Want to Stop Violence? Change Yourself.

I just got an email from Ari Melman, who leads Philadelphia’s Urban Playground. Concerned about the violence raging throughout his city, Ari wanted to know why the youth movement hasn’t succeeded in fostering the mass social change we need in order to stem this type of response. This is what I replied with:

Primarily, I would suggest that there are several different forces working to keep young people in subjugated positions throughout society. For a long time I thought it had to do with oppressive systems, and so I allied myself with organizations that dealt with changing systems and led a lot of projects focused on systems change. 

But over the last year I have come to understand that it’s not systems change that is going to engender the transformation of the hearts and minds of the people. Instead (call it rocket science) I have figured out that I need to focus on personal development: To change the hearts and minds of people, we have to change the hearts and minds of people

So I’ve spent the last 6 months retooling my approach to my work. I am continuing to work with nonprofits, government agencies, schools, and other institutions that directly affect young people. 

However, instead of advocating the development of new rules and programs and funding streams and policies focused on youth involvement, I’m teaching people about themselves, what they know, and how that can change for the betterment of themselves individually, and in turn how they treat children and youth.

In turn, we’re doing to see the rapid transformation of the ways that children are raised, taught, and treated throughout society. I’m going to reach out to moms and dads, teachers and counselors, politicians and preachers to teach all of them how to do this. We have to reach to peoples’ hearts and minds.

Otherwise, your observation is right: we’ll keep getting what we’ve always got, and as the situation in Philly (and London, and Haiti, and Somalia) shows us, that’s just not enough anymore.

Let me know what you think of his question and my response! Here’s another piece I’ve written related to this. Also, read this great editorial for more insight.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Published by Adam

For almost two decades, Adam F. C. Fletcher has led international outreach focused on engaging people successfully. Working with thousands of youth-serving nonprofits, K-12 schools, government agencies, international NGOs and other organizations around the world, his work spans the fields of education, public health, economic development and social services, and includes professional development, public speaking, publishing, social media and more. He founded the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement, SoundOut and CommonAction, as well as writing more than 50 publications and 500 articles. He has also established 150-plus community empowerment projects.

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1 Comment

  1. Well, Adam… you know I agree with you completely! One of the first Duncan Nuggets I ever wrote is “You are guaranteed to win once you defeat the enemy within because…It’s ALL Mental!”

    Personal Development is definitely one of the primary keys to transformation. You can give a person all of the resources in the world but if he or she isn’t “developed” enough to use them wisely the resources will be squandered or even used negatively.

    Self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-discipline, self-assessment etc. are the things necessary to help young people turn current opportunities into future opportunities.

    A person with a high level of personal development is able to rise above his or her circumstances instead of being crushed by them.

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