Thursday, February 21, 2013

So You Wanna Change the World?

(This is a belated Valentine's Day wish to my wife, Lauren Campbell Kong)

My wife gets rather frustrated when she volunteers for well intended organizations fighting for environmentalism and conservations. I can see her hair turning gray in real time faster than grass can grow in the spring. I try to do my best to help her through those rough times; mostly I can explain away the organizational inefficiencies by some magic of bureaucracy in place. But often I question if there is somewhere, out there, for her to feel at home; if there is somewhere in the world where she can comfortably grow her interest in helping make a difference in real and meaningful ways--not jut perpetuate some empty slogans and check off a box for another successful campaign unsuccessfully exhausted.

I can't blame her. Her interest is in behavioral changes and paradigm shifts. She will have me to blame for the latter philosophical bout; but as for behavioral changes, that is entirely her own ambition.

But changing behaviors isn't easy. It starts with someone caring and then another influenced. It's a communal event that transcends mere campaign efforts and mobilization of people with picket signs. From those behavioral changes, we see a fundamental shift in understanding; from there, with baby steps, we can hope for positive policy decisions in the long run. It's a very slow process; it involves a lot of upfront investment and compassion. Often well-meaning organizations lack both; they have so little resources to achieve and so little compassion to care for the broader systemic problems we face as individuals.  These organizations are about funding, membership, measurable impacts, and achieving bigger and bigger goals while ignoring the ever smaller and smaller individual.

Well, I stumbled onto Stanford University's Persuasive Tech Lab this morning entirely devoted to the subject of behavior change (and the ways technology changes behavior). It seems there are other like-minded people in this small universe that cares to make deep meaningful impacts; not just check off boxes and mark off campaigns. The team there has put together a short slideshow on the “Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change.”  So I know it's a little late for Valentine's Day, but I consider this as a personal gift from me to her; and on some astral plane of existence, I consider this a gift onto those who have not yet discovered the wonders of human endeavors.  

“Habit converts luxurious enjoyments into dull and daily necessities” - Aldous Huxley 

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