Last Friday I wrote a post questioning whether blogging, particularly my own writing, has any value in the social sector.
I received a lot of great comments and examples of blogging leading to actual social change. I’ll first share some of those comments and then further clarify my own thinking and evolving position on this topic.
Carey Fuller shared some of her blogging successes, writing:
If it hadn’t been for blogging, I wouldn’t have been able to raise funds to put a homeless vet dying of pancreatic cancer into a motel or collect camping gear for homeless youth to survive through winter.
Mark Horvath, video blogger and founder of Invisible People also added his thoughts to the discussion. Mark, as many of you know, is probably the best example of the power of blogging as a medium for creating social change, and I should have known better than to have written a post that began “Does Blogging Matter…” and think I would get away un-Horvathed.
Mark and Carey both are quite right to stand up for the social value of blogging. A comment by Kathryn Baer helped me realize that the intended scope of my post was broader than the post’s title suggested. Kathryn argued that one objective of anti-poverty blogging is to inform those outside of the social sector, writing:
I wouldn’t want to view all blogging on poverty-related issues as a conversation among nonprofit service providers. I’m sure you don’t either.
Kathryn makes an excellent point, and gives me far too much credit. I do in fact frame my writing for those working in the social sector (whether non-profit, government, or what have you). Indeed, it is toward this narrowed audience that I expressed my doubts about the efficacy of blogging.
But as Carey, Mark, and Kathryn are all pointing out, there is a wider, and perhaps more important audience to reach. That certainly is the direction Michael Dahl took his comments, suggesting that at its best blogging can mobilize large groups of people to “Demonstrate Power”, and drive systems level change.
These are compelling arguments, and these bloggers have a lot to offer to this wider audience and more ambitious objective for social change. For me, I do not believe my talents lie in educating a wider audience. I view myself, and my writing, as more of an “inside-baseball” type of analysis.
My professional focus, and writing is an extensions of my professional life, is helping social sector organizations improve service delivery through the use of information. The fact is that while most sectors evolve through time, the social sector progresses at a much slower pace, even as human suffering accelerates.
We write about Housing-First, the idea of housing the most vulnerable homeless persons first then providing supportive services later, a lot on this site, and with good reason. Housing-First is an excellent example of a data driven social policy decision. Treating people on the streets costs more money than treating them in homes, so let’s house them first.
While I am quite supportive of Housing-First, the more cynical side of me thinks we give this idea so much attention because it’s the only great idea we have had in a damn long time.
The social sector’s relationship with data is anywhere between frigid and hostile, assuming our existing interventions perfectly sufficient if only we had enough money to implement them properly. I certainly hope we do not believe we are done innovating as a sector, and the adoption of Housing-First leads me to believe the sector as a whole does not believe that either.
My hope with blogging, in my more narrowed focus, is to help encourage social sector organizations (including the consumers and supporters of services) to engage one another and the information in front of them to drive better service delivery. Maybe I am alone in that hope, but the evidence of what others have done through their blogs and the potential of the medium has me optimistic that a better engaged, more impactful social sector is attainable.
Photo credit: Bill S