Be the change

Peter Martin, Steenberg

Public participation literature reveals two
types of individuals in the community: the
activist and spectator. 
The activist is actively involved and
participating in community activities with
the sole purpose of making a difference
in community. These activities could
include initiating a youth programme,
joining and supporting a civic
organisation or neighbourhood watch,
feeding the poor, launching a street
cleaning or gardening project or having
street games.
Some activists participate through
active contribution. 
These contributions
might be monetary (cash), goods (eg
snacks) or services (providing skills or
Sometimes their contributions take
the form of voluntary work. 
Whatever the
case may be, the activist is fully aware of
the need for change, and actively works
towards changing poor and marginalised
The spectator, on the other hand, is
merely looking at what is happening in
the community. 
Even though the spectator is fully
aware of the need for community change,
the spectator will not become actively
involved in helping the community.
The spectator does not make any
contributions or volunteer any services to
bring about change in the community. 
In fact, the spectator will see garbage
heaping up in the community but will
make no effort to have it removed (e.g.
reporting it to the authorities). And sad to
say, participation theory indicates that the
vast majority of community members are
merely spectators or onlookers.
While activists make things happen
in the community, and spectators look
on as things happen (or not happen)
in the community, there are those who
are oblivious of what is happening in
the community. 
They wake up, have
breakfast, go to work, come home, watch
television, go to sleep and wake up. Now
the fundamental question is: where do
you fit in as a community member?