Last night, Madison Alder Shiva Bidar issued a public advocacy challenge on her Facebook page when she posted the following message:
Tired of people who are against everything. How about focus on things you can be for and change? Don’t throw stones, build a house.
Her challenge to our community was well stated. We live in a data driven world fueled by social media. For many people, this results in posting complaints about what is wrong with the world on Facebook or Twitter, without offering or providing actual solutions.
In my hometown, 2 major problems that we spend more time admiring and insufficient effort solving, are our insufficient housing and services for people who are homeless, and the longstanding racial disparities in employment, criminal justice and education. These problems have been analyzed and displayed for our community over and over again, and yet, the problems persist because too many people spend too much time admiring the problem instead of rolling up their sleeves to solve it.
Certainly, none of us has the capacity to solve every problem which we face. There are many obstacles which we all encounter: insufficient time, resources and expertise are just a few.
However, the daunting challenge of confronting large societal problems with real solutions cannot excuse the far too frequent lapse into ranting about our problems without actually doing anything to solve them. Despite each of our own personal challenges, every person has the capacity to be a problem solver. For some, solving problems may be at a very local level, helping build community in one’s neighborhood, or volunteering to help struggling children at your local school. It only takes a few minutes to write a letter or e-mail to your local officials to propose common sense solutions to community problems.
Last week, the media trumpeted the fact that 47% of Wisconsin’s registered voters actually voted during the recent Presidential primary and Supreme Court election because that was the highest turnout for a Wisconsin Presidential primary since 1972. That a minority of registered voters turning out is considered high is a tragedy. If you cannot do anything else to solve our community’s problems, the least you can do is show up to vote!
I am fortunate to have spent a 30+ year career working to improve our world. Not everyone has the time, privilege or resources to work on solving society’s problems every day. But there is a wide range between engaging in full time systems change advocacy and carving out a little time to solve one problem that truly troubles you.
Want to help solve the homeless problem? Get involved in the discussion over opening a permanent homeless day resource center.
Overwhelmed by the daily violence brought upon us by guns? Write your elected representatives about passing a bullet tax.
It is true that big problems like racism often require big systems change solutions. But each of us can start at the personal level with an honestly friendly smile greeting those who look different from us.
Real change to real problems can be daunting, which is why so many people either opt out and do not even bother to vote and resort to merely complaining about problems without rolling up their sleeves to lend a hand to solving them. When faced with daunting problems remember this: nobody can solve society’s problems alone, however, if each one of us lends a hand, through one effort at a time, we can and will solve our problems instead of admiring them.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.