Trendy approaches to Social Transformation

There are frequent moments when I find myself thinking about some social media rant of this or that friend, “You and I have the same goals. But I think we have different thoughts on what needs to be done to reach those goals. So what is needed is the wisdom and knowledge/experience to know which approaches will actually create a net gain in shalom for the people we are concerned about, and which approaches may seem promising [and popular] but will turn out to be at best less effective, and at worst, counterproductive and actually harmful to the people we are trying to help.”

The UN has run up against this reality time and again, trying to help and then realizing this or that approach has created unforeseen results counter to the goal, harmful in fact. There are many popular “fixes” being advocated today,  popular as in, it is trendy and hip to advocate those approaches, and young people -and perhaps even your leaders- will consider you enlightened and with-it if you advocate those ideas, but which, in reality, do not solve the problem, will not create a net gain in shalom, will harm those we are concerned about, and are “empty clouds that produce no rain”.

None of that is to say that nothing should change, nor that we should just do what we’ve always done.  No one who, in their mid-40s, spent the time and money on an expensive degree in International Development would ever suggest such a thing.  What I do suggest is that jumping on the bandwagon of our favorite political party and advocating,  without studying an issue carefully over time,  whatever trendy fix is in the news at the moment, is not “the work of mature wisdom”. What I do suggest is that at this present moment, many people in our society, and in my own denomination, are advocating trendy fixes which a bit of mature wisdom, experience, and understanding of economics and community development  should indicate are hollow approaches which will do more harm than good for the very people we love and want to bless.

3000 years ago a Jewish sage wrote “Zeal without knowledge is not good, and the one who acts hastily sins.”

There’s a lot of truth there.

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