Perception: What we see lies upon the surface. What is lies underneath the surface.
To change how disabled people are perceived, we must expand the tribes(networks) that hold the values of acceptance and understanding. I know many non-profits, and advocacy groups try to do this already, but their reach is usually limited to the reach of their members. That is say, they rarely expand past their current tribe. As stated in David Logan's video, great tribe leaders are those who expand their tribe's influence by introducing people to other people. This is somewhat of an absurd concept since you'd think that you're just expanding the other person's tribe, but I would like to suggest a possible explanation. The act of introducing one person to another is a show of confidence and power. You are asserting yourself to the other 2 people and taking a leading role. This means that they will be more likely to follow your values in the near future. In essence, you've influenced 2 tribes with one action instead of 1. This act has allowed you to establish clout(social power) among both the tribes.
How do I establish clout?
The key is to attend as many social gatherings, conferences, dinners, fundraisers, clubs, etc. as you can. A lot of people use these events to network, but most don't fully take advantage of the situation. I would suggest that after you've attended an event where you networked, you should follow up with the people you've met. Go for a coffee, develop a relationship outside of the particular event you met at. This added step lets you move from acquaintances to being friends/colleagues.
How do I use my clout?
With the establishment of personal or organizational clout, you can move on to my next suggested step for motivating the shaping of perception. Start a cause/movement that fits within your established values (the values that your tribes follow) and elicits action by those who see it. You need something to be eye-catching and 'viral' for it to be successful. A fine example of this concept in recent media was the Kony 2012 campaign. The Invisible Children organization spent years establishing its clout at universities throughout the USA so that when they made an eye-catching video it went viral immediately. I find this to be the hardest part because you need to create content that generates action. You may have the clout necessary for your friends/colleagues to spread the message, but the people who see it need to act upon seeing your video. To help with this conundrum, you should look to expanding your networks in a few particular circles; university students, film makers, and communications professionals.
Following-up the action
This step is often left out in most practices. It is synonymous with the last step of many business models that relate to feedback/monitoring performance. This step is often overlooked because the project/product has already been finished, but it is critical for insuring the success and growth of future endeavours. In the non-profit world, this is why donors usually receive some form of thank you, and shaping perception is no different. If you don't follow-up by sending thank you's, or asking for feedback then your supports/tribes/networks will think that the cause was successful and no more action is needed. This is rarely the case since most causes require years of protesting, and fundraising for to be completely successful. Just as our existence is continuous, so are the issues we face.
- Establish personal/organizational clout by attending networking functions.
- Follow-up meetings with your new contacts to develop personal connection.
- Start a cause that aligns with your network's values.
- Create a video, site, blog post, event, etc that can catch the attention and elicit action.
- Follow-up to tell everyone it isn't over yet.
Questions or comments about my thought process/suggested steps are welcome.