Turning the tides on child drowning
Rebecca Wear Robinson
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Who Cares If People Drown?

by Rebecca Wear Robinson on May 29, 2013


Very few people care about drowning. I’ve had it explained to me that everyone wants to learn about water safety, re-tweet, share on Facebook and donate generously of their time and money because OF COURSE everyone is concerned about drowning, but they aren’t. In fact, hardly anyone even cares about drowning or stops to wonder why they should think about it. I tried to put the magnitude of the issue in just the U.S. in context and actually had someone come back and say, who cares and why do you care? Keep in mind that although drowning is the 2nd leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., it is far less than 1% of the global drowning toll, but I doubt even that number would make a difference in opinion, because we haven’t effectively told people why they should care, why they should listen, and why they should change their behavior. So how do we make people care?

Let’s start with the good news. We aren’t alone. Bono has identified data as the way to attract attention.  With the introduction of Global Drowning Tracker we are one step closer to global data. Melinda Gates is pushing for marketing issues more effectively, a subject dear to my heart that I have broken down into somewhat manageable chunks.

Then there is the better news, some groups are managing to make their cause something that everyone is aware of – like AIDS and breast cancer. We need to do this for drowning – we need a global campaign that makes it clear that water safety is everyone’s issue, and I’m working on developing such a campaign, but even that isn’t enough, it takes any number of smaller efforts by all of us – legislation, regulation, mobilizing the right people, implementing the right programs.

How do you make specific targeted changes? How do you put your issue in a context that will change the opinion of the right people?

Don’t change the world. Not the whole world, but identify exactly what you need to do to force the shift. Wildlife conservationists have done an excellent job of targeting the right decision makers, instead of trying to make the whole world care about endangered animals.  You can put things in context to try to loosen people’s purse strings and collect some money. This video about clean water uses humor effectively, 2.3 million hits effectively, to raise awareness, though I don’t know how much that translated to action or donations. Most recently a comprehensive campaign was launched to successfully encourage the EU to ban bee-killing pesticides. How did a small group take an issue that very few people have ever heard and create real change?

  • Identified and mobilized stakeholders – beekeepers, environmentalists, scientists, small farmers.
  • Focused on one country that they viewed as key, France, with a long history of a strong small farmer contingent and a population that cares passionately about how their food is produced.
  • Tackled industry head-on by having representatives at 3 annual meetings of Bayer, the primary producer of the pesticide and staging visible protests.
  • Make science count by taking scientific studies directly to European politicians.
  • Countered ‘no’ votes by Britain and Germany agribusiness with public opinion polls showing support for the ban, engaged in an e-mail blitz to Agriculture ministers, and showed up at the vote with a 6 metre bee.
  • Remobilized after the vote didn’t pass by engaging the public through petitions, e-mail campaigns and telephone campaigns – and succeeded.
  • Engaged everyone who has been involved with an aggressive social media campaign reporting on progress and making everyone feel their contribution made a difference.

They haven’t stopped there, they are leveraging their success to ban bee-killing pesticides globally. Click here to learn more or to lend your voice.

What is your specific issue? Is it passing a piece of legislation? Having your organization recognized by your government? How can you use the strategies listed above to target the right people and create change with minimal resources and maximum result? You don’t have to engage everyone, you just have to find the right one.

If you agree, click here to Tweet @RebeccaSaveKids Targeted programs can create real change. http://bit.ly/12OtHni #stopdrowning

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