Wrong way to encourage social change
by Phil Bartle, PhD
Not "quite" the same as applied sociology
Where the pure science is chemistry, its practical applications are in chemical engineering. Where the pure science is physics, the practical applications are in civil engineering.
We might be predisposed to extrapolate and say that where the pure science is sociology, the practical applications should be called Social Engineering.
A farmer can tell you that if you want a wheat plant to grow upwards, you do not mechanically pull it upwards.
You provide it with sunlight, water, some minerals and good soil, and it will grow –– organically –– from within.
Pulling from the top is mechanical, crude, rough, and ineffective. Social engineering is like that.
A social institution such as a community grows from within in an organic manner.
You can provide stimulus in the form of your mobilization interventions, but it develops itself.
Using force, such as the "villigization" attempts during the erstwhile Mengistu regime in Ethiopia (forced concentration of dispersed rural groups into nucleated settlements) belong to the category of actions called social engineering.
Encouraging communities to become stronger, develop their capacity, is one of many practical applications of sociology, but it should not be called social engineering.
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