This is the fifteenth in a series of posts that will examine ten insights Community Wealth Partners has uncovered through our research of and experience with initiatives that have created transformational social change.
The power and influence of public opinion is perhaps never more evident in the United States than during the last couple of weeks leading up to the Presidential Election. As the countdown to Election Day gets into the single digits, the efforts of political parties, advocacy groups, and even your family and friends to lobby for your support become all the more palpable. Why is that? These groups recognize that the result they seek is larger than their individual efforts. The power to obtain their goal lies in the masses.
Although advertisements and other efforts to sway your vote may sometimes feel like their own category of extremist marketing, our research has shown that making the effort to build public support is one of the ten elements required for transformational change. Restructuring existing systems is ultimately necessary for systemic change – and it is work that cannot be done alone. The power of building public support is that it not only increases the number of people who believe in and advocate for your organization’s priorities, but it can also lead to the substantial government dollars and/or changes in legislation that help accelerate widespread, systemic change. One striking example of this phenomenon is the anti-smoking movement. In the mid-1950’s almost half of the US adult population smoked. According to a July 2012 Gallup poll, that number has since decreased to 20%. These significant declines in smoking rates were generated through legislation changes and increased federal/state cigarette taxes, which are directly attributable to the anti-smoking movement and its success in generating public support.
As you consider ways to further your impact through public support think about the following basic questions:
- What are the legislative changes that could help me obtain my goal?
- What areas of the government’s budget do I want to influence?
- How do I inform and inspire the public to advocate and fight for these changes?
Here at Community Wealth Partners we talk a lot about solving problems on the scale at which they exist. For most of our causes that scale is immense and bold solutions are required. The ability to mobilize public support for your cause will ultimately create the conditions necessary for that bold systemic change.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for further discussion and examples of how building public support can help your organization solve complex social problems.