During one of our class discussions a quote was spoken that stuck with me: “Social change is messy.” It is one thing to donate to a philanthropic cause, but it is another to dive into the root cause of the situation and enact change. It is not uncommon to hear others wanting to “make a difference,” but I think we often underestimate that goal. In order to bring about change, we must be willing to “get messy” and discover the dirty details behind the situation we are trying to mitigate.

Apart from just researching the in’s and out’s of philanthropy, we must also be willing to engage with all necessary stakeholders surrounding the problem at hand. In order to ensure philanthropic funds are used properly we must not only do our own research on the organizations’ financials, historical track, and mission, but partner with those behind the wheels as another rider. As we begin to communicate transparency between organizations, we will not only gain a stronger sense of the organization’s legitimacy, but learn what it is the organization needs to do good. While everyday donations are always appreciated, it is the partnership between those with resources and those with knowledge that enables real change to occur.

Additionally, we must begin to interact with those who are being helped. Further engagement will not only give us a sense of the root cause of the problem, but enable us to see what it is that others really need, despite what they are given. Furthermore, at the root of every person is the desire to feel connected to others. One of the best things we can do is to give our time and attention to the people we are helping. We may find that the thing they actually needed cannot be bought at all.

After we have begun interacting with a philanthropic cause on a deeper level, we will have gained a better sense of the problem, but we cannot stop here. Apart from understanding our own donating habits, we must encourage our community to buy into this as well. In a world where we are interconnected and listen to one another, we will be able to work together creatively to solve real problems. Instead of putting band-aids on different situations, we will be able to communicate proactively and impact efficiently.

As much as we want to believe, philanthropy and social change cannot be accomplished with excellence apart from a messy endeavor. Time must be invested, relationships must be built, and engagement must be present. Although this will not happen all at once, I believe that if we all contribute what we can with the time we have, we will collectively begin to make a magnificent mess of the world around us.

by Chelsea Rios ’18