Painful Problems Can Have Fun Solutions

[3-Minute Read] When Brad Smithers and I turned our attention to preventing family violence, we didn’t expect the answer to such a complex problem to be simple and fun.

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Difficult Problems Can Have Fun Solutions

When Brad Smithers and I turned our attention to preventing family violence, we didn’t expect the answer to such a complex problem to be simple, and fun.

Listen to Audio Version – A $6.50 Piece of Metal Sparked a Cultural Revolution

We Had To Break From Tradition

Family violence exists because most people refuse to discuss the problem. It’s not a palatable conversation for Sunday lunches nor a topic for polite company.

But what if that wasn’t the case? If we could shift the conversation to be an everyday topic like the weather, we would no longer have family violence in our community. Those struggling would reach out for help sooner, and we would all learn to be better communicators, partners, and parents.

When Brad Smithers and I started Run Against Violence, we focused on the broader community. Those unaware that family violence is a widespread issue or who feel it has nothing to do with them. Most people in our community are part of that cohort. It is also the space where most, if not all, family violence prevention initiatives have failed to gain traction.

From the outset, we knew we had to break away from the traditional strategies of the sector. We wanted to win hearts and minds and inspire people rather than trigger feelings of guilt and shame.

The RAV Virtual Team Challenge was a 3 am Eureka moment. I had been searching for ways to include the public in my 1300km run from Broken Hill to Sydney.

At that stage, virtual challenges were trickling onto Australian event calendars. I hadn’t participated in one and had no idea how the technology worked. Yet weeks later, when I took the first steps out of Broken Hill, more than 2000 people shared the journey online.

PHOTO: For the first 500kms of the run I didn’t have mobile reception and couldn’t watch the virtual challenge unfolding.

Camaraderie Rippled Through The Event

We watched the ripple effects of their participation throughout the 19 days of the event.

The participants shared the excitement of the Challenge on their social feeds.

Strangers bonded in a Facebook community as they urged each other to succeed. They got to know each other through photos of their neighbourhoods, families and running buddies.

Then midway through the Challenge, something very special and unprovoked took place.

The camaraderie among the participants created a comfortable environment for survivors to share their stories. For many, it was the first time they had spoken publicly about their experiences.

Those participants who had never encountered family violence woke up to the fact that it happened to people like them.

That led to a change in perspective. Participants stopped observing and jumped into actively preventing family violence. They shared statistics, stories and family violence information on their social feeds. They opened up about how they felt and the actions they would take in their local community.

The Willpower to Prevent Family Violence

The reality is we already know how to prevent family violence in Australia. We have the solutions but lack the willpower within our community to make them happen.

The camel’s hump is the simplest way I’ve found to explain what we need to do.

Imagine a line with a dot at either end. Those are the extreme endpoints of our family relationships. At one end is the perfect relationship and at the other end is homicide.

The middle of that line takes the shape of a bell curve – the camel’s hump – and is where most family violence exists. The hump is a grey zone where people have different perspectives on acceptable behaviour. One person may think certain behaviour is right and another believes it is crossing the line. Context can also shift people’s boundaries.

To end family violence, we need to move that camel’s hump away from the grey zone and toward the healthy end of the spectrum.

We do that through micro conversations – lots of short, relaxed chats where people feel safe to engage and don’t feel judged. Conversations allow us to explore boundaries and nuances and to learn the behaviours that enable us to have healthy relationships.

A Piece of Metal Proved a Simple Solution

After the 2017 event, we asked participants why they became involved in the RAV Virtual Team Challenge. We wanted to know how we could amplify the ripples we had created.

Most people said they had seen the finisher’s medal on Facebook and wanted one, or a friend had seen it and invited them to get involved.

A few people said they felt shallow for opting-in because of a bit of bling but we were delighted and thankful. Nowhere in our early planning did we think a $6.50 piece of metal would spark a cultural revolution. As is often the case, the best answer to a complex problem is simple, and fun.

Since then, the mantra “they come for the bling and stay for the cause” has informed RAV’s approach to community engagement.

We make the event fun and sweat over the design of the bling each year. We don’t pressure people to learn about family violence because we know they will choose to do it one day. At that moment, when that decision is made, we will all take one step closer to living in a community that is free of family violence.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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