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March 2023

A shirtless dancing guy and first followers: How to strengthen a movement against abuse and harm of adults

Estimated reading time: under 5 minutes

In December 2022 I wrote about all how safeguarding actions taken help to build a social movement (see A small act … thank you December 2022 blog) and to make a lasting difference we need thousands and thousands of actions, some big and some small.

While larger actions will often be part of what the board does, I have been reading more about how movements are started, and how those small actions can have a big impact too (see A tiny piece of flint: small acts … big impacts July 2020 blog).

For example, The Quiet Before: On the Unexpected Origins of Radical Ideas by Gal Beckerman (Feb 2022) is a really interesting read. Beckerman, an editor at The New York Times Book Review, considers lots of examples of social change formed in

“quiet, closed networks that allowed a small group to incubate their ideas before broadcasting them widely”.

These include: the seventeenth century correspondence that jump-started the scientific revolution; the petitions that secured the right to vote in 1830s Britain; the actions that gave voice to women's rage in the early 1990s; even the messaging apps used by epidemiologists fighting the pandemic. Beckerman looks to the past to help us imagine a different future. Also you might be interested in Beckerman’s article How to Make Change, Slowly.

Ask anyone if they oppose the abuse and harm of another adult, and they will say ‘yes of course’. Ask, should we stand up to abuse and exploitation of adults, and the reply will be ‘absolutely’.

Yet abuse continues, inflicting real harm, pain and suffering on adults who, because of their care and support needs, are unable to protect themselves (or don’t have people around to help protect them). While it may never be possible to totally remove this harm from our communities, many, many people work tirelessly to ‘push down hard on it’.

The question is how do we get from where we are now to where we would like to be … making abuse of an adult by other person totally socially unacceptable in our society?

How we can further strengthen the foundations we have: using the Care Act and multiple other legislation changes across many areas over the last decade, Ann Craft Trust national safeguarding week and other awareness rising days / weeks and the safeguarding adults boards

This might sound a grand and rather ‘out there idea’, but all social change starts somewhere. In many ways the seeds of what we need are already planted. I see and hear strong safeguarding activity up and down the country, and as Safeguarding Adult Boards we share best practice which strengthens our national approach – but what other building blocks do we need?

In 2010 David Sivers gave a TED (technology, entertainment and design) talk called how to start a movement. TED talks as we now know them started as a conference first held in 1986 and then from 1990 established as an annual event. TED Talks have grown and grown in popularity, posted online for free under the slogan "ideas worth spreading".

David used a brilliant 3 minute video to set out his ideas … a shirtless guy dancing alone at a music festival (some might say I dance like him which could true, I don’t know). Watch what happens next! (Here is a YouTube version, do listen out for the great comment heard at the very end.)

I love this clip and have watched it lots of times. It’s positive and shows what is possible. It says to me … YES we can make a difference! David observes this clip can tell a lot about leadership and how to start a movement.

He picks out the important role of the first few ‘followers’ (under-appreciated form of leadership) and how they make a movement public. If the shirtless dancing guy is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire. With more followers we create momentum and a ‘tipping point’.

Those who get involved, having the courage to follow, help the movement to be seen and this attracts more followers. The best way to start a movement is to courageously to follow and show other how to follow.

So, let’s strengthen the movement for safeguarding adults and here are two actions to help:

  1. Each of you reading this blog and anyone who has subscribed to the NSAB monthly newsletter is helping. Brilliant. We have ‘momentum’. Share these with 2 people, help us get nearer that ‘tipping point’ - make our actions against abuse and harm public.

  2. Movements need information to feed and support them. Not only does NSAB have our own website, Twitter feed, and monthly newsletter, we also support our locality safeguarding adult partnerships (LSAPs) which are key to bringing partner organisations together at a ‘place based’ level. Go out and tell someone about the locality partnership meetings. Over the coming months we have some great webinars on different topics, you can find out more here: LSAP webinars | Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board

As Derrick Feldmann author Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change reminders us:

‘Whether you create a movement in your neighborhood with 20 people or with 20,000, the social movements you create – no matter how big or how small – can change the world for the better. Social movement building is an exciting opportunity that anyone who believes they can help bring people together for a common good can bring on.’

Thank you.

Walter Lloyd-Smith

NSAB Board Manager

Email: [email protected]