Thinking Analytically to Make Change Happen

Can you break down a problem or issue into its component parts and understadn how they relate? You probably have some idea how to do that. Still, you might learn a thing or two from this post. The best way to attack a social problem is always to begin from a point of understanding the problem and its context. Here are a few tips:

1. Figure out what data is relevant to the issue, that you don’t have yet. Go and get that data. You should at least get some of the data to use as ammunition against opponents or to get a better sense of the problem as it exists now.

2. Know the difference between causation, association, and influence. If two things tend to go together, they are likely not related in the sense that one causes the other. It is much, much more likely that other factors are in play. A and B simply happened to appear to be connected. Other times one thing influences another. A could make B more severe or more common or less likely to work.

In one of my sociology courses, I learned that there is a direct correlation between ice cream sales and burglaries; as ice cream sales go up the burglary rate goes up. (Can you figure out why? Hint: Something else is going on at the same time the burglary rate goes up.)

3. Think about factors in the social environment that might influence the existence or severity of the problem in question.

4. Look for statistics that reveal trends, patterns, or associations. What seems to go along with the existence of your problem? Is there some logical connection? Has reearch revealed any connection? Could you conduct your own study?

So, what is the point of all of this abstract advice? I want you to think in a rigorous (Scientific?) fashion about the issue you care about and the best ways to address the problem. Emotions are great, but they have to be guided, framed, predicated, or whatever on some attempt to quantify, decompose, study the problem at hand. Doing that leads to a better chance of your emotional investment in a cause/solution being repaid with desirable results.

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~ by chetdavis on September 27, 2007.

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