I've been thinking a lot about epidemics as of late, likely due to my recent efforts to improve good2gether's social media presence, the ongoing H1N1 business, and my re-reading of parts of the Malcolm Gladwell book, "The Tipping Point."
To summarize, Gladwell makes the point over and over throughout the book, that epidemics are non-linear. He says that phenomena like fashion trends, crime rates, and disease transmission rates, may exist at steady state until some small event "tips" them, and transforms them, overnight, into epidemics.
An article published on the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) website, "Civic Health Index finds America in the Midst of Civic Foreclosure," contributes some interesting information. The article says that 72% of Americans have cut down on civic participation since the beginning of the recession. Conversely, it mentions that despite such dire times, millennials have the highest volunteering rate of generations surveyed* (at 43%), and that the rate actually increased from 7.6 million in 2007 to 8.2 million in 2008. Additionally, the article mentions that "millennials who use social networking sites for civic purposes are far more likely to actively engage in civic participation in their communities"... and, as rephrased by David B. Smith, Executive Director of the NCoC, "God, Friends, and Facebook provide a civic safety net."
So why is this relevant, you ask? We are entering a time in which civic participation and communications are completely redefined- when the ubiquity of facebook and twitter, myspace and linkedin, are effectively changing the rules of the game. Although the advent of the recession tipped overall civic engagement negatively (the 72% drop in national participation) it may have been partially counteracted amongst millennials by the increase (tipping) in usage of social networking.
As the NCoC’s article suggests, we are now in a time of crisis. A Chinese proverb says that ‘Crisis’ can be interpreted in two ways, either as ‘A Time of Danger,’ or as ‘A Time of Opportunity.’ To apply it to us, as Americans, here and now…
-Our current crisis is multifaceted; the recession, our poor progress in realizing the Millennium Development Goals in Poverty Eradication, Gender Equality, Environmental Sustainability, etc.
-Our danger is apathy, to allow civic participation tip even further in a negative direction, to adopt the attitude of ‘every man for himself.’
-And our opportunity is to make the effort. That’s it, just make the effort. Whether you have time to volunteer every week, or just two minutes to write a check, or you have an old computer you’re planning on throwing away, someone can make use of it.
And what if you have none of these?
Then just spread the word. (The following is a shameless plug)
--Help friends in Non-profits get more exposure by telling them about good2gether
--Learn about local and national events, volunteer and in-kind donation opportunities by following good2gether on Twitter
--And lastly, TELL PEOPLE THAT DOING GOOD AND BEING INVOLVED WITH YOUR COMMUNITY IS IMPORTANT TO YOU.
As Gladwell states in ‘The Tipping Point’ chapter on connectors, “It is safe to say that word of mouth is- even in this age of mass communications and multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns- still the most important form of human communication.”
Any small bit of effort could be the catalyst that ‘tips’ civic engagement and the ‘doing of good’ from an abstract concept into an epidemic.
Who doesn’t want to live in a better world?
-Posted by April Wachtel
*Please note that although millennials had higher rates of volunteerism than other generations surveyed, other generations had higher rates in other categories like material contributions. To read the complete article, please click here