Challenges are endemic to social entrepreneurship. Learning from our failures and helping new ideas spread are major steps to overcoming them.
By embracing and understanding the lessons of a failed solution, changemakers can turn failure into a learning experience. Importantly, these stories do not have to include a new response after learning from failure; rather, the stories present an initiative or multiple initiatives as failure and goes into analysis of HOW it failed, as a learning exercise in problem solving. This learning is the journalist’s responsibility, not the people involved in the failed initiative; disseminating their understanding of solutions that have not worked (yet) is a key part of solutions journalism's overall mission to provide a real-time view of how individuals and communities are overcoming their challenges. These debriefs of failure are particularly crucial in areas like political participation or climate change: issues with far-reaching impact and complicated, thorny roots.
In overcoming our biggest challenges, we learn that success and failure are rarely cut-and-dry.
Click hereto explore more stories about learning from failure in the Story Tracker!
- San Francisco isn’t the only city that hasn’t met its projected sustainability goals—no city has. What can we learn about what it takes to enact large scale, systems-level change to ensure sustainability?
- After reading Maya L. Kapoor’s article, define “logging from below.” What significance does this phrase have as it relates to fire management practices? How does this approach contend with market pressures to generate revenue from logging? Can the approach used by the Forest Stewards Guild prove effective elsewhere? How can we enroll indigenous communities and practices in sustainability efforts elsewhere? Use the Solutions Story Tracker to do some research and learn more.
- After reading Rutger Bregman’s article about prisons in Norway, how would you frame a conversation about criminal justice reform in the United States? Is it possible to replicate Norway’s system in other countries? Why or why not? Use the Solutions Story Tracker to select at least two other articles related to criminal justice reform that support your conclusion.
- Choose an issue related to climate change that is important to you; then, using the Solutions Story Tracker create a collection of 4-6 stories that illustrate instances where learning from failure has led to new innovation. Share your collection!
- Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. With that in mind, SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment.
- As we learn from San Francisco’s campaign to reduce its waste, it takes combining strategies such as leveraging technology, encouraging behavior modification, and—crucially—political will for a city to meet enact large-scale change. With leadership willing to create new public-private partnerships and new programs, we see examples like the initiative to increase communication between consumers and the sanitation department. Furthermore, the city made recycling mandatory and also banned single-use plastic bags. Even actions like providing households with bins worked to make participating easier for residents. Ask your students to consider how the lessons of San Francisco can be applied to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement or the UN’s Global Goals. You may want to check out the teaching collections on the UN’s Global Goals and those dedicated to climate solutions!
- In Maya L. Kapoor’s article about the pine forests of New Mexico, we see land managers are learning from the failures of longstanding fire suppression strategies and working to implement traditional techniques of controlled burns. Specifically, “logging from below” is taken from the article and is described as consisting of “removing small-diameter under story trees, followed by controlled burning.” The Forest Steward’s Guild of Santa Fe is working to bring this kind of ecologically mindful forestry into practice. The organization still practices some logging to generate revenue but seeks to improve overall economic outcomes by practicing sustainable fire management. You can find additional stories about indigenous knowledge and ecological management—like this example from Australia—in the Solutions Story Tracker.
- Using Rutger Bergman’s article as a starting point, lead a discussion on criminal justice reform in the United States. You may wish to start by defining, and comparing and contrasting the terms recidivism and rehabilitation. Recidivism, in short, refers to the tendency to relapse or return to a previous behavior. The definition and measure of recidivism are subject to debate. How else might we challenge the general framework of “crime and punishment,” which often employs law enforcement and punishment as a deterrent to perceived criminal behavior. As our views on what constitutes criminality, behavior, and illness change and evolve, we must also adapt our criminal justice systems. Ask students to consider how mental health and other social programs fit into conversations of justice reform. How do alternatives to current punishment-based criminal justice promote the idea of rehabilitation, defined as a process of therapeutically improving someone’s condition. Then, using the Solutions Story Tracker, have students find examples where ideas in criminal justice reform have spread—and share them with the class. They may find individual articles (like this one about the Netherlands), or create a collection highlighting particular approaches.
- Answers will vary. For more on creating collections, click here. For more on Success Factors, click here. You may want to check out the teaching collections on the UN’s Global Goals and those related to climate solutions.