Curious fact no. 1:
It’s always someone else who needs to have their awareness raised.
“We urgently need to raise public awareness of the consequences of western lifestyle.” Said, often, by the very people who underpin the financial systems that make ‘our’ unsustainable lifestyle almost inevitable. Some of us would like to raise their awareness…
Curious fact no. 2:
It’s mostly unpleasant things that ‘we’ need to be made aware of.
If the purpose of awareness-raising is to bring about behaviour change, most awareness-raising campaigns could learn from a study of how change actually happens.
There are many theories of change, but most agree on one point: change is not something that can be brought about by nagging or planning. It’s something that happens when the conditions are right. As expressed by Warren Ziegler:
“Change happens when there is a reasonable balance between dissatisfaction and hope.”
If I’m not yet ‘aware’ of climate change, or child labour, or the dangers of tobacco, it’s hardly for lack of information. Pushing more information at me will not change things. What is lacking is the ‘hope’ side of the equation: the feeling that I could in fact do something, make a difference.
So tell me how I can contribute. Show me how to adapt to climate change, support poor families to send their children to school, or wean myself off tobacco. Help me understand how and why my contribution is meaningful. First comes the hope, then the action; the awareness is a bonus, a product of the balance between dissatisfaction (or fear) and hope.
Does this sound back-to-front? Take a reality check: consult your own experience. How did your awareness most lately increase? When did you have one of those ‘Aha!’ moments?