How to make sustainable long term progress on sticky social issues

A paper by ComMutiny The Youth Collective and Pravah

Change is inevitable they say, but is it? Take the capital of India. The metro system was meant to bring down traffic congestion and high pollution levels. Strong laws against gender violence were supposed to make the city safer. Attracting a lot of industry and corporate to satellite cities in the NCR region was touted as a sure shot way of creating jobs and reducing inequality. Yet Delhi/ NCR remain among the top 5 polluted cities, with one of the highest traffic congestion rates in the world. It continues to have an abysmal record on gender violence and is sometimes called the rape capital of the world. Unemployment in the NCR region is higher than the national average and has the second highest levels of inequality in the world after Johannesburg in South Africa.

In today’s world we are grappling with a myriad of social problems ranging from sanitation to intolerance and inequality. Inspite of solid efforts, attention and resources, we have yet to make a sustainable dent in solving these issues. Are we missing a piece of the puzzle?

We at ComMutiny – The Youth Collective (CYC) and Pravah have been experimenting with a different approach to social issues for the last twenty three years. A way that seems to indicate a possibility of how we will be able to ‘keep the change’, to make it sustainable. We call this a psycho-social approach. A way of changing the world inside out.

While our experiments are still in the early stages of endorsing the inside out leadership as a way of changing the world, we decided to test whether the narrative on social change theories was itself undergoing a change as the old ways of impacting social conflicts/ issues had failed to sustain a progressive change for the better. To understand that we designed the ‘Social Change Narrative Survey Questionnaire’ in order to map the kind of interventions or solutions people believed were required to solve major social problems that are facing the country.  This survey was conducted with twenty six thousand respondents from twelve states of India through twenty three forum members. The demographics of the survey sample covered respondents from different social groups – gender, caste and age. The survey consisted of 5 questions on 5 major social issues – low literacy, religious intolerance, gender discrimination, unemployment, and sanitation and each issue had 4 solutions from psycho social, legal, infrastructure and systemic/policy lens. Respondent had to pick the best possible solution or the combination of solutions to solve these issues.

The overall analysis of the survey shows that across all the five issues and each of the diverse demographic groups, the psychosocial approach was rated as the highest. That is to say that people felt that mindset change is the most needed kind of intervention at this stage. To make other three interventions effective, people felt we need to change society’s old scripts and stereotypes and get young people to take leadership in creating an inside out change that stays. While mindset change got the highest rank with 29.06%, it was closely followed by the legal (24.70%) and systemic (23.59)% interventions being rated as the next most important for impacting the particular issue. It was made loud and clear by the respondents that without mindset change, simply making laws and policies and creating infrastructure wouldn’t help.

To read the complete survey report please write us at youthcollective.commutiny@gmail.com