Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why Two Recent Events Will Spawn Social Good

On two occasions over the past five days, I’ve attended community functions where networking flourished.  Both reminded me of an essay I read a year ago by James Fowler entitled 10 Points on the Science of Spreading the Word.

One was  Faces of Change a Duke Medicine event honoring the 50th anniversary of admitting its first minority students and faculty, part of the rapid transformation spurred by the late Governor, U.S. Senator and Duke President Terry Sanford.

The second occurred yesterday at Durham’s Annual Tribute Luncheon, produced each year by the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau in lieu of the customary annual meeting.

Always paying tribute to those who have fostered and promoted Durham’s sense of place, this year’s event honored Gospel Singer and Pastor Shirley Caesar.

Dr. Fowler is a University of California – San Diego professor of medical genetics and political science whose “work lies at the intersection of natural and social science, with a focus on social networks…”

The two Durham events each involved a mix of community, civic, business, neighborhood and university leaders.  Most attendees including “hangers on” such as me, knew the purpose was to pay respect to the honorees, but there were still a few individuals flitting around the room trying to score points or press personal agendas.

From my reading and adaptation of Fowler’s “10 Points” the altruism of the two events should be contagious.  In fact, events such as these can act much like a “matching grant.”

The two events are organic and unpretentious, so their messages are more likely to get amplified more than traditional annual events that turn into proselytizing advertisements for the sponsoring organizations.

The studies Fowler cites also suggest that these two events, by shining a light on good behavior, are more likely to spur others to perform good deeds.

Attendees are also more likely to be bellwethers for social good who in turn, carry the message from these events to hundreds of people who were unable to attend.

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