3 Minute Guide: How To Personalize Large-Scale Social Issues

Communicating large-scale social issues like air pollution is exceptionally challenging. We live at an unprecedented point of human history where a huge array of information on human rights, environmental and public health abuses is readily available. At the same time, our brain has not evolved to understand these complicated challenges and turn that knowledge into meaningful action, or any personally-fulfilling action for that matter. If you have a hard time connecting to these disturbing issues, you are not alone!

There is a way to get around these barriers, however. Here are two key factors to consider if you want to talk about your issue in a way that people can emotionally comprehend:

  1. Geospatial distance: Our brain is not meant to consider the well-being of somebody on a far-away continent! Any way that your issue can be brought into your intended audience’s life experience is a win. In fact, if you discuss the issue strictly in terms of a person on the other side of the world (or even the country), you may be inadvertently emphasizing that your issue is not that particular person’s problem!
  2. Social distance: Our brain is also not built to comprehend significant class divides. For example, most Americans will have a hard time resonating with the life experiences of a victim of industrial pollution in India, or the experiences of a culture threatened by deforestation in the Amazon.

But some of these issues are inherent to places outside the intended audience’s home town! What to do then? Here is an example of a potentially successful campaign. Let’s use industrial pollution in India as an example.

  • Pick one town to focus on as a figurehead of the whole issue.
  • Create ways that US citizens can connect. Tell the story of parents who work in the factory and are doing their best to provide for their children, but worry about the new pollution. Tell the story of children who have been affected by the pollution, and have no place to receive care..
  • Then create a community in the United States that cares about the one town. This could be as simple as an online forum.
  • Chart the path of the one town over time. Give US citizens an opportunity to sign a petition or indicate their interest in another way.
  • Do not worry about solving the issue as a whole. Social issues are always large and complicated. Make sure people are attached to one specific thing.

Let us know if you try it out. You will be seeing this in action at Vivergy.

-The Vivergy Team

Further Reading:

Living High and Letting Die (http://www.amazon.com/Living-High-Letting-Die-Innocence/dp/0195108590)

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