JANUARY 12, 2018
Ballard Brief: Informing Impact
by Marissa Getts

Here at BYU, we believe that any university "should nurture in its students the desire to use their knowledge and skills not only to enrich their own lives but also to bless their families, their communities...and the larger society" and that "students should learn, then demonstrate, that their ultimate allegiance is to higher values, principles, and human commitments rather than to mere self-interest." At the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance, we learn that not all "good" in the world is done equally, and we want to understand how to create a positive social impact in the world in the most ethical, just, effective, and widespread ways as possible. Here?s a quick introduction to our publication and how it can help you.

Who are we?

We are a group of students at Brigham Young University who are deeply interested in creating a positive social impact across the globe. We often engage in conversations about doing good in the world and have noticed an abundance of people who genuinely want to do good but do not have access to experience or information that allows them to do so effectively. We have become deeply frustrated with the lack of accessible, accurate, and useful discourse on social issues that brings field or academic experience to the masses of people who want to impact the world in a positive way.

Why are we here?

To fill that void, we created Ballard Brief, a publication designed to succinctly inform the average person on social issues and important interventions. We spent a year fully developing the format for each Ballard Brief, asking questions like "How might we communicate the complexity of social issues in short papers?" and "What type of writing voice is most accessible to people from many different backgrounds?" and "How can we center the voices of people affected by social issues when we discuss solutions?" Sometimes we sat down together and asked ourselves, "Is this even possible?" While we recognize that we will never be able to fully communicate the complexities of various issues, we hope to be a first, best starting place that you can leave knowing where to go next.

Each Ballard Brief focuses on a specific social issue in a specific place, like Access to Water in Rural Malawi or Excessive Use of Force by Police in the US. In each briefing, we first tackle what we call "context." This section is responsible for explaining the general setting of the social issue and the circumstances - environmental, social, political - that created that setting. Each context section has two main parts: contributing factors and consequences. Contributing factors tries to cover the most important reasons why this problem is happening. This is where we ask questions like "what factors restrict access to clean water in rural Malawi?" or "what causes such high sexual assault rates on college campuses in the US?" The consequences section covers the results of the social issue and helps people understand how a lack of access to water in rural Malawi or sexual assault impacts people?s lives, and why those are problems that we should solve. Although social issues are certainly more complex than simply "causes" and "effects" we believe that separating the two allows for a deeper understanding of each issue, particularly for beginners. We do try, however, to explain cyclical relationships between causes and effects as much as possible.

The second half of each briefing is named "practices." Here, authors address the most important work being done to solve the social issue or alleviate its effects. Most briefings will contain several different approaches to working to solve its social issue. When discussing practices, authors first describe the practice, answering questions like, "What are the defining characteristics of this practice?" and "What are the different steps in a process or program that make it work?" Then, each briefing shares as much information about impact as possible. Here we answer the question, "What does data show about the effectiveness of this practice?" Last, because there is no perfect solution, we address the gaps of each practice. This section shares critiques of the practice and identifies areas of improvement.

Where are we going?

Because we believe that accurate information is vital to creating impactful solutions to social problems, we hope to become the premier starting point for people interested in making a positive social impact on the world. We hope to not only influence individual changemakers, but also to elevate the global understanding and conversation on impact.

We hope to expand as quickly as possible while still maintaining rigorous standards for publication. We are interested in creating partnerships with field and academic experts, social businesses, non-profit organizations, and other universities with social innovation programs to create more content for our publication. If you are interested in collaborating with us, please contact us at ballardbrief@byu.edu.

We are thrilled that you are here, and hope that Ballard Brief can enable you to become a more impactful changemaker and critical thinker as you do good in the world.

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