Have you ever noticed that some issues become super important for a few weeks and then their popularity dies out as people move to the next thing? Whether it’s the war between Palestine and Israel, climate change or world hunger problem, they only manage to hold the general public’s attention for a short amount of time. This is because there was a short-term attention called to the issues to make people become aware about it. Once an issue is no longer in the news cycle or discussed in media, it tends to fade away in their memory. To sustain awareness about any social issue, it is essential to have definitive and continuous calls to action. A small group of people may act on them and then a trickling effect could follow.
Raising awareness alone may not get the result that we seek and according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), spending money to simply make people become aware of an issue may be a waste of time and money. The review also states that people are facing an overload of awareness and may find it hard to register or remember. While providing a voice to an issue is very important for if we do not voice it, it would not get the attention it needs to solve, a more targeted way that calls for action may be more effective. Movements like “Black Lives Matter” would not have become prominent without raising awareness. However, there were continuous efforts on these including campaigns, peaceful protests, public rallies, celebrity involvement that really brought the issue to the center stand. SSIR suggests awareness leading to actions is when an issue gets sustained attention. To do that, we must “define actionable and achievable calls to action that will lead a specific group of people to do something they haven’t done before”. The review also states that it is important to target the right people, create the right message and use the right medium to send the message.
Traditional ways to sustain awareness include campaigning on streets, showing up for government meetings, and setting up movements for the issues. These provide a big scale platform to make one’s voice heard. Another great way to raise awareness is to express civic engagement, or vote. By voting for candidates that want to tackle issues you also want to tackle, you are indirectly raising on issues you care about. Why is it important to raise awareness on an issue in the first place?
To answer the question, I will reference some of the work that I did over the Summer. An issue I am passionate about is the Digital Divide. Over the past few months, I conducted a survey on the Digital Divide with students, parents, and experts in the education sector. This survey asked questions about the Digital Divide, a culture’s role in it, and solutions to bridge the divide. The key takeaway from the survey is there is a big knowledge gap on the issue. There is very low awareness of the issue with people who are not teachers or experts in education. As a result, there isn’t much importance placed on this issue nor many may think about its long-term impact. Is it because this is not an issue to the people surveyed or is it a lack of awareness? Over two-thirds of the respondents indicated that they rarely hear of the Digital Divide and 17% responded that they have never heard of the term. When answering the question of how important they think the Digital Divide is, half of the respondents said it is only somewhat important, and that reform only needs to occur over time as opposed to being immediate. Accordingly, people also did not think that it had as big of an impact on children’s education as it does. The Digital Divide is a significant problem and a threat to our society. If more and more students do not have access to a computer nor internet, then they would grow up lacking critical skills needed to secure a job. This could not only have a huge impact on our economy as more jobs require computer literacy, but also isolate such groups from progress. Understandably, because there is less awareness on the issue of the divide, there is less reform being done to bridge it, especially in California. For example, there have been little under 10 bills passed in the last decade aimed at combating the divide, although the issue has only grown bigger (especially this past year due to extensive online learning). In this case, a simple awareness with calls to action like writing to local elected officials or volunteering in a school to teach how to use a computer could make a big difference. But most importantly, it is important to raise that awareness for if you do not, no one would know about it. I have been doing that by writing blogs continuously so people around me are aware.
Thus, we can see that awareness is such a critical component of tackling the issues we face in society. Raising awareness about an issue like the Digital Divide will serve to increase effectiveness of combatting the divide itself. It is important that citizens remain socially aware of the issues we face, to combat them one-by-one. So, if there is an issue you care about, ask yourself what you could do about it.
Be the change you wish to see!