What the solutions journalism stories in this collection all have in common is that they are about people building and leveraging human networks to solve social problems. We see that by building trust and personal relationships in a community, social entrepreneurs are able to create meaningful change.
Building personal connections increases empathy. Read the story by David Bornstein to learn about how Roots of Empathy, an organization in Toronto, addresses the issue of bullying by fostering compassion in school-aged children. The story of tolerance and acceptance told in the article, Refugees Encounter a Foreign Word: Welcome, shows us that empathy can be contagious. The other stories in the collection support the idea that forces like positive peer pressure and social norming can create positive behavioral change.
Building personal connections fosters resilience. Two of the articles in this collection deal with two very different approaches to mental health and depression. In another article, we learn about the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed), which empowers girls in rural areas of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania, and Malawi by providing them with a network of support and mentoring.
Click here to explore other social change Success Factors in the Story Tracker!
- Describe how the program in Tina Rosenberg’s piece about “therapy without the therapist” works. How could an app be effective in tackling mental health issues? Could online programs be used to solve other social problems? Does leveraging technology in this way contradict the idea of “embracing the power of relationships” for success? Why or why not?
- Compare and contrast Tina Rosenberg’s piece, Depressed? Try Therapy Without the Therapist, with the piece by Monica Humphries about Sidewalk Talk. Which of the programs that these authors write about do you think does a better job of embracing the power of relationships?
- Read the article, Fighting Bullies with Babies. Why do you think a simple, low-cost program—bringing babies into the classroom—has such a significant effect? Might this program work with other populations? Why or why not?
- Read the story, Refugees Encounter a Foreign Word: Welcome. Explain what is significant about Canada’s response to the refugee crisis and what contributed to the success of the solution discussed in the article.
- Read the story, Africa’s Girl Power. How does the Campaign for Female Education reach over 2 million children when it only has a staff of 133 full-time employees?
- Add a fifth story to this collection that exemplifies one of the Embracing the Power of Relationships strategies not addressed in the other stories: for instance, find a story about using the power of relationships to reach people struggling with addiction. Explain why you selected this story, how it illustrates the success factor, and how and why that success factor was integral to the program's success. Or create a new collection around Embracing the Power of Relationships.
- 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.
- The program described in Tina Rosenberg’s article is called Mood GYM. The program connects people to cognitive behavioral therapy techniques through an app. The approach of CBT is used to combat problems with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, pathological gambling, and addiction to cannabis, while this program itself has been used widely internationally. Encourage students to discuss the ways in which technologies (as well as social technologies) connect us to services or peers and to consider the limitations of what such technological fixes can offer.
- In contrast to the technological fix presented in Tina Rosenberg’s piece, the Sidewalk Talk initiative described by Monica Humphries relies on chapters of volunteers nationwide to participate in listening events. During these events, strangers make themselves available to connect personally with members of their community. The approach has resulted in listening events in multiple cities, addressing issues of loneliness and mental health among those without many resources of social connections. For members of other communities, however, remoteness or social stigma might mean that a technological option for mental health is as a useful solution. We can also see the effect of technology in this story about Twitter and agricultural workers.
- We have seen the success of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in stories in previous collections (see the story here about reducing crime and violence through CBT). By addressing the root causes of behavioral issues, CBT provides a cost-effective intervention into many behavioral issues. The story, Fighting Bullying with Babies, provides compelling evidence that the Roots of Empathy program has a significant impact (e.g., 88 percent reduction in aggressive behaviors; nearly 50 percent reduction in school fights; and even a reduction of gossiping, exclusion, etc.). Moreover, the effects appear to last.
- The Canadian government allows private individuals to organize sponsorship for refugee families. the program is so successful that the Canadian government can barely keep up with the demand to welcome refugees from places such as Syria, and there is little opposition or resistance to this program. Ask your students whether the Canadian approach could work in a place like the United States? What push back has this idea received in other countries? How does this story build upon the success factor: embracing the power of relationships? Have students discuss to what extent empathy, collective action, and positive peer pressure contribute as factors to the success of this initiative.
- Africa's Girl Power, offers a powerful hypothesis, backed by compelling evidence: “(T)he most powerful way to bring lasting social benefits to a country is to expand educational and economic opportunities for girls.” The Campaign for Female Education greatly extends its reach through the use of its alumni network and leadership organization, Cama, which boasts thousands of members. This creates a ripple effect that means the organization can reach and support many more girl than would be possible for its staff of 133 full-time employees.
- Answers will vary! For more on creating collections, click here. Or use the course activity from module 5, found here. For more on Success Factors, click here. For more about the Success Factors in the SJN Story Tracker, click here.