Q&A with Purpose’s Alnoor Ladha at Rio+Social

“Social media is inherently superficial; structural problems are inherently complex.”

-Alnoor Ladha, Founder of Purpose and The Rules, a new global movement to address the sources of poverty.

Why change The Rules?

Most of the structures to date that create rules are post-World War II institutions, they were created for a very different world, for a very different purpose. Part of their strategy was to have closed seats of power that only engage with each other on issues that affect us all.

We’re now seeing alternative processes, showing us that there are other ways, that people can have influence in that process, and when they do have that influence, better outcomes actually result. And decision-makers need to account for those people’s voices. Occupy Wall Street is a good example of that. For all of Occupy’s failures and downfalls, it’s been amazing at rallying people around the world, around inequality issues, showing some new processes for how people deliberate. Sometimes to the point of paralysis, but I think there are elements we can learn from that.

So is social media the key, as a democratic tool?

This illusion of social media being democratic is a Western conception. Even a country like Brazil has around 40% online penetration. There’s a campaigning aspect of this, to ensure the digital divide doesn’t get any wider, that doesn’t mirror income inequality.

How do you address complex social problems when you’re limited to just 140 characters?

Social media is inherently superficial; structural problems are inherently complex. It’s just a tool, this is why I try not to fetishize social media. But all constraint is a source of creativity, that constraint forces you to simplify your messaging, to create a hook. I think social media is a great way to do a low-barrier action. You can like it, you can share, you can retweet simple messages.

It creates virality, spread and cultural memes. And then you get people to join in– to do the double click, to find more information, to take action. We need to use is as an entry point, and not a panacea to social change.

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