PR, social change and the politics of compassion

I caught this conference on TVO this weekend (one of five people watching I guess), journalist Malcolm Gladwell and philosopher Mark Kingwell talking and debating about how to effect social change. Gladwell is more about the correct focus of social change campaigns while Kingwell looks at it from a much wider, humanist perspective.

Malcolm Gladwell –

“We’ve done ‘knowing’ perhaps better than ever before in the past. But what have we done on the ‘doing’ side? Well almost nothing. What do I need to know about what I can do as an individual?”

“We have an enormous gap between knowing and doing in this case and we don’t know what to do. No one has come along and told us in a clear and precise way, what the plan of action is and how awareness ought to follow that desire for action in the future.”

“We tend to favour the awareness side of things because we’re so good at it. We’ve got this wonderful technology, we’ve got the Internet that allows us to reach people for nothing, we’ve got email (…), we’ve got lots of people with tremendous skills who write beautiful essays (…), we’ve got people who can do wonderful advertisements, we have people who can design gorgeous web sites. But that’s not change. That’s advertising. And we need to acknowledge the difference.”

Prof Mark Kingwell –

“It is not enough just to comfort the afflicted. We must also afflict the comfortable.”



“Journalism in the traditional mode of ‘the media’ – whatever they are – is only part of what public discourse is. It has nevertheless a fundamental democratic role to play at its best. And Malcolm and I and you too, and many other people in this room, know the ways in which it failed to be democratically responsible in that respect. But it’s still one of the only places where certain kinds of things can be done. That is characteristic of the modern age where literacy is the basic right of every citizen. Because it is the basic condition of taking up your full responsibilities as a citizen.”

There’s much more in that hour-long broadcast. Useful to reflect on all this while re-reading this post on social change campaigns.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: