Citizen Action Monitor

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

So wrote American philosopher, psychologist William James in a 1908 letter to Helen Keller

No 971 Posted by fw, February 09, 2014

The above William James’ quote popped into mind as I was skimming through Transition Network’s Draft Strategy, 2014/2017. There, on page 11, the final page, tucked away under the heading “Monitoring & Evaluation: how we’ll know how things are going”, is this charming little anecdote, unlocking James’ quote from my memory bank.

We’re conscious that we probably can’t and won’t know which bit of what we do will make the most difference.  We remember a story told by Paul Loeb:

In the early 1960s, a friend of mine named Lisa took two of her kids to a Washington, DC, vigil in front  of  the  White  House,  protesting  nuclear  testing.  The demonstration was small, a hundred women at most.  Rain poured down.  The women felt frustrated and powerless.  A  few  years  later, the  movement  against  testing  had  grown  dramatically,  and  Lisa  attended  a  major  march. Benjamin Spock, the famous baby doctor, spoke.  He  described  how  he’d  come  to  take  a  stand, which  because  of  his  stature  had  already  influenced  thousands,  and  would  reach  far  more  when he  challenged  the  Vietnam  War.  Spock  talked  briefly  about  the  issues,  then  mentioned  being  in DC  a  few  years  before  and  seeing  a  small  group  of  women  huddled,  with  their  kids,  in  the  rain.  It was Lisa’s group.  “I  thought  that  if  those  women  were  out  there,”  he  said,  “their  cause  must  be really  important.”

[From Reclaiming Hope: The Peace Movement after the War by Paul Rogat Loeb]

As an aside, Transition Network’s draft strategy describes TN’s vision and purpose, the way Transition works, and sets out its priorities for the next three years. Highly recommended.


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