13 Dec Keep your eyes open and share what you see
With the current political climate and gridlock, I find it natural to wonder if our nation will emerge from this pit we have seemed to dive into. It is easy to read and watch the media, and thus become very cynical at the process for reform and progress. However, it never fails that what brings me out of this negative space is to simply look around.
We often overlook the innovative and inspiring actions of ordinary individuals all around us. It is as simple as the teacher who goes the extra mile to meet with a parent or stay for after school tutoring, the youth counselor who works on weekends to drive some students to prep SAT classes, or the nurse who takes a double shift because they don’t want to leave a patient just yet. When I begin talking to people, whether through work or friend groups, what remarkably sticks out is that the majority of people want to do good and, even more, want to be change agents in other’s lives.
Hope Street Group and many others in our network believe that by aligning the right incentives, you inevitably can change human behavior. The term “incentives” can naturally mean many different things to many different people – is it money and/or tax breaks, professional development, benefits, etc.? Although all these things can help, I genuinely think that the biggest incentive for someone to change their behavior is the knowledge, feeling and recognition that you did the right thing to help someone else.
Because of this, I crawl out of that negative space I discussed earlier, and try to identify ways to share, scale and amplify all the good work being done on the ground level. This organization has had the sheer privilege to work with trailblazers in the fields of education, job creation and healthcare. We have worked with doctors who took major risks to their practice and livelihood but stood their ground knowing that they needed to increase the quality of care to their patients. Their determination led them to not only increase care, but also reduce costs. It just took a different way of viewing the problem, and most importantly the real outcomes you want to see, to collectively solve it. We have met, and I had the privilege to work with before I rejoined Hope Street Group, local organizations in the Washington Metropolitan Area who work day and night to place young adults in career counseling to jobs so they can have a place to rest their head at night. I sometimes ask these program officers or other change agents in these fields, “Why do you do this?” and almost all say because they want to help people and contribute to a better world.
Our nation needs structural underpinnings of some of our failing systems to change, and what changes those underpinnings are the people in the nexus and process of these systems. What changes how people behave? Most likely incentives and the greatest one of all is helping others, in my opinion. Now, we as a collective group and organizations such as Hope Street Group need to mobilize the power of this good by connecting people together using traditional and nontraditional forms of media and communication. We must share the stories of people ultimately changing systems and processes in their own community, learn from them, try to scale them where it is appropriate to together have a broader impact across our nation. So I invite you to help us amplify this work by keeping your eyes open and sharing what you see.