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Framing the issues


Dr. Lawrence Wallack

Last week, I had the honor of giving an hour-long presentation about social media at a breakout session at Prevention in Progress: Domestic Violence Prevention Summit 2009. About 150 domestic violence prevention experts from across Ohio attended the conference at a lodge about 40 miles east of Columbus.

I thought I’d learn more about root causes of domestic violence while hearing keynote speakers. Instead, I got a compelling lesson in using public relations to address the problems that plague our society.

Dr. Lawrence Wallack, dean and professor of public health, College of Urban and Public Affairs, Portland State University, delivered the compelling talk. He has appeared on Nightline, Good Morning America, the CBS Evening News, the Today Show… even Oprah!

His keynote presentation was titled Framing Issues Using America’s Second Language: Community, Prevention and Social Justice.

Wallack called individualism the first language in American culture. He said that a second language, community, contains the values that can be tapped to drive social change. We can come together to advocate for policies and programs that proactively address core issues such as lack of affordable health care and education. It won’t be easy, though, in a culture that stresses individualism and a strong mistrust of government.

His talk was mostly academic, so I asked for concrete examples. He pointed to smoking and drunk driving as areas where a sense of community mobilized advocates to push for major changes. He suggested that I share stories that don’t just portray people as victims of domestic violence, poverty and child abuse. I can include a call to action in the stories.

Of course, I was tweeting his comments on Twitter and status updating them on Facebook. Social media provides us with a great toolkit for building powerful communities, groups that can advocate for positive change he suggested.

What do you think about this — social media as a method for building community and ultimately addressing the ills of our way of life?

Categories: Community, Social media
  1. November 9, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Mike, just now reading this post. Domestic violence awareness and prevention is something that has affected me personally. In 2005 and 2007 I produced podcasts sharing thoughts from a local domestic violence awareness walk I and many others in the community participated in. I think the tools were a bit young, and I myself was a bit green, but it was amazing to see the response I got from those who have listened to the content.

    Survivor stories are very powerful, as you already know from your wife’s experience with cancer. I think this is where we have an opportunity to use new media tools.

    • mikeboehmer57
      November 10, 2009 at 9:15 am

      Thanks, Daniel. As you know, these social media tools help us build strong real-life communities. We can really make a positive impact in this world!

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