2nd Station – Stand up to be Seen
Find yourself a quiet space in which to work. You will need access to the internet to watch some short films and TED Talks, a paper and pencil for making notes and access to the Circle of Influence resource sheet either in hard copy or online.
Let’s talk about responsibility.
Did you feel excited and empowered when you read that line? Or did your heart sink?
We typed the word “responsibility” into a search engine and the first definition that popped up said “the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having a control over someone”. Next on the list was “the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something”. Finally, third on the list we got to “the opportunity or ability to act independently and take decisions without authorisation”. We checked other sources… Merriam-Webster, the Cambridge Dictionary, Collins… go on – try it, and see how long it takes to get to something positive.
What does this tell us about the way in which our views are influenced by the sources that we use?
Hold that thought – write down “sources of influence” – and we’ll come back to it later.
Responsibility is one of the key ingredients in our Spirit of Democracy. Only when we take responsibility for our actions can we expect to have rights, and only when we take responsibility for exercising those rights – to stand up and be counted – can we expect action to bring about positive change… for example:
- If we have the right to vote, but don’t take responsibility to make an informed choice and turn up to the polling station, we undermine democracy and our right to have a say. . .
- If we have the right to freedom of speech but don’t take responsibility for respectfully speaking out on the subjects that matter to us, that freedom will have no purpose . . .
- If we expect the right to be included, but don’t take responsibility for including others, that right will never result in an inclusive society . . . you get the idea.
As Albert Einstein once said “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”.
All too often we define responsibility in ways that make it feel like a crushing weight, like chains that tie us down, or prevent us from doing what we want to do… the opposite of having fun.
The word “responsibility” has its roots in Latin, meaning of “respond” or “answer to”, or “promise in return”. So what if we took a different perspective altogether and thought of responsibility as response-ability: our ability to respond (to a situation, a challenge, or a set of circumstances)? Think of it this way and perhaps a word of passive acceptance and burden can become one of action, choice and empowerment?
Our Circle of Influence
In his popular book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey offered a holistic approach to life and work that struck a chord with millions of people across the world. In the book, he talks about the ‘Circle of Concern’ and the ‘Circle of Influence’. He explains that each of us has a Circle of Concern which includes everything we worry about in life, from the big things through to the small.
Inside our Circle of Concern, some things are within our control or influence, and some are beyond it. Our Circle of Influence is a smaller circle that sits inside our Circle of Concern. What Covey tells us is that if we take personal responsibility for tackling the issues that are within our Circle of Influence, and focus our energies on addressing those concerns that we can do something about, we will become more effective change-makers, bringing greater empowerment and growing our circle of influence.
Find your Circle of Influence resource sheet, watch this short film for an explanation and make notes on your sheet:
How can we use the principles of the Circle of Influence to address those issues that are of most concern to us – the biggest issues in our communities or the wider world? If instead of waiting for change in our circle of concern we speak out and take action thorough our circle of influence, can we empower ourselves to make a difference?
But where do we start?
Watch and learn:
Watch at least one the following three short films in which the speakers share their thoughts and experiences of tackling big issues by standing up and being counted through smaller actions. Before you begin, draw yourself a blank circle of concern and influence for your speaker and as you watch, see if you can note down some of the things that they might consider to fall into their circle of concern and those actions that they have drawn into their circle of influence:
Want to change the world? Start by being brave enough to care | Cleo Wade
Artist and poet Cleo Wade recites a moving poem about being an advocate for love and acceptance in a time when both seem in short supply. Woven between stories of people at the beginning and end of their lives, she shares some truths about growing up (and speaking up) and reflects on the wisdom of a life well-lived, leaving us with a simple yet enduring takeaway: be good to yourself, be good to others, be good to the earth. “The world will say to you, ‘Be a better person,'” Wade says. “Do not be afraid to say, ‘Yes.'”
Be the Change in the Messed-up World | Rob Greenfield
Individual actions can amount to change at a large scale. In his talk, Rob explains how this applies to environmentally friendly living. His extreme activism initiatives, such as the “Trash Me” campaign he ran in New York in 2016, are meant to awaken our consciousness on the impact our actions have on the planet. Rob invites us to commit to small daily changes to become the change we wish to see in the world.
The danger of silence | Clint Smith
“We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t,” says slam poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice.
Consolidate with an activity:
Draw your own Circle of Concern and influence and start to fill it in with notes that reflect your own worries and your ability to influence and affect change, within your own context and situation. If you work through the remaining stations of this challenge there will be moments of pause and reflection in which we will ask you to consider adding to your circle, so you do not need to complete it fully at this point.
Sources of Influence
When you hear the term “Influencer” what is the first thing that springs to mind?
Do your thoughts go to social media and the influencers of our day – the people we follow in large numbers on platforms such as Instagram, Tik-Tok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube? In general terms an influencer is a person or group that has the ability to influence the behaviour or opinions of others. In the case of social media influencers this is done through the content that they post online having built up a following over time.
The ability of social media influencers to affect consumer behaviour illustrates the power that they can have in our lives. They reach out to a big audience on their platforms, their fanbase is very loyal and that fanbase has a high level of trust in their influencers. According to a survey by global research firm Nielsen, 92% of customers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement.
But why do we follow them and what lessons can we apply in seeking to expand our own circle of influence? A survey conducted by CITE Research polled 4,000 active social media consumers ages 16-61, across the U.S., U.K., France and Germany and found that the top two reasons in choosing who to follow were “authenticity” and “personalisation” relevant to the followers’ interests. Put another way: we follow people that speak ‘from the heart’, with genuine passion and whose interests and perspectives are similar to our own: we believe that they understand us. What does tell us about some of the ways in which we can expand our own circle of influence and draw more people to our cause?
Think twice, click once
However gifted we like to think we are in weighing up the authenticity of things we read online, it is a sad fact that people can only tell truth from lies about 55% of the time. Of course we each of us think that’s other people – not us – right?
The way social and search technology works doesn’t help with this. It’s specifically designed to feed us the information we want to see (you might have heard of, or discussed ideas like the online “echo chamber” or “filter bubble”). The ability for technology to personalise our feeds creates a self reinforcing loop of information that we agree with and keeps us in bubbles with like-minded people. And this brings us to another pitfall to avoid – “confirmation bias” – our tendency to believe information that confirms our existing beliefs. Think of it as your personal echo chamber that interacts with the larger echo chamber of social media and search results. When we sit within an echo chamber within an echo chamber we are likely to become more susceptible to fake news: We are more likely to believe a story we want to believe.
Also consider: What do echo chambers and confirmation bias do for freedom of speech? What of healthy debate? What about our ability to gather support for a cause or campaign? What about our circle of influence? There are broader pros and cons of online bubbles and even of confirmation bias when it comes to developing a Spirit of Democracy. Can you think of a few on either side and note them down?
Fake news, watch and learn:
Now browse through the four films below, each of which explores a way in which we can turn the tide on fake news through individual actions. As you watch, consider the following questions (and make notes):
- What responsibility can we take to limit the spread and impact of Fake News?
- In what ways do we have the power to control the media and its influence on us?
- What tests do our speakers use to help them to distinguish fake news?
- Are social media users the only spreaders of fake news or are there other sources we should be equally cautious of?
Fake News. It’s Your Fault – Christina Nicholson
In this TED Talk film former TV reporter and anchor Christina Nicholson explains why we are responsible for everything we see online, in print, and on TV… even so-called fake news.
Fake News is Killing People: Can You Stop It? – Govindraj Ethiraj
A study by MIT in 2018 of 126000 posts that had been tweeted three millions times showed false news travels faster, deeper and further than true news. Govindrai explains that in India, where there are more than 500 millions subscribers on Social media, fake news has prompted mass killings and destruction. He asks: what can be done about it?
How false news can spread – Noah Tavlin
In past decades, most news with global reach came from several major newspapers and networks with the resources to gather information directly. The speed with which information spreads now, however, has created the ideal conditions for something called circular reporting. Noah Tavlin sheds light on this phenomenon.
How to choose your news – Damon Brown
Thanks to the Internet and social media, news is distributed at an incredible rate by an unprecedented number of different media outlets. How do we choose which news to consume? Damon Brown gives the inside scoop on how the opinions and facts (and sometimes non-facts) make their way into the news and how the smart reader can tell them apart.
Sometimes things are not what they seem
Now take a look at the pictures below, taken in April 2020 by a Danish photographer and shared them on social media to show how a scene can appear very different depending on how the picture is taken. In this way photography can be used to capture and present a story about social distancing in the way that the creator intends even when they claim to be giving us an objective view of a situation.
In each instance the top photo is taken with a telephoto-lens from a long distance away and the second is exactly the same scene taken with a wide-angle lens from the side.
Consolidate with an activity:
Write an Acrostic checklist (where the first letter of every line on your checklist, when put together, spell a word, like IDEALS) and use your Acrostic checklist to make a poster for school to help younger children to think about some of the dangers of fake news.
You might want to watch this short film from FactCheck.org on how to spot fake news to check if you’ve missed anything.
If working in an online group or with students from another RS school, share your checklists as the basis for a discussion about the dangers of fake news and how to avoid falling for – or recirculating – it.
Circle of Influence:
Take another look at your Circle of Influence. Consider whether you can add anything to your circle of influence/control by choosing the influences that you allow into your life. Also consider how you can protect others and take responsibility for careful sharing (or not sharing) of information through your circle of influence.