A survey, the "Social Change Impact Report" sponsored by Walden University and executed by Harris Interactive, reveals Americans' views about social change and their role in it.
Americans have always been outspoken activists, and now social media have amplified their voices across a broad array of issues. This survey crunches the numbers with sometimes surprising insights about who is doing what and how.
- Not too surprising is that most Americans believe that social change is important...both for individuals and for American society in general and globally. More than three quarters (77%) of those surveyed said it is important to them personally to be involved in positive social change.
- Generally, Americans trace their belief in the importance of social change back to their earliest experiences. More than half see parental teachings as a major influence. But this belief is significantly more prevalent among older generations with 67% of Matures saying so; 62% of Baby Boomers; 52% of Gen X; and 51% of Gen Y.
- A large number of Americans (43%) believe that individuals, either acting on their own or in informal groups, will play a larger role in social change in the future. However 35% say that nonprofit organizations will have a larger role; and 49% said that they personally are most likely to get involved in social change through a nonprofit. Educational institutions are mentioned as vehicles for social change as well, but government appears to be expected to play a smaller role (34%) and fewer than 15% of those surveyed said they are most likely to get involved in social change through the government.
- Americans are very optimistic about their own power as individuals to effect change. Some 85% agreed that they personally can make the world a better place through their own actions. People with more education are more optimistic about their own power to affect change than those with less education.
- Americans are most concerned about education, health, and poverty issues. Men and women differ slightly in that men rank education, health and social justice as top concerns; while women say their top three issues are health, poverty and education.
- Eight in 10 Americans (83%) think globalization will become more pronounced, and that (66%) it is important to create social change wherever there is the greatest need, no matter where in the world that is. At the same time, most (88%) Americans believe they can best affect the world by creating change at the local level.
- Even though younger generations make a big mark in social change, Baby Boomers and Matures are the most likely to have participated in actions to further social change in the year prior to the survey. Actions cited include donating money, goods or services, writing to or calling a politician, expressing an opinion by writing to an editor or calling into a radio or TV show.
- Despite the emergence of digital technology, that means of affecting social change has not yet exceeded more traditional methods--even among the youngest group. Generation Y-ers are still taking action by donating, volunteering, educating others, signing petitions or fundraising for a cause by showing up somewher. Blogging or organizing on a social networking site lags behind traditional forms of action.
- Despite that lag, 8 in 10 adults, across all generations, agree that digital technology is enabling more people to get involved in social change faster than ever before. More than four in five (81%) people say that digital technology is creating a shift in how social change happens. Nearly 90% of adults think that digital technology has the ability to turn mere interest in a cause into a movement; and 65% do not think that social media's role in social change is just a fad. Baby Boomers and Matures are more likely than Gen Y and Gen X to believe that digital methods make it easier to follow the news and events about social change and thus provide help to the needy and make change happen in local areas.
Even with its emphasis on individual action, this survey should not make nonprofits fearful of their future place in social change. Nonprofits are highly revered and can and do provide the vehicles for social change, as well as identification of issues and education about them.
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