Towards a Theory of Change

I was introduced to the notion of a theory of change from the late Internet activist Aaron Schwartz:

I am increasingly convinced that the difference between effective and ineffective people is their skill at developing a theory of change. Theory of change is a funny phrase — I first heard it in the nonprofit community, but it’s also widespread in politics and really applies to just about everything. Unfortunately, very few people seem to be very good at it.

Let’s take a concrete example. Imagine you want to decrease the size of the defense budget. The typical way you might approach this is to look around at the things you know how to do and do them on the issue of decreasing the defense budget. So, if you have a blog, you might write a blog post about why the defense budget should be decreased and tell your friends about it on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re a professional writer, you might write a book on the subject. If you’re an academic, you might publish some papers. Let’s call this strategy a “theory of action”: you work forwards from what you know how to do to try to find things you can do that will accomplish your goal.

A theory of change is the opposite of a theory of action — it works backwards from the goal, in concrete steps, to figure out what you can do to achieve it. To develop a theory of change, you need to start at the end and repeatedly ask yourself, “Concretely, how does one achieve that?” […]

[…] It’s not easy. It could take a while before you get to a concrete action that you can take. But do you see how this is entirely crucial if you want to be effective?

Pro-Life Theory of Action

Our pro-life efforts too often have a theory of action. We look around us and think, what can we do to accomplish our goals? What can we do that could abolish abortion? Let’s recriminalize abortion, just change the law back. Write your MP, write a blog post, go on social media, march, hold a sign, hand out some pamphlets, hold a conference, host a speaker, put some posters or ads up. These are all actions we can do as we look around us. Some of these actions might reach people and change their minds, or even save lives. None of these scattered actions will fundamentally change anything.

Well, that’s because we’re outnumbered, you might say. Or that’s because it won’t happen overnight, it’ll take a long time, but we just have to keep at it!

No amount of spitting into the ocean will cause a sea-change. A theory of action isn’t good enough. We need a theory of change.

Pro-Life Theory of Change

What does a pro-life theory of change look like? What would it look like to work backwards from the goal until we find some concrete steps we can take, rather than just taking whatever concrete steps seem available now without any real plan for getting to the destination?

Take the CCBR’s EndtheKilling plan for example. The vision is an abortion-free Canada. Concretely, how do you achieve that? They work backwards from that until they get to more concrete steps: a strategy of exposing the humanity of pre-born children and inhumanity of abortion through visual evidence, and through effective dialogue, in order to make abortion unthinkable — to make people more horrified by the reality of abortion than by the alternatives. People don’t want to address abortion, so they focus on ways to end the cover up, route around gatekeepers, and bring that message directly to an apathetic public — and then they measure whether or not it actually changes people’s minds on abortion with empirical data to see whether the tactics and strategy are actually working. You can read through the document — notice how they’re working backwards from vision, to mission, to strategy, to tactics, to actions — in concrete steps. How do we change minds? With evidence and conversation. How do we reach people who don’t want to see or hear? Bring the message to them. What about gatekeepers who won’t let that message through? Route around them. There’s no shot-in-the-dark, try-whatever-we-can-think-of-right-now or whatever someone else is doing — it’s a carefully considered theory of change.

UTSFL’s Theory of Change

I’ve seen UTSFL transform in recent years from a club that was maintaining a pro-life presence on campus (important) and reaching out to students (also important) to a club that’s committed to radically changing how the population at the University of Toronto St. George campus thinks about abortion — a club that’s serious about a theory of change.

For example, our activism team is not interested in simply being a presence on campus anymore, or in occasionally taking a stand. That’s a theory of action.

We are committed to making sure that everyone at the University of Toronto St. George campus sees photos of healthy pre-born children and photos of abortion victims on a regular basis and that everyone at the University of Toronto St. George campus will be spoken with about abortion.

We are committed to making the injustice of abortion impossible to ignore through visual evidence, to dispelling anti-science ignorance about when life begins and making the moral case for human rights for all human beings through conversation.

We’re forming ourselves to be pro-life ambassadors, learning and planning together every week, to reach every corner of the campus with regular, engaging and visible activism that changes hearts and minds.

As William Wilberforce said when implementing theory of change to expose injustice and make it impossible to ignore: “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

Changing the way our campus thinks about abortion is a foundation for other efforts. We also lend our hands every week to women and families in crisis pregnancies and highlight the important resources available for parenting students at U of T — but first people need to be more horrified by abortion than its alternatives to seek assistance in a difficult pregnancy. We participate in political projects — but first we need to change opinion on abortion before laws recognizing pre-born human rights can be passed.

We’re building a movement on campus. We’re transforming the way the St. George campus thinks about abortion, to make it so that no one on campus can ignore the plight of pre-born children. This is not about doing whatever we can with a theory of action. We’re doing what we must with a theory of change.

We have a mission not just to be witnesses on campus, but to radically change our campus. Be a part of the movement — join us to change our campus!

Posted in Abortion Tagged with: , , , , ,

Using Rehumanizing Language to Discuss Abortion

I’ve had a few conversation about abortion this year where people have claimed that it’s twisting the definition of a child to use the word before birth. “It’s not a child, it’s a fetus! You’re twisting words, man. Child means like, walking around ‘n’ stuff, at least born! Don’t try to manipulate me like that! Use the right term.”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “child” as follows:

child, n.
I. With reference to state or age.
1. (a) An unborn or newly born human being; a fetus, an infant. […]
2. (a) A young person of either sex, usu. one below the age of puberty; a boy or girl. […]
II. As correlative to parent.
9. (a) A son or daughter (at any age); the offspring of human parents. […]
Phrases P1. with child
a. Pregnant. Hence to get (also beget) with child, to go with child.

Obviously, a fetus is a child in multiple senses of the word, and the most common senses of the word, most common phrases. It’s not true to say, “it’s not a child until it’s born!” — a fetus is a child both in the sense of his or her age, and in the sense of being offspring.

Some pro tips for nipping this nonsense in the bud:

  • When a woman is pregnant, we say that she is with… ? Do we say that she is “with fetus?” Or “with clump of cells?” Or… “with child?”
  • When two human beings reproduce, what do they have?
  • How many children do your parents have? Isn’t child also another word for offspring, no matter how old you are?

Same goes for “baby,” which the OED defines as:

1. a. A very young child, esp. one not yet able to walk and dependent on the care of others; an infant. Also applied to an unborn child.

I’ll even use “kid” as slang in some contexts. OED:

5. slang a. A child, esp. a young child. (Originally low slang, but by the 19th c. frequent in familiar speech.)”

Terms like fetus or embryo, while accurate, are frequently used to dehumanize pre-born children. People don’t understand they’re just age-range terms, like infant, toddler, or teenager. They’re different than the words we use to talk about born children.

We need to re-humanize pre-born children, and one of the ways to do that is by using accurate, natural language to talk about them — to talk about pre-born children using the same words we use to talk about born children. If someone really has a personal hangup with a word like “child,” I’ll adapt my wording in a heartbeat, but only if it’s clear it’s a barrier.

Rehumanizing language — using accurate words for pre-born kids that we also use for born kids — focuses conversation onto the important question: isn’t a pre-born child also a human being?

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The Context: Reaching Out to a Wounded Campus in Response to an Emergency

Not everyone can make our weekly meetings on Thursdays from 4:30-6pm. This series of posts will share some highlights from our weekly seminar discussions.

It’s important to set the context before engaging in pro-life work.

The Situation: An emergency, a woundedness

Canada has no legal restrictions on abortion. We’re the only Western democracy in this situation, and the only other countries with no legal restrictions on abortion are… North Korea and China — not the best human rights club to be in. Abortion is legal in Canada through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason or no reason at all. The only limiting factor is how late a doctor is willing to perform an abortion.

100,000 children are killed by abortion every year in Canada. About 275 children died today alone. This should tell us that this isn’t another charitable causes — this is an emergency.

But it also drives home the point that our culture is deeply wounded by abortion. A quarter of our generation has been killed by abortion. One in three Canadian women will have an abortion in their lifetime. 38% of abortions are repeats. Not only have so many women had abortions, but of the three million abortion victims in Canada since 1969, what of the six million parents, the 12 million grandparents, the siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles? How many people must know a friend or loved one who’s had an abortion, if they haven’t had a direct abortion experience themselves?

When talking to people on campus, it’s safer to assume that the people we’re talking with have already had an abortion experience or have a friend or loved one who has.

More than ever, just knowing the arguments isn’t enough.

Integrating head, heart and hands

According to Aristotle, effective communicators need to have ethos (credibility/character), pathos (empathy), and logos (logic). Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins, puts it this way: we need to build a bridge (ethos), touch the heart (pathos), and then and only then can we effectively deliver the message (logos). If all we have is an argument, no one will want to listen.

Another way to think about this is through Stand to Reason’s ambassador model. To be effective pro-life ambassadors, we need:

  • Knowledge (logos/head), an accurate mind — science, evidence, reason
  • Wisdom (pathos/heart), an artful method — how to communicate the knowledge we have
  • Character (ethos/hands), an attractive manner — everything we say and how we say it is complimented by who we are, so that if we talk about respect, we need to show respect, and if we talk about love, we need to show love

“Whom you would change, you must first love, and they must know that you love them.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

To be effective ambassadors, we need to integrate our head (knowledge), our hearts (empathy, relationship, understanding) and our hands (our actions).

Our club seeks to model this integration of head (logos), heart (pathos) and hands (ethos) as well:

  • Head: we grow our knowledge through…
    • weekly seminar discussions on apologetics, strategy, politics, in bioethics, biology, moral philosophy, medicine, law, history, etc.
    • pro-life speakers series, bringing great speakers to our club membersh
  • Heart: we stretch our hearts through…
    • approaching the issue from this posture, as ambassadors reaching out to a wounded culture in response to an emergency
    • a strategy of outreach that emphasizes dialogue and relationship with our peers on campus, to change hearts and minds in order to save lives – being “right” or “winning an argument” isn’t what matters
    • heart apologetics: being conscious of the heart and mind of a woman in a crisis pregnancy, and of post-abortive woundedness
  • Hands: we lend our hands through…
    • putting our ideas and our empathy into action
    • weekly activism, weekly volunteer outreach — the frequency of our activities should match the gravity of the situation, an ongoing emergency calls for regular action
    • getting active off campus, e.g. March for Life, or with Toronto Right to Life, or in politics, etc.

Knowledge is important, and the arguments matter. But we can’t stop there. To reach our campus and change our culture, we need to be effective ambassadors, integrating head, heart and hands, both as individuals and as a club, so that we can change hearts and minds about abortion.

The Motivations for Abortion

Lastly, when considering the context of abortion, it’s also important to take note of why women choose abortion. According to Planned Parenthood’s research arm,

Reasons Given
%
Inadequate Finances 21%
Not ready for responsibility 21%
Woman’s life would be changed too much 16%
Problems with relationship; unmarried 12%
Too young; not mature enough 11%
Children are grown; woman has all she want 8%
Fetus has possible health problem 3%
Woman has health problem 3%
Pregnancy caused by rape, incest 1%
Other 4%
Average number of reasons given 3.7%

Take note of two important things:

  1. The hard cases are the rare cases. Rape is an issue that constantly comes up in conversation, but it only accounts for a very small percentage of abortions. These hard cases are still important to address, but remember that this is single digit percentage territory — most abortions are not hard case scenarios
  2. Providing adequate support to mothers and families in crisis pregnancies matters. The top reasons are effected by having access to adequate services. This is why we make a point of highlighting the work of the Family Care Office at U of T, or partner with organizations like Aid to Women.

Next Week: Apologetics Training

Next week, our meeting will run one hour longer than usual, from 4:30-7pm. (Come for all, or drop in for as long as you can stay!) We’ll do a comprehensive apologetics training in partnership with Toronto Right to Life, covering the key concepts to equip you to defend pre-born human rights and have effective conversations about abortion. We’ll also have some time for role-playing and practicing dialogue. This is preparation for both the UTSFL Activism Team, and for the TRTL Speakers Bureau.

See you then!

Posted in Abortion Tagged with: , , ,

Welcome Clare, Our Technology Officer!

After a weekend off, we’re back at it with more introductions!

Today we welcome Clare, our Technology Officer.

Name: Clare Timperley

Year and Program of Study: Fourth year; double major in English and Religious Education

How did you become involved with the Pro-Life Movement?: I originally became involved with the pro-life movement in high school when I attended the March for Life with my religion class. I became interested in the topic of abortion and other life issues and felt compelled to help in some way, so I sought out UTSFL when I came to study at university.

What makes the UTSFL an important part of the Pro-Life Movement?: UTSFL is important to the pro-life movement in that it is run by students for students. UTSFL not only raises awareness about the truth behind the abortion industry, but also offers practical support for students or friends of students who may be experiencing crisis pregnancies themselves.

What do you hope to accomplish through your involvement with UTSFL?: I hope to raise awareness about abortion and other life issues such as euthanasia to a demographic of intellectual young people. In addition to this awareness and understanding, I hope to offer tangible support to those who find themselves in crisis pregnancies through our affiliate support groups, in this way caring for the child and family both before birth and after.

Want to get to know the rest of our Executive Committee? Keep an eye out for more posts introducing our other members!

To get even more updates about UTSFL and our club activities, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Posted in Abortion

A Warm Welcome to Blaise, Our Education Coordinator!

Today we welcome back Blaise to the team as our Education Coordinator!

 

 

Want to know more about Blaise? Keep reading!

 

Name: Blaise Alleyne

Year and Program of Study: Master of Theological Studies, Regis College (part time); completed B.Sc. in Computer Science, English, and Philosophy (OT9)

How did you become involved with the Pro-Life Movement?: I became active in the pro-life movement through UTSFL in my first year of undergrad, especially through participation in the Genocide Awareness Project.

What makes the UTSFL an important part of the Pro-Life Movement?: Students on campus are vulnerable to choosing abortion today, and also our society’s leaders and influencers tomorrow. UTSFL has a special leadership role
as one of the most active campus pro-life clubs in Canada.

What do you hope to accomplish through your involvement with UTSFL?: As an Education Coordinator, I hope to help our members develop a deep knowledge surrounding life issues, and to educate our peers on campus so that no one at U
of T can ignore the injustice of abortion.

 

We are thankful for Blaise’s hard work and dedication in the past and we look forward to working with him again this year!

 

Want to get to know the rest of our Executive Committee? Keep an eye out for more posts introducing our other members!

To get even more updates about UTSFL and our club activities, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

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Introducing Sarah, Our Vice President!

Next up on our introduction of our Executive Committee is Sarah, our Vice President!

 

 

Here’s a little more information about our VP:

Name: Sarah Blake

Year and Program of Study: Third year; Philosophy major with a double minor in English and Christianity and Culture

How did you become involved with the Pro-Life Movement?: I’ve always been pro-life, but I only became actively involved in the movement when a family friend introduced me to Toronto Right to Life 3 years ago.

What makes the UTSFL an important part of the Pro-Life Movement?: UTSFL interacts with a crucial demographic: young adults who might consider abortion themselves or see friends and partners go through crisis pregnancies. We want our fellow students to know the truth and know where to turn to for support.

What do you hope to accomplish through your involvement with UTSFL?: My hope is the same as always: to spread the pro-life message to as many people as possible and to open hearts and minds to recognize the humanity of the most vulnerable among us.

 

We are excited to work with Sarah again, and we hope you are too!

 

Want to get to know the rest of our Executive Committee? Keep an eye out for more posts introducing our other members!

To get even more updates about UTSFL and our club activities, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

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Introducing Our 2015-2016 Executive Committee…

Welcome back to another year at the University of Toronto!

To start off the year, we would like to introduce to you our Executive Committee for 2015-2016.

There will be some familiar faces and some new ones, so be sure not to miss any!

First up is our President, Michelle Caluag:

 

 

Name: Michelle Caluag

Year and Program of Study: Fourth year; double major in Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences

How did you become involved with the Pro-Life Movement?: After attending my first March for Life in grade twelve, I realized that this is an issue that I can’t just set aside and a cause I must do something about.

What makes the UTSFL an important part of the Pro-Life Movement?: UTSFL is vital in informing our peers  the truth about abortion because it is at the post-secondary level  that we form/strengthen our beliefs which we then carry and apply to life outside school. Also, since we are a campus student club, we are at arm’s reach to students who may be experiencing a crisis pregnancy.

What do you hope to accomplish through your involvement with UTSFL?: As president of our club, I hope to reach more people’s minds and hearts to help change how they think and feel about abortion. I hope to spread the true pro-life message on campus so many more moms can be helped and more babies be saved.

 

We are looking forward to another great year with Michelle as our President.

Want to get to know the rest of our Executive Committee? Keep an eye out for more posts introducing our other members!

To get even more updates about UTSFL and our club activities, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

 

Posted in General, News Tagged with:

The beginning of life isn’t controversial

It’s not controversial when life begins. Except for when we start talking about abortion, then people want to pretend it’s above their pay grade.

I just came across this little snippet from the Globe about an institute at U of T that I think serves to highlight that:

If you were going to try and solve the riddle of childhood obesity, who would you call? Doctors, geneticists, teachers or social workers? Why not all of them? That’s the premise behind a new research institute at the University of Toronto that will be delving into the potential – and the pitfalls – of early childhood health and well-being.

The Fraser Mustard Institute for Human Development, named for the late advocate of early childhood development, pulls together researchers from a wide range of fields under a virtual umbrella to tackle a wide range of issues. They’ll team up on research and teaching that focuses on the first 2,000 days of a child’s life – from conception to age five – in the hopes of pinpointing ways to set children on positive life trajectories.

If you’re doing real science and you have to look to the beginning of life, would you turn to birth? To the ability to feel pain? To consciousness or sentience? To a sperm or egg cell? Obviously, just like the Fraser Mustard Institute, you’d look to the real beginning of life: conception.

The beginning of life is a fact. That fact is only becomes controversial insofar as it’s inconvenient — when you are trying to justify killing through abortion.

Posted in Abortion Tagged with: ,

#LifeWeek2015: Recap

#LifeWeek2015 has officially come to a close and we are blown away by the success of each and every event!

Let’s take a look back at the successes of the past week:

On Monday, we began #LifeWeek2015 with a lecture by Dr. Calhoun of West Virginia University. His talk, titled “The Fetus As Our Patient: Therapeutic Advances in Prenatal Diagnosis and Therapy” explored how previously lethal diagnoses can now be treated in utero. Dr. Calhoun’s lecture served to open the audience’s mind to the idea of the pre-born child not simply as a part of the mother, but as a patient on his or her own.

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#LifeWeek2015 continued into Tuesday evening with our panel discussion about Services for Pregnant Women and Common Ground Between Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Groups. The panel featured advocates from both sides of the debate and overall, suggested a desire to help women who find themselves in trying circumstances.

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On Wednesday, we continued our raising awareness about the pro-life movement in the lobby of the Medical Sciences Building with Q&A for a Cookie. With a bowl of questions on one side of the table and packages of cookies on the other, we invited passerby to pick a question, discuss it with us, and earn a cookie in the process. With questions ranging from topics about abortion laws in Canada – or the lack thereof – to services for women in crisis pregnancies, our team dialogued with the University of Toronto community, many of whom became illuminated through this activity to the availability of resources for women in these situations and the need to reconsider for themselves the definition of personhood – all while munching on some cookies!

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On Thursday, #LifeWeek2015 put the pro-life and pro-choice movements in contrast with a debate titled “Abortion: Human Right or Human Rights Violation?”. Featuring Maaike Rosendal of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform and University of Toronto Philosophy Professor Wayne Sumner, the debate showcased both the differences and similarities between each side of the argument, primarily the criteria for human rights and, connecting to our first lecture, the treatment of situations with a pregnant woman as consisting of one patient, the mother, or two, extending to include the pre-born child.

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#LifeWeek2015 concluded on Friday with our regular volunteering at Aid to Women, a prominent crisis pregnancy centre in the city.

Thank you to all who helped us out with the organization and execution of #LifeWeek2015, as well as all those who came out and participated in these events!

We hope that this past week served to affect change in the hearts and minds of the University of Toronto community. As a result of #LifeWeek2015, we hope that you, too, have been inspired to join us in our mission to protect and defend all human life, from conception to natural death.

To be informed regularly about UTSFL’s events and activities, subscribe to our email list on the sidebar of this page!

For more updates, don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Posted in Abortion, News Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Panel: Services for Pregnant Women and Common Ground Between Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Groups

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Can the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice movements find common ground?

On Tuesday, March 10th from 6-7:30pm in Room 2118 of Sidney Smith Hall, participate in the second event of #LifeWeek2015 and see for yourself!

Join us for a panel discussion featuring advocates from both sides who will discuss issues like caring for pregnant women and the background circumstances that lead to abortion.

Panel:
•Enza Rattenni
•Nick Van der Graaf
•Ness Fraser
•The Sisters of Life

For more information, check out our Facebook event page!

Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check out our official calendar for more details and live updates about #LifeWeek2015!

Posted in Abortion