Public Health, Outcomes, and Connecting the Dots

22 May

As someone who focuses on primary prevention of sexual violence  (preventing the behavior from ever occurring in the first place) in my work, I (Ashley) use a public health framework.  This means I do a lot of public health-type things, like creating logic models and strategic plans.  Given that I do this work all but two days a week, and often on the weekends, I usually find myself thinking about how useful these skills will be when I finally have more time to devote myself to the Connect the Dots initiative.

“Wait, what?  Are you going to tell us how great logic models and strategic plans are for connecting the dots?”

Yep.

Well, I’ll spare you the dry details.  Clearly any movement needs to have direction.  While I respect and expect the movement’s growth from the ground up, as a grassroots initiative, we must have a vision for where we are going. This is where planning comes in.   What I think we haven’t asked ourselves enough is, What do we want to see?  What outcomes do we expect?  I can think of plenty specific and measurable short-term outcomes that we’ll be pursuing as the initiative develops.  But as a whole, as a movement, what are our long-term outcomes?  What do we want to see in 5 years?  10 years?  50?

As with many movements, like the movement to end violence against women, we are really great at saying what we are against.  We want to end oppression, duh.  But what are we for?  What do we hope to see in the world?  What do we want to promote, rather than simply prevent/fight/end?  I think we need to spend some more time thinking about this.  Here are just a few thoughts about what we are for, long-term outcomes that we expect as a result of this connectionist movement:

  • Human, animal, and environmental well-being (I say this a lot, I know)
  • A Peaceful World for All
  • Compassion Towards All
  • Empathy for All
  • Justice for All

Stacia listed the following in about 2 seconds:

  • Eating animal products is something that is only done if there is no other way to get all of your daily sustenance with a plant-based diet (could be geography related)
  • Competent food distribution ensures that no one goes hungry
  • The human population begins to use water resources in a sound manner and everyone has access to clean water thereby eliminating the many pediatric deaths due to diarrheal illnesses due to drinking contaminated supplies
  • Heterosexuality is seen as one shade of normal (rather than the norm) along with the myriad of other sexual ways of being
  • Psychiatric illnesses are no longer stigmatized and the victims of them are given the resources needed to maximize their lives
  • Critical thinking skills are taught in schools
  • Racism ceases to exist
  • Human culture shifts from encouraging the minimization and exploitation of the female body to viewing and treating women and men as equals.

And on and on.  True, it’s hard for me, no matter the topic, to focus on the positive.  That’s why I only include 4 bullet points above.  What do you want to see?  What does a world in which people connect the dots look like to you?  In public health, we may call these outcomes, but I often find it easier to ask, What do I expect to see as a result of these efforts?  What do you expect to see?  What will a world that has benefited from a connectionist movement look like to you?

UPDATE: After this blog was written, I discovered that the Animal Rights & AntiOppression blog posted a great piece on measuring success. Read it! I love this blog.  It makes me feel less alone.  And so do all of you who consider yourself part of this movement.  Thank you.

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