Who cares if no one cares?

Lately, I’ve been pondering the preponderance of organizations dedicated to getting people to “buy local”, which I suppose includes my own, in a sense. While Social Gifting is not strictly a campaign it is designed to support those who have and participate in these campaigns. The goals of connecting gamblers to local businesses via the PlayerSpot platform is one of information and opportunity, not particularly activism.

Yet, as I go through Facebook page after Facebook page, website to site, I get a reasonable impression of what is similar between the efforts and what I’m seeing is interesting. Despite the different organizations (many of which are actually in competition with each other), despite the approaches, one topic resonates with me in all of them, one word sums the tide these organization fight against: impassivity.

It’s tempting to actually use the word apathy and while its true meaning does not include intent, our common usage connotes an almost antagonistic lack of interest. The people and businesses who are being cheered off the sidelines don’t seem so much actively against local support as they are unable or unlikely to choose *for* such a solution.

Some of the efforts you find in common among these organizations include awareness, cajoling, guilting, promotion, instruction. All good things, right? Consider, though, who these tactics are being aimed at: members of the communities who should have the strongest self-interest in the outcome. Why then are they requiring the most effort to be convinced?

This isn’t a question easily answered, as each individual is likely to have a unique version of an answer, but with the volume (both quantity and amplitude) of coercion attempted, it’s clear that messages are going ignored or unheard. This isn’t to cast stones at any particular group or to be part of the guilting of those who are unreceptive, but rather to examine some of the possible answers to the question, “why don’t people care?”

Some do care, of course. These movements have their adherents. The groups are growing, albeit slowly. All the while, though, what should be an obvious message and approach is being piled upon, noisily and (sometimes) clumsily. Is this a vicious cycle that needs a different approach to break out of the “I don’t really care, stop telling me I need to care, go away I’m not listening to you, la la la la la la” scenario which, sadly, mimics the public attitude on most things advertising, local or not?

I’ll admit, I do have ideas on alternatives and I offer some of those up through my services, but this is not an exercise in self-serving aggrandizement. If “business as usual” has gotten us to this point where care and feeding of local economies has become a lost art, will more “business as usual” really revive it? What are the “buy local” organizations doing now that would fall in the new, innovative, or effective category that transcends standard “buy now! buy local!” rhetoric?

As a positive example, I like the 3/50 Project. They’re keeping the implementation simple and attainable. It’s still carrot-and-stick though with the economic impact data; for the people who already care enough, 3/50 is a stellar “path to success”. For the people who don’t care enough, what way will the message get through? The “don’t (yet) care enough” crowd is unlikely to make the effort to dig into the economic benefit statistics despite the fact that they too likely see stores closing around them, and possibly even lament the loss.

In a world where individuals and business are drowning in the cacophony of “listen to me! do what I want you to do!” blather, and there doesn’t yet appear to be enough enlightenment to make self-interest the power it could be, how might the message get through?