The Solution for the Word Issue

We’ll be the first to admit it - the volunteer industry is imperfect. Traditional service exists to meet immediate needs, often leading to well-meaning, but unintentionally harmful volunteers. Well-prepared volunteers invest hours in education, orientation, and training to add context and perspective to their service work (i.e. we cannot save the world in one week).

Break Away strives to practice community engagement that is asset-based. For example, in the last few years, we’ve intentionally created asset-based titles for each of our ABCs. These topics are a reflection of community-driving solutions, as opposed to the social problems they seek to address (i.e. Regional Renewal instead of Urban Poverty).

Recently, we’ve been giving a lot of thought to the term “social issue,” considering whether issue is synonymous with the word problem. We know and hopefully you do, too that working with communities isn’t about identifying problems and being saviors; community work should be asset-based and driven by community-identified goals.

Turns out, (thank you, fancy Google machine) a synonym for issue is, in fact, problem. Though, we may have been a little overcautious because other synonyms include subject and topic.

The distinction here is critical. Consider how your program frames community issues. Acknowledging the difference between issue as a problem and issue as a topic is a small, but important step.