Awareness is a big buzz word right now. Mental health awareness, domestic violence awareness… there are just so many things that we need to be aware of, help with,
Don’t get me wrong – awareness is very important and does save lives and help create change in a variety of ways. But the big issue is that awareness doesn’t always equal action and even when it does, it’s not necessarily the right action. Most people will remember #Kony2012 and #BringBackOurGirls. Both were big issues that still exist today – Kony is still alive and free and the girls are still captivity. Just like many other campaigns for awareness, people wanted to help, but didn’t know the best way to do that other than raising more awareness. Celebrities raised awareness for both causes, but it still didn’t fix the problem.
Some of the issues with ‘raising awareness’ include:
- Awareness exhaustion – too many issues, not enough time or emotional energy.
- Trust – people are often dubious about whether their donation will actually go where it’s meant to.
- Not enough reminders – there are so many issues, that it’s hard to remember past the one that’s been raised on television or the social news feed today.
But I don’t think that’s the main problem.
The #1 Reason Awareness Doesn’t Lead to Action
When people find out about an issue, they want to help. That’s a wonderful thing and exactly what is needed. The only problem? People don’t know how to help. So they “share” with their friends, hoping that will help in some way – something which has become known as ‘slacktivism’ or ‘hashtag activism’. But really, how much help is it when everyone knows about a problem but does nothing? Sharing with their networks may make them feel they’ve made a difference, but in the majority of cases, awareness and conversation doesn’t necessarily make a difference. Money is the next option, but even that doesn’t always help or necessarily end up where it’s most needed. So what do people need?
People need easy steps to turn their awareness into action.
What can that person do to help? What EASY steps do they need to take to make a BIG difference? If an awareness campaign can’t answer those questions, then . People need to know what they can do – whether it’s donating, writing to people who CAN make a real difference, or learning what to do themselves if they come up against the very situation the awareness is about. They need to be lead by the hand, told what they can do and how they themselves ARE important enough to help create a change, other than just talking about the problem. They need a step by step guide of what THEY can do.
So please, don’t just read this and say “Yes, you’re right, awareness without action doesn’t achieve much.” Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to go find a topic about which you’ve been aware and you can help. It may be as simple as offering some volunteer work or second hand items to a local shelter you’ve seen on the news, phoning that friend you know needs support, learning about what to do in a certain situation (such as how to help friends who are suffering mental health issues, or are victims of domestic violence) or donating just a few dollars to an organisation you know has a minimal advertising budget but big needs. Please, do one thing that creates more than awareness – do one thing that creates change.