Social good, in the broadest sense of the phrase, is anything one does to help another (person, group, cause) without any expectation of a payback. Volunteering, giving to charity, mission trips, community outreach all count as socially positive activities.
Sometimes we want to do some kind of social good but often do not know where to start. Even when we do know where to start, it often feels overwhelming to take that first step. We outline below a helpful mental framework for taking the first step towards making the world a better place.
The road to utopia is paved with lofty dreams and broken promises. It would be great to act in a way that does the most good for the greatest number of people, but this is not always possible. The world often does not work like that.
A more realistic approach would be to look around one’s own locality to see what areas are in need.
First, thinking and acting local gives you a direct connection to the problem at hand. It is easier to see that there a kids in need of winter clothing in your county than to see that kids in some other county are in need of textbooks.
Second, acting local makes it easier to hold and be held accountable. Acting from a distance sometimes means that responsibility is shared amongst various parties who may not all be fully committed to the same goal of social good. Acting local cuts out the middle men and creates more of a direct connection which makes it easier to hold everyone involved accountable.
Here are some questions to help you think about starting local:
Build on strength
We are all blessed with unique gifts and talents. This also means that we do better than others at some things and others not as well. It is important to act from strength in doing social good. This means recognizing what you are good at and trying to serve from there rather starting from what you are average at, or even worse, what you are terrible at.
Acting from a place of weakness is rarely effective and might end up causing confusion and frustration for both parties. Acting from a place of strength will always bring in individual passion which is a key ingredient for doing social good.
An energetic people connecter will probably be miserable volunteering as a research assistant. A person skilled at procedural, organized work might be utterly clueless at teaching art to kids.
Strengths aren’t limited to personality traits though. Tangible resources like time, money, personal possessions can also be viewed as strengths because we all have varying amounts of them.
Here are some questions to help you to start building on strength:
Sometimes our biggest hindrance to getting started is getting started alone. Will people judge me for posting about ethically sourced goods? Wouldn’t it be weird if I showed up to volunteer by myself? What if I don’t learn fast enough? These questions and many others often deter willing people from engaging in socially positive activities.
Finding a friend who shares a similar interest in making socially positive actions can make the process a whole lot easier than venturing out on your own. Nothing gives you as much confidence as knowing your volunteer buddy is just as much of a novice as you are.
Having a buddy also helps with motivation for those days when you do not feel like following through on your activities. Those days when it is freezing cold and you do not want to run that 5k for charity. Or the days when you feel like your language partner has made no progress after several months of tutoring. A good friend will help you honor your commitments over fleeting feelings.
Here are questions to help you find a buddy:
How do you plan on taking action today?
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