I attended a meeting this week with a group of people who were more than twice my age and running an interesting organization. They were having a discussion on something that is so relevant to my own work it made me think.
One of the main topics on the agenda of this meeting was strategies to increase membership numbers. Each person of the group discussed their efforts to recruit members, the challenges and their success and most importantly feedback from potential members. Some of the major issued raised was that membership fees are too high or that people were unable to pay the yearly fee in one go. There were a few key points raised on the need to make the vision of the company more visible through media, different types of advertisement such as billboards and such.
Everything they discussed during this meeting is something that is at the core of my current work. The only difference is that my organization is an online platform focused on delivering information worldwide, while theirs is a physical organization mostly focused in one country. The solution to both our challenges is one and the same: visibility. Hearing them go back and forth about what the best way to increase membership numbers and comparing it to the ones that we have in my company made me realize that there is no such thing as a “new” problem or a “new” solution.
The only thing that differs is how we are going to achieve that visibility. I would probably pay Google and other online providers to do targeted marketing for me, while they would pay a company to build them a billboard. There would also be a difference in the lingo used during my meetings are different. Instead of saying “we should be more visible”, we would say we have to do a “search engine optimization”. In this new age of innovation we are taught to believe we are providing new solutions to existing problems. The truth however, seems to be that we are simply upgrading the existing solutions to today’s context.
This goes even deeper than just technology or media. The discussion in that meeting room is a microcosm of how the challenges today are the same as those faced before. There is something both comforting and disappointing about coming to terms with the fact that what is happening has happened before and will be happening again in the future. It seems deeply fatalistic but on the bright side at least we know what to expect, right?
On a serious note, it does make me question whether what we are seeing happen in the world today is an indication of rough times to come, such as World Wars, etc… Yet, as much as these problems are not new, neither are their solutions. The true test of our time is whether we will reach to the solutions before it is too late. What is happening in the Mediterranean, Syria and Yemen show that some governments are not ready to do that. Now that question is whether we, citizens of the world, will stand by and watch as thousands perish at sea, in bombings and because of hunger. As much as it is easy to take ourselves out of it, our every day actions can be part of the resistance to our governments’ silence. We are all one decision away from making a positive contribution towards the end of these atrocities, what will we do?