Sunday, May 31, 2009

And She'll Tell Two Friends, and So On, and So On...

When presented with all the problems of the world, people often feel helpless against it all. We can write letters, boycott products, take to the street in small groups to show our concerns, but will any of it have any effect? And we re-read Margaret Mead's words (that's her on the left): "Never doubt a small group of thoughtful, committed citizen can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." And that might keep us working for change for a little longer.

But here's another approach.

It's in the vein of Pay-It-Forward, called Pass It On. Jamie Oliver can cook, and he loves to teach people to cook healthy meals. Instead of just having a show and writing a few cookbooks and completely overhauling school cafeterias in Britain, he's teaching a handful of men in a community to cook. But there's a catch: they each have to teach two people how to cook, and those two are obligated to teach two more people to cook, and so on. He's hoping the entire city will change their take-out habits for the better.

Using the same strategy, think of one thing you do well that would have a positive effect on the world if more people did it. Then teach a few people and insist they have to teach just two people. Can we actually see a change in our communities?

The problem with this, however, is that people often resent being taught anything if you're not perceived as being an expert in the area. I'm good at petroleum-free gardening, but I'm not a landscape architect or a professional gardener or anything of the sort. And my lawn isn't pristine either. So scratch that one.

And it has to be something people can be convinced to want to learn. If I can be on TV with the Naked Chef teaching me how to cook, I might do it. But if a random friend offered to teach me, I'd insist I'm fully capable, thank you very much. There's a bit of a barrier here to the community education model.

But it does seem to have potential. Any thoughts on how it could work in real life?

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