Position Papers

The Key Ingredients of Social Change (2)

This is the Power of Paradigm Shift, that every significant breakthrough in the field of human social endeavour is at first a break with tradition, with old ways of thinking, with old paradigms. If we want to change our life’s situation, we must first change ourselves, and to change ourselves effectively, we first have to change our perceptions. But note this: not all paradigm shifts are in the positive direction. But whether they shift us in the positive or negative directions, whether they are instantaneous or developmental, paradigm shifts move us from one way of seeing the world to another. And those shifts create powerful change. Our paradigms, correct or incorrect, are the sources of our attitudes and behaviours, and ultimately our relationships with others.

In the last couple of years, tons of hundreds of different types of international citizen organizations have emerged around the world. Their emergence today is even occurring on a scale unprecedented in history with organizational activity more globally dispersed than ever. They are less encumbered by church and state and, in fact, exert considerable pressure on government. They are able to forge partnerships and collaborations with businesses, academic institutions and governments and, in many cases, they tend to refine and sharpen government’s representational functions. Because of this new surge of activity and the responsibility of citizen organizations not to be like the many wasteful, inefficient and corrupt organizations that abound today, there is a pressing need for them to demonstrate their efficacy and efficiency.

Faced with this wave of energetic social entrepreneurs who are building organizations that are strategic and fast moving in ideas, information and technology, people managing sluggish, outdated and outmoded institutions no longer find ‘business as usual’ to be a safe attitude and deportment. It is even getting riskier by the day to remain static while coasting on past glories of good reputation. The arrival of entrepreneurialism and competition represent an early but fundamental change in the dynamics of the citizen sector which history has shown to sit on the edge of innovation and creativity.

Today, these citizen organizations are defined in the negative as non-profit or non-governmental organizations. They are understood to comprise a new sector of civil society which is variously known as “independent sector”, “non-profit sector”, “third sector” or “citizen sector.” Thus, by sharpening the role of government, shifting practices and attitudes in business and opening waves of opportunities for people to apply their skills, talents, proficiency and creativity in ever new and positive ways, the citizen sector of social entrepreneurship is radically organizing the way society gets work done and the way the work of society is done.

The prosperous breakthrough in the second half of the twentieth century occasioned by the phenomenal upsurge in modern technology which drove industrialization, capitalism and globalization has redefined human life in new ways. The biggest change is that people seem to live longer and have more time, resources, health, energy, mobility, social exposure and freedom to think about things than simply staying alive. They are able to move faster from one place to another. Big money and information now exchange hands with a swiftness and cheapness that cannot but astound us. The revolution in communication has given millions of people a wider, insightful and more detailed understanding of the world. Because of the outburst in technology, many people are able to enjoy uninhibited access to information that formerly was the exclusive preserve of elites and wealthy nations. One major consequence of this change is that citizens have become more acutely conscious of environmental destruction, entrenched poverty, health-care catastrophes, human rights abuses, failing and deteriorating education systems and escalating wave of violence and hostility. Another consequence is that people possess powerful communication tools to coordinate efforts to attack these problems.

While concerns have mounted about global problems, the conviction that government appears clueless on how to address them has also risen. Decades of failed development policies, discouraging wars on poverty, drug, crime and high profile corruption has led many to the conclusion that while governments must be held accountable for translating the will of the citizenry into public policy, they are not necessarily the most effective vehicles and certainly not the sole legitimate vehicles for the actual delivery of many social goods. Consequently, today there is a high level of deference to citizen organizations than is accorded to the government. Across the world, social entrepreneurs are demonstrating new approaches to many social ills and new models to create wealth, promote social well-being and restore the environment. The citizen sector is conspicuously leading the push for the reformation of economic and political systems; and individuals seeking meaningful work frequently opt to build, join, advocate for or support organizations that are more innovative, more responsive, more durable, more reliable, more effective, more efficient and operationally superior to traditional and obsolete social structures.

Today, many people who desire social change need a blend of information, proficiency, scholarship and innovation to push their ideas and visions to fruition. Our major thesis here is that unless the social entrepreneur is able to combine social capital with social engineering, he may find it rather difficult to advance social change on a large scale. These three ingredients must go together to effect positive social change.

Having looked at the terms “social capital” and “social entrepreneurship”, it is pertinent to know what “social engineering” is. The term social engineering is often invoked in the social sciences and humanities.

The Greek concept of crisis

What social entrepreneurs or intending ones need to know today is that social change is not possible unless they understand its metaphysical and spiritual dynamic. Spiritual and material successes are two worlds apart: we often have worked with or met people in business, university, marriage and family setting who have achieved an incredible degree of outward success, but found themselves struggling with an inner hunger, a deeper yearning, a deep need for congruency and effectiveness and for healthy, growing relationships with others and with the world. These people have the material index of success, but lack the spiritual factor. One would imagine that successful change becomes reality when we think and ponder over it all the time. But listen to this striking remark by Viktor Frankl which bears a taste of irony. He says: “Don’t aim at success- the more you aim and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the bye product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.” Dom Helder Camara, former Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazil speaks of the secret of eternal youth when he writes: “The secret of remaining young even when the years have changed our bodies is to devote our life to a cause.”

Social change today must take cognizance of this new perspective. Social entrepreneurship is not a profit-making venture. It is pouring out one’s life for the service of others. It is the symbol of selfless service and a heroic degree of personal sacrifice; something that one finds great joy and satisfaction in doing without any consider

ation for personal gains. Our social and emotional lives are tied together and they are demonstrated in our relationship with others. It can be a normal everyday interaction with people. Making people happy, putting a smile on someone’s face, serving others and making them feel important are nice ways of social and emotional renewal. There is a deep security that comes from living interdependently. The meaning and purpose of our lives must be sought outside us. The great cause upon which we devote our lives is something that is higher than we are, something that transcends us. “Happiness is a perfume you cannot put on others without getting some drops on yourself.” Eldon Tanner says that “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on earth.”

George Bernard Shaw writes: “This is the true joy in life- being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one….I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” Let me offer Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the former American President’s interpretation of happiness. He says: “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.” The root word for ‘ministry’ is the Latin ‘ministerium’ and it means service. In the final analysis, the secret of true happiness consists in serving others.

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