic Engagement.  WE are the change.  Building a website or create a documentary that makes people aware of what needs to be done for a better world, is a start, but it is the call to action that creates the real change.

I am building my Advanced Technologies class around the creation of an Interactive Documentary for Social Change.  The students choose a cause or social campaign that they believe in, create several videos that build the understanding of the cause and then use the tools of technology and social media to create the awareness.  But the project is not complete unless there is Civic Engagement and some form of Social Change.  The engagement can be represented in analytics, feedback and interaction from audience/users.

One of my challenges with this course it creating the excitement in my students to want to get involved with a cause, any cause.  According to the Journal for Civic Engagement, recent years have witnessed a decline in civic engagement among college students.

I thought I would look into how to best develop Social Awareness/Civic Engagement/Social Change for my students.

Beginning with Social Awareness, a definition:

A socially aware individual values human rights and acknowledges the importance of harmonious social interaction for the developmental progress of human beings.

Civic Engagement:

Civic engagement refers to the ways in which citizens participate in the life of a community in order to improve conditions for others or to help shape the community’s future.

Social Change:

A range of typical social and civic outcomes from increased awareness and understanding, to attitudinal change, to increased civic participation, the building of public will, to policy change that corrects injustice

Looking at these three definitions helps me to begin laying out the plan of action for my students work.  The student will create a project which, focuses on a social issue, values human/animal rights, and gives the opportunity for citizens to participate in order to create increased awareness and understanding.

To do this, here are a few ideas to follow:

  • Use deeds, not pleas to bring change- Don’t just talk, Do SOMETHING
  • Use what you have-Work with the resources you have
  • Create compelling, personal stories for support
  • Speak a language everyone understands-don’t get fancy, get real
  • Small scale changes may be an essential component of persistence on a larger scale
  • To go far, go together-convince people to join your passion

The hope is for the excitement to come from the creativity and caring, and maybe they just might learn something.

This again, is a work in progress.  It would be great to have input from colleagues who are working with this now.  I welcome any response or shares on my website, MCATshare.com

The MCATshare.com website is dedicated to creating a place for teachers and students(of any age) to go and find ways to use Media Communications and Technology to change the world.  Please visit, learn and share!

Thank you!

References:
Mochari, I. Inside the Mind of the Billionaire Who Built the 5-Hour Energy Empire Retrieved from: http://www.inc.com/ilan-mochari/5-hour-energy-billions-in-change.html
Bridgman, M. Encouraging Civic Engagement on College Campuses.  Retrieved from: http://ccncce.org/articles/encouraging-civic-engagement-on-college-campuses-through-discussion-boards/
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