Active citizens driving change and why I believe we need to 'Close the Gap'

Whilst the concept of citizenship is contested, it is an important lens to consider when it comes to the power of people in driving change. There is no single definition that conveys its meaning regardless of cultural and political assumptions or context. However a useful broad definition is that it refers to the attributes (rights, obligations, relationships and behaviours) that individuals and groups assume through living within a political (or civic) community - the concept of citizenship goes beyond the much narrower concept of interaction between individuals and the state. It extends to all people regardless of age, legal status, or social inclusion and refers not only to the exercise of power but the whole array of relationships and behaviours that people use in the community (such as cooperation, collaboration, volunteering, opting in or out of particular activities.)

During recent field visits, it is this type of active citizenship and community mobilisation that has been most inspiring in driving long term change. From the volunteer health workers in Jakarta who travel 2 hours each way to provide essential health care to children living in urban slums (often at the expense of their own children), the resilience of the women’s groups in Uttar Pradesh who self-organise to run successful businesses that support family, to the couple I recently met in Lusaka suffering from HIV who work tirelessly to sensitize the community.

It is clear from these and countless other examples that citizen in all corners of the world possess real agency to make a difference in their own lives and those of their community and nation.We have an important role to play in telling these stories to governments, donors, corporations and the public, north and south, many of whom believe poor societies are deficient and need to change, whilst rich societies are sufficient and need not change.

The upcoming ‘close the gap’ global mobilisation - which will take place ahead of the September United Nations General Assembly - will focus on the issues of overcoming inequity so that all children can survive their first 5 years. It will aim to highlight these real examples of change, enhance the sense of connection and interdependence between people living in developed and developing countries (with inequity becoming a critical issue in both settings.) And it will provide a platform so that citizens right across the world can stand together to voice their aspirations and exert their political influence for a global society, where the values of justice and equity are realised irrespective of national and political boundaries.

To add your voice as an active citizen driving change you can:

  • Act – Take the Close the Gap pledge and call on world leaders to ensure that all children can survive 5 – Take action
  • Join – Become a World Vision gap closer and go deeper with your support - engage your congregation in the mobilisation with our Church and Christian engagement toolkit - download here
  • Support – Head to your local World Vision website and make a donation to child health by purchasing a gift from the gift catalogue or by sponsoring a child, both will alter the lives of families and communities for ever
  • Know – find out why children do not survive 5 head to ‘The Issues’ pages and find out more
  • Share – Join the Child Health Now network by liking the Facebook page or following on Twitter to receive campaign updates and exciting content that you can share with others.

By Andrew Hassett, Global Campaigns Director for World Vision International