Look for the helpers
“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” - Robert F. Kennedy
The world has been riding a geopolitical and environmental rollercoaster over the past year and a half. 2015 saw the signing of the Paris Climate Accord, the continued rise of ISIS, a European refugee crisis, and the planet’s hottest year on record. 2016 has brought such events as Brexit, Zika, Colombia’s peace deal defeat, US President-elect Donald Trump, and likely the new hottest year on record. No matter your location in the world or your political and religious leanings, there’s no denying that humankind is moving into uncharted territories. We now reside in an ever-connected global society, and we’re being confronted with difficult choices about how to move forward with the systems, societies, and cultures we’ve created.
And so I was asked to write something of a retrospective on the first wave of Re-Quilibrium Podcast interviews for the final 2016 edition of the ISMA newsletter. And try as I might to divorce my retrospective insights from the recent political, social, and environmental events sweeping the globe, my efforts have been moot. While I've identified a few key themes woven throughout these inaugural conversations, I am now looking at these conversations through a new lens. And, full disclosure, this lens is informed, clouded, and ultimately shaped by the significant political developments that have dominated my attention, and the attention of many others, this year. Yet it is the bleakness of this new lens that prompted me to open this article with a hopeful statement from a notable social leader.
And in the name of hope, I find myself reflecting on my original motivations for launching the Re-Quilibrium Podcast in June of 2015. The idea for the podcast was based on my longing for connection, connection with a community that shared my passion for moving the needle on the world’s most pressing issues. Truly, this podcast was my way of following the advice that Fred Rogers' mother gave to him whenever he was faced with disturbing news: "Look for the helpers. You will always find people helping."
And indeed, I have found people helping. I have found people from four different countries working on issues such as climate change, public health, environmental conservation, and energy conservation. I have spoken to passionate individuals wrestling with important questions like: "What is social marketing, and how can we deploy it for change?"(Nedra Weinreich), "How do we define social good?" (Hamilton Carvalho), "How can concepts like rhetoric inform the way we communicate?" (Dr. Christine Seifert), and “How can we further develop academic theory in social marketing?” (Dr. Nadia Zainuddin).
I’ve listened to professionals discuss the development of social marketing campaigns through creative work (Neil Hopkins) and research (Craig Lefebvre, PhD). I’ve heard success stories at the campaign level (Darrin Kayser) and ideas for how to apply social marketing at the policy level (Professor Jeff French). And ultimately, I have found a group of people passionate about setting the conditions for change on large, global, super-wicked problems like climate change (David Meiklejohn and Dr. Danya Rumore) and conservation (Brooke Sadowsky, Kevin Green, Alexandra Jabs, and Claudia Quintanilla).
The voices of these individuals has reinforced my hope for the future, and the Re-Quilibrium Podcast has more conversations in store to help keep that hope alive. If indeed “the purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better,” I’m looking forward to continuing to broadcast the voices of those who do.
This post was originally published by the International Social Marketing Association.