Activities, Patterns & Pivots
The TBCAC is trying to change the way we think about, and act on our learned and acculturated patterns. This isn’t just a grocery shopping list or daily work routines, but rather, the Public Will Campaign is using a complex and layered process to understand and shift mindsets in order to prevent and end childhood sexual abuse. In the Dec. 15th post on this platform, Reggie Noto summarized important early work undertaken on behalf of preventing childhood sexual abuse.
After successfully training 5% of the adult population in the Grand Traverse region in Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children sexual abuse prevention program, this group of trailblazers recognized that as a community and a society, we need to do more. In essence… we realized we need to change the will of the public to proactively and openly protect children and young adults from sexual abuse.
Enter, Public Will Campaign. This approach to social change is considered an organized, strategic initiative designed to legitimize and garner public support for social problems as a mechanism of achieving policy action or change. “Public Will” marries the feelings and beliefs people hold about an issue with their willingness to act on it.
Regina Noto, MA, MSW
What we see in this description is a series of actions, a realization, and a pivot toward a future that hasn’t been imagined yet. As I reflected on this past post, I saw a rare set of practices in action. In this post I want to name outright the practice of a very dedicated group of people aiming toward preventing and ending childhood sexual abuse.
To begin a campaign, we needed to understand our own actions, make new discoveries about our own work, and in turn, look for opportunities to pivot. In looking for patterns, we looked back to major public health efforts in the United States such as lowering the instance of smoking or increasing widespread seatbelt use. Many things play a part in shaping the way we think about important public health issues:
Public perception of the challenge;
Laws and social enforcement;
Facts, and perceptions of facts;
More and more accurate information, and
Looking back, the patterns make sense to us. But at the time, leaders of these efforts had to imagine novel and insightful approaches in order to affect change. Ending child sexual abuse is no different. We can see that we need to engage the public with facts, information, values, and enforcement, but we cannot yet see exactly how that will play out. (consider for callout) Patterns of abuse will have a similar trajectory. Our communities will have to decide and realize the importance of making any instance of abuse unacceptable — then, examine and act on the underlying factors that allow it.
The Core Team knows that observing patterns is vital. But the team is small and has limited capacity to collect and analyze data. As such, we’re focused on making smart choices now to ensue we collect adequate and diverse data to formulate the basis of a successful Campaign. Since we’re aiming at mindset shifts in individuals and across communities (systems), we pay attention to the kinds of underlying assumptions we observe at events and in conversations.
For instance, we’ve host formal listening sessions to gather similar information from specific constituent groups. Listening sessions are designed to elicit underlying assumptions and values held and enacted, perhaps subconsciously, by individuals and organizations that are foundational to the way a community works. Through this work, we pay attention to themes and big ideas that lots of people are talking about.
The Core Team also actively reflects on our experiences with data and conversations. By scheduling and structuring reflection, both individually, in the team, and with the advisory board, we’ve found that actionable insights can and do emerge from such conversations.
Reflections help us see connections between themes and ideas.
Reflection also helps us see the outliers that we might overlook.
By reflecting in the open, we expose our ideas to various perspectives—and therefore, different value propositions.
We use a planning structure called a theory of change, which helps guide our categories of work. But we don’t limit reflection to those categories because we also consider unsaid and unstated topics that we know to be true from scientific literature, but may not be stated by individual and organizational community members engaging with a challenging topic like child sexual abuse.
We never thought this would be a straight path, and it’s not. We have to pivot because resources and energy from and by the community will make the public will effort, well, public.
The insights we observe, coupled with experience and reflections lead to pivots. We never thought this would be a straight path, and it’s not. We have to pivot because resources and energy from and by the community will make the public will effort, well, public. Patterns and pivots add up to a narrative for how a community becomes a different place to be in the world.
The narratives we practice telling become a piece of the truth about our community. It will take a while for us to absorb the changes at the level of a mindset. But slowly and surely, the stories of prevention, the data around prevention, the enforcement around prevention, and the underlying assumptions about what’s acceptable in our communities will change.