Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Necessary Clarity

Monday's cooking club forced me to reflect on my technique for teaching advocacy. I noticed that while the young people were engaged they didn't have the proper "advocacy lens" to look through (they couldn't see the real failures of a system that facilitates one in every three children [31.7%] ages 2-19 being overweight or obese). Thus, the educator must impart to them the knowledge to "see" an issue, desire change, and strategize for it like an advocate.

Essentially I didn't introduce the students to the appalling nutrition statistics, I didn't ask them to define the issue (why do these statistics exist?), I didn't prompt a conversation about who is affected (who wins and who loses?), and we didn't ask ourselves about the main causes of the issue. Having heard their satisfaction with the status quo, their short-term understanding must be supplemented with some view the possible improvements that could be made with some passion, research, and strategy. 

Any strategy I foresee will be most immediately seen during the time to generate solutions to the issue. Through helpful team activities these young people can critically imagine a new landscape of food offerings. This imagining could then be the launching point for their seeing the issue anew. Solutions must be considered in the same breath as the problems.

Working with these young people to develop their lens, creating momentuum for their growing community, and imparting skills (i.e. community mapping, critical questioning) will put them in a strong position to grow as advocates and healthy kids.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Before the Beginning Begins

I learned a valuable lesson today. When teaching advocacy the audience you are trying to reach must have enough perspective to see their reality against a more idealized version. This critical perspective is necessary for any appropriate judgment of their food system landscape and deeming it worthy of them or not. Thus, an activity to illustrate how great our health can be and a formal process of imagining a better food system. Without this context, they will not understand what systems could exist, and which systems that do exist are failing them. More, they really need to define not only the problem but what failure and success really are.

Advocacy requires a critical criteria in order to mobilize any leadership inertia into real effective action. The strategic planning process must begin with a strong assertion of intention (this requires clarity). The strategic planning process is key to the development of an advocate. Their thinking must be at once sincere and innocent, while simultaneously strategic. 

Connecting the policy to the community opinion and their personal experiences will open their minds to potential actions that could potentially change their lives and their communities' life.