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As Director of the Keep a Child Alive
College Program, and simply as a young woman who considers herself a
global citizen, I find myself subconsiously reconfiguring
headlines and reading articles in terms of the AIDS pandemic.Â You can
imagine that the countless recent headlines of “world leaders coming
together to solve crisis” have me furious — knowing that leaders are CAPABLE of solving global crises, but prioritize immensely, for some, dishearteningly.
I am always looking for new, innovative ways to engage my generation in
MEANINGFUL AIDS work — that does NOT mean raising fists and shouting in
anger about poverty, but actually doing something to assist those living with HIV or prevent the disease from further spreading. With Keep a
Child Alive, I am privileged to coordinate a network of 227 campuses,
and growing everyday, in the work of fundraising for lifesaving
antiretroviral drugs that are delivered directly to those in most dire
I think it is immensely important for students to realize where their
potential lies.Â Most of the time, just shouting about an issue will make no progress – so why, when, how do we speak up effectively?Â Some thoughts to consider, that I recently blogged about for a foreign policy course:
I choose one article in particular to sub-in AIDS for Finance, and conclude:
“I invite you to pick up a newspaper and try this exercise for
yourself.Â Replace the crisis and you will see that our world
leadership is capable of coming together to take immediate and united
action.Â The difference to me is not that our leaders don’t want to end
AIDS, it’s that there are no “jittery investors” who are pushing them
to do so.Â We are all affected by the health of global populations and
like issues of climate change or education or human rights, we will not
see the negative effects of failures to invest until the long run, and
we therefore don’t identify ourselves as investors now.Â Which means
politicians have no pressure to move in the direction of solving the
foreign crises that already surround us.Â If we want an end to AIDS
that’s up to us as investors in global public health, citizens who want
to live in a healthy world.Â It’s totally possible to achieve, but the
choice is ours!””
Trabian’s postÂ got me thinking about how change happens and why we do it. Social entreprenuership is neither a motivation, a means, nor an end.
Premise: Feeling the “tug”
The key to being a good mime (or an actor) is the understanding of the premise of our actions in everyday life. Yes, it’s the actor’s annoying question: “What’s my motivation?” Motivation and premise determine an actor’s credibility. In mime, the premise changes how you do something. In the SE world, the motivation for doing certain work will change how you do it.
A person who has mastered mime isolations (exercises) won’t be a perfect mime until they’ve gotten the premise right. A mime attempting to create the illusion of a tug of war, needs to feel the tug before moving; if not, the movement looks fake.Â
The premise is critical.Â As a changemaker, it’s the tug of oppression, disparity, and inequality that influences the movement. WIthout the tug, the integrity of the movement is affected.Â
Your premise also affects your wider audience. Montanaro says, “My ability to believe these things, these images, determines the clarity of my gestures and the integrity of my sketch. My belief ignites my audience’s belief, and they join me in my adventures.” Isn’t that what social movements are all about?
Doing: There is no blueprint
The inventors of mime work and those great illusions that we enjoy – the tug of war, the ladder climb, the wall – didn’t read a book to figure out how to create them. Instead, the inventors of this work studied real-life situations to understand the tangible forces causing the physical effects.Â
They understood the importance of understanding not only the wall, but its forces. In fact, the physical object–for example, the wall–isn’t what is most important at all in the mime illusion, but rather what that physical object does to you. Likewise, in the SE world, it’s not just about understanding systems, markets, institutions, but what those things do to people. Understanding the effects help us to better interact with the object.
Montanaro talks about the good that comes from not reading the instructions. And the ability to “trust” and “thrust” — feeling the outside force and “thrusting” against it. A just do it approach.
Character: Giving in to the work
In mime work, one has to create and thrust oneself into character. The character (like a cause or your work) has no life of its own – the actor breathes life into the character.Â
Montanaro points out: “…when you do not loan all of yourself to your character, you have to treat your character as a separate entity and speculate on his/her feelings, thoughts, and behavior. While you’re busy speculating on your character’s behavior, you can never move and speak spontaneously. But if you “give in” to your character, if you let the character “get to you,” then the correct thoughts, words, and actions will occur to you, as if by magic.”
If we keep ourselves distanced from the work, we risk losing the spontaneous and invaluable actions and thoughts that can occur to us when we delve in, despite the risk.
If Montanaro were asked about social change, I think he might say: Give in to the work and the risk, let it get to you, feel the tug, forget the instructions and use your experience as expertise.