Real hunger people don’t talk.

Last week, I asked the question—which I’ve been asking for years—“Where’s the online discussion of hunger?”   Crickets.

Dang folks.  These online channels—blogs, social media, forums, etc.—offer enormous potential for exciting and diverse discourse.  The hunger community is a passionate and opinionated bunch.  There’s enough diversity of thought among those who care about feeding people to have some really interesting discussion going on?  So why don’t we?

When I asked the question last week, social-media-for-social good expert Beth Kanter suggested on twitter that perhaps hunger fighters were too focused on making change offline to be spending energy in online discussion.  I think she’s correct.  To a certain degree.

Here’s my thinking right now (note: There’s a bit of devil’s advocacy here, and the view does not necessarily reflect those of my employer or fellow team members. And it is a generalization, for which there are notable exceptions.  Apologies to those folks, and you know who you are—you’ll likely be the ones who comment here):

Many of the people who are on the front lines, who are the best informed and have the strongest views on the issue of hunger, are not participating online. They’re digital immigrants, if they use technology at all.   They are indeed busy offline.    They have, instead delegated the responsibility of online participation to marketing people.

Many of the marketing people in hunger relief (some working for the largest organizations)  just haven’t yet embraced the concept of online conversations and community building.  Hunger is not their thing. Marketing is. They’re intensely focused on their own organizational objectives and metrics, many of which ultimately direct to fundraising.  That’s how they’re wired.  Consequently, there’s little conversation.  Little sharing of meaningful content.  No engaging with those who aren’t direct stakeholders, especially those who might have a different point of view (or aren’t funders).

Okay.  I’ve poked a hornet’s nest.  Prove me wrong.  Discuss.

Photo by al3xadk1n5 Flickr Creative Commons

“There’s no hunger in my community!”

 

 

By Ed Nicholson

Ever heard that?  I have.
My group’s "day job" is working with managers in the 100 U.S. communities where Tyson Foods has significant operations to engage them in activities in their communities.  A central component of our strategy is to get them involved in hunger relief efforts.
Way too often we hear the opinion expressed from our folks that hunger is not a significant challenge in their communities.  Way too often it’s from people who are quite caring, connected and involved in their communities.  The problem is simply that they’re not connected to hunger.  When we’re able to involve them with groups who can open their eyes to the hunger in their hometowns, they invariably become enthusiastic hunger fighters. Once they’re engaged, they’re also much more open to donating.
This is happening in communities all across America.  We desperately need people in these communities on our side in crafting sustainable solutions to hunger in our country. 
My point:  Unless the hunger community can come up with better ways to connect stakeholders–and connect them locally–we’re going to be swimming upstream with all of the well-constructed strategies, hard work, and resources that are currently being committed to ending hunger.  As an example, if a Congressman’s constituents don’t believe hunger is a significant problem in their own community, how are you going to get them to prioritize resources toward hunger relief when education, healthcare, and infrastructure (not to mention tax reduction) are all clamoring for those same resources?  Most in Congress, though they like to think globally, consistently vote locally.  
The problem is, we’re so close to the issue, we don’t understand how others can’t perceive its gravity.  We believe describing the problem will connect people.  As long as people believe hunger is something that doesn’t exist in their own community, all the rational description in the world won’t work.
What tactics do you use to educate and engage stakeholders?