Robin Hood Was Right

Change vs charity

The following text is from the book "Robin Hood Was Right"

We give to help the poor, but poverty prevails. We contribute to save the environment, but corporate destruction of our land and waters continues. We donate to shelters, but millions remain homeless.

Much of our giving is limited to “safe” causes as we support services that provide temporary relief but do not challenge the status quo. Our efforts temporarily alleviate problems, but in the end they allow the symptoms we see today to grow tomorrow.

Social Change Kicks the Status Quo

Progressive social change is characterized by its insistence on addressing the root cause(s) of problems rather than the alleviation of symptoms. Because the goal is systemic change, conflict with those who hold power is often inevitable. The power that social change organisations bring to the table is their ability to organise, to educate, and to mobilise.

How Social Change Happens

Money alone does not bring about change; neither do individuals. But when individuals band together and form organisations to focus on their collective power, social change can happen. When a large number of organisations work together toward a common goal, that’s a movement. Movements make change.

The goals of social change organising:

  • Aim at root causes, not symptoms.
  • Build collective responses, not individual solutions, to problems.
  • Change attitudes, behaviour, laws, policies, and institutions the better to reflect values of inclusion, fairness, and diversity.
  • Insist on accountability and responsiveness in such institutions as government, large corporations, and universities.
  • Expand democracy by involving those closest to social problems in determining their solution.

Analysing the root causes of why a situation exists is a primary difference between charity and social change. Charities don’t ask why. Social change organisations do.

Examples of change vs charity

  • Charity: Donate to a food pantry to provide supplemental food for lower-income working families.
  • Change: Raise the minimum wage so people can afford to purchase the food they need.
  • Charity: Send money to a shelter for homeless families.
  • Change: Send money to a housing coalition working for affordable housing.
  • Charity: Fund a scholarship for one high school student to attend college.
  • Change: Fund a student association organising to ensure that higher education is affordable for everyone.
  • Charity: Give to a telethon for services for people with disabilities.
  • Change: Give to a group of disabled people and their allies pushing for their elected officials to make public buildings accessible.