Lockdown due to COVID-19 has deepened internet activism in India. More issues are seeing the light of day since people have a lot more time on their hands. However, there is one major problem with present-day internet activism. It has become an age of RE-ACTIVISM and not PRO-ACTIVISM. Additionally, internet activism is heavily unregulated – particularly on social media – with very few issues having a clear sense of direction and leadership. We look to help establish a model for social change management that could enable social change through local changemakers.
The News Cycle Problem
Every time a societal problem or issue is identified, countless stories and posts are published across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. However, it can be seen that the frequency and volume of posts decrease in 3 to 4 days.
After this, only a core group of people are focused on taking the fight forward and a large majority of the population has already moved on to a different piece of news. In some situations, this period may increase or decrease, but overall the period of popularity for a piece of news is between 3 to 7 days. Within such a short period of time, the societal problem is addressed, the reason for the change is mentioned, and awareness of a problem is created. However, that time-period does not allow for the development of change or real-world impact. This article looks to provide structure and direction to online social activism.
Going beyond awareness
This article will propose a novel model of social change management with the focus being placed on behavioral exploration and development. The model is titled UAAS model (Understanding-Awareness-Action-Social Change). The model that is being proposed looks to move individuals from one stage to another and where their impact helps more people move through the stages that they have cleared. The central focus of the model is to ensure that there is a progression from one stage to the next and to decrease stagnation.
Understanding. Once a societal problem or issue is identified, it is important to understand all perspectives of the problem. What that means is as an individual, who has come across a piece of news, it becomes critical to understand why the issue occurred and who are the different stakeholders at the center of the issue. It is also important to understand whether the news or information is valid and true. Spreading fake news becomes problematic to the person who shares it and to people who are indirectly affected as a result of the news. By taking time to understand the problem, you are giving yourself the time required to assess various perspectives and understand the core drivers of the problem.
Awareness. Awareness is the second stage and involves sharing information regarding the problem that you have completely understood. By moving from Understanding to Awareness, you are able to educate those who are unaware, with greater clarity. You as a changemaker move from sharing a post to an awareness creator. The difference is that you are moving from being a reactive voice to a proactive voice.
Action. After establishing awareness through social media posts. It is crucial to act on the problem that you have a full understanding of after ensuring that people within and outside your social circle are aware of the problem. Action can be in any form, but it needs to be more than awareness creation. For example, Nejm, who is a rapper from Tamil Nadu, utilized music as an outlet to emphasize the need for change against systematic police brutality. Action can be in the form of a blog post, an article, a video, a song, etc. It isn’t restricted to protesting on the ground. But does require some degree of involvement and effort.
Also, it should be noted that Action also refers to having tough conversations at home and especially with people who aren’t privileged with access to social media. Having a conversation on sexual crimes or police brutality with your maid or the autorickshaw driver near your house creates a second wave of awareness that is also categorized as effort under the action stage.
Social Change. This is the potential real-world impact of the efforts taken up to this point. As individuals, through this model, we will become self-aware, create external awareness, develop proactive impact leading to overall societal development. As you are going from one stage of the UAAS to the next, individuals who are impacted by your effort will start their journey in the Understanding stage and keep progressing. The model essentially looks to decrease stagnation within the awareness stage and helps local changemakers empower other individuals to have their own UAA journey.
Applying my experience to the UAAS model
Understanding. In this stage, I focused on understanding the impact of rapid deforestation in the Amazon and across the world. I understood different perspectives by accessing information from news articles and scientific reports.
Awareness. This stage is crucial to throwing light on key societal problems. I spread awareness of deforestation activities in the Amazon Jungle by sharing statistics and other data-based posts on Instagram.
Action. I actively used Ecosia and promoted its use on social media with the help of memes. In addition, I developed reports and case studies documenting the need for social change to combat the loss of forest cover in India and across the globe.
Social Change. Quite a few members of my internal and external social circle have started to utilize Ecosia, a search engine that plants trees for every search that is made.
How is the UAAS model beneficial?
The core ethos of the model is to allow local changemakers to gain clarity, direction, and structure. The focus is placed on transitioning from unstructured chaos to structured chaos. The model can help people to go through a journey instead of feeling stuck at one stage or another. And also provides them with the necessary flexibility needed to revisit previous stages and to progress with greater insights. The model looks to aid social change by placing the emphasis on understanding the problem, spreading awareness, and proactively developing impact.