Why self-interest isn’t a dirty word . . .

Or:  What We Can Learn From Community Organizers About How To Spread Messages That Really Speak To 2.0 Moms

Most of us think of self-interest as a dirty word.

We don’t like to think about ourselves or others as having (or acting on) self-interest. As birth professionals, we tend to be selfless caregivers. (How many workshops have you attended about the need for self care?) And a good birth professional is not about the self, right? We’ve worked hard at taking our ego *out* of the birth room or the breastfeeding support session.

But we as birth pros – with the goal of speaking *with* women, not *at* them about birth and breastfeeding – have a thing or two to learn about the power of understanding self-interest.

Any good community organizer can tell you that one of the primary tools in their bag is understanding self-interest. Why? Because people act on their self-interest.

Some organizers will tell you this motivation isn’t a bad thing – we need to act in our own self-interest to protect ourselves and our families. Others encourage you to approach self-interest as value-neutral – like it or not, it just is.

No matter how you view it, here’s a fundamental rule of community organizing – and communications: self-interest motivates action.

Effective communications efforts start with a goal, which is typically encouraging an action: research birth options; demand change at your local hospital; get educated about breastfeeding.

To motivate this action, we need to understand our audience. And to understand our audience, we need to explore their self-interest.

The goal of a community organizer is to find and spark the mutual self-interest of community members (what the Dalai Lama calls “wise self-interest”) and kindle it into transformative action. Our goal as communicators is to identify that self-interest and use it to understand what motivates that person or audience.

How do you see it? Can understanding self-interest help us connect with the 2.0 mom?

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