SXSW Updates: Using New Media to Change Social Norms

I’m at SXSW Interactive. I will live blog some of the events. It’s fast and furious writing so forgive any errors. The wonder of SXSW is that you can sample ideas from all across the globe that inspire fresh thinking. What follows is an example of a social movement that holds tons of clues for social media marketers about how to speed adoption.

Ruthie Taylor, Orchid Project

Talk: A Movement Online to End Female Genital Cutting
I am listening to a talk on what it took to shift social norms around female genetil cutting using social media and community engagement. In 200 communities in Africa. 

Campaign theses:

Only when a taboo is broken can it be discussed among a community.

Game theory–individual action is less meaningful than group action.

Rituals are important–re-mix of old rituals fused with new meaning celebrate the cultural change that ended the practice.

Live events and community organizing model:
1. Improv theater: Act out a play about a girl who dies of female cutting. Invite discussion.
Silence followed. The process occurred 3 x and each time the conversation and audience grew.
Then the women began talking about it in the community informally. The taboo had been broken.

2. Approached a male shaman. He became the discruption accelerator. He “stapped on his sandals and walked” which meant he walked from village to village asking people to abandon the practice.
He found that people want for others what they want for themselves. 

3. The intermarriage tribes stood up and said they no longer wanted to hurt their little girls in this way. They only did it because an uncut girl was not eleigible for marriage and legigitmate motherhood. 

Cutting was linked to a a tribes future existence. That had to be changed. Communities pledged and created rituals with the pledge to deepen the meaning of the new social norms–songs, dances, plays are performed amidst community celebrations–an indication of how mainstream the change is becoming.

Today, EU investing and DFID and United Nations has banned it internationally. Now, 15 countries have adopted the ban. Over 8 million girls have been spared the brutal practice.

The Orchid Project organized the change by using Internet community-building theories.

Here are the new-media tactics:
1. YouTube videos 
2. Collaborations with Amnesty and WHO.
3. Cultivated relationship Nicholas Kristoff @NYTimes
(NB: empowered men were a critical component of the recipe)
4. Positive messaging, infographics, storytelling based on real girls who want their stories told.
5. Show the “hope” in the change.
6. WordPress website

People in the media are now openly reporting on it. 

Foot binding ended in 20 years. The similarities are useful–social media can end in 5 years? Achievable–and tells us how powerful new media is to make powerful positive social change. It’s no pipe dream.

Motivations–how people adopt change based on their psych-social needs:
1. Settlers–We begin by being sustenance focused–safety and security.
2. Prospector–(outer directed) Needs are esteem-focused
3. Pioneer–(community focused) progressives who act on behalf of themselves AND others.

Most campaigns focus only on Pioneers. That’s not enough groundswell to break a taboo. You have to reach all 3 types of people with different tactics.

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