People need to grab onto opportunities with two hands and wring every bit of potential out of it, they need to be self-motivated, opportunity seeking missiles, capable of seizing each shred of opportunity that comes their way.
Unfortunately, this is the attitude of many individuals, corporations and even government agencies. It is not, however, the view of the Just Be Nice Project.
In a commercial marketplace, the consumer is not blamed for not knowing of the existence of a particular product, store or service. It is the job of the organisation of individual delivering goods to make their wares known and accessible. Don’t market well? Your business will fail. Don’t place your shop in a good location, where people will potentially go to purchase your goods? Your business will fail. Don’t explain your services well enough, or pitch them to the wrong audience? Your business will fail.
The onus in a commercial marketplace is on the provider, not the consumer. Consumers may do their research, they might dive deep if they know the kinds of product or service they need. Depending on the time they have and their resources they may study variations of different related products and decide which one is best for them.
It seems strange then, that we take a different attitude towards social welfare, and services that are available to people going through a tough time. It would seem that putting together a program that is only accessible after trawling through pages of internet links, hours of phone calls and dozens of pieces of paperwork counts as a good way to equalise the levels of opportunity for people at risk.
If a bulk-billing clinic has no signage to that effect, no webpage and no direct connection to services that can refer clients to them, is it really an opportunity for people who can’t afford to go the GP?
Is a scholarship opportunity to a good school really an opportunity if the vast majority of eligible students aren’t aware of its existence? Even further, what if they aren’t aware of it’s relevance, having never seen among their peer group, the advantages of a really great education.
Not understanding opportunity is not the fault of the people who need it, it is the fault of the mechanisms that seek to balance the ledger. We cannot simply plonk a one-dimensional ‘opportunity’ in front of people that do not understand its importance, and expect them to seize it.
In relation to violent crimes we often call this victim blaming. Blaming the victim for not taking enough action to avoid a dangerous situation, regardless of their capacity to anticipate or understand what may or may not happen. Taking the responsibility away from the person causing harm, and onto the person who suffers.
An opportunity only exists insofar as it is known, accessible and complete.
Providing opportunity comes with a responsibility to ensure that the point of it is understood. It comes with a responsibility to make it as easy as possible for people to access it. It comes with a responsibility to help people navigate the opportunities through to an outcome.
The time has come to put the onus on the delivery systems, both public and private. Take the responsibility for the lacklustre uptake, work harder in your target markets to provide understanding as well as outcomes, and improve the equality of opportunity for people who need it.
Just Be Nice
A collection of articles relevant to pursuing the effective execution of altruism in the search for equality of opportunity.