"A room common to many will be swept by none." - Chinese Proverb
I taught the last class of the day at a convention. When the participants left the room it was littered with balloons left over from an earlier class, drinking glasses, and water bottles. I began cleaning up the room, and the last two participants began to help me. We had just finished when the entertainers who had been hired to perform that evening arrived. They were scheduled to use that room as their dressing area. I was glad that we had gotten it cleaned so it was a pleasant place for them to prepare. I noticed many times that participants don't clean up after them selves before leaving a room at a convention. I don't think it is because they are lazy or slobs. I think they just assume that somebody else has the responsibility of cleaning the room. They don't realize that cleaning is an additional expense convention organizers may not be able to afford. Many times I have seen the convention organizers cleaning rooms late at night after everybody else has gone to relax.
One of the cases I studied in a college Social Psychology class was a famous murder. A woman was attacked in a park surrounded by apartment buildings. Although hundreds of people witnessed the attack and heard her cries for help, nobody called the police. Sociologists investigated the cause. They discovered that because people could see other witnesses they assumed they didn't need to call because somebody else had probably already made the call and the police were on their way. The sense of shared responsibility meant that nobody felt compelled to personally respond. In experiments they discovered that if a person thought they were the only witness they felt a sense of urgency and responded immediately. However if they thought there were other witnesses they were slower to respond.
In my training as a Boy Scout leader I have learned that the most effective form of recruitment is peer to peer, meaning that a boy invites a friend to join. That is the inspiration behind the "everybody ask one" membership drives used by variety arts organizations. The math seems simple. The size of the organization would double if every member invited one other person who followed through and joined. However, those drives rarely succeed because each individual member assumes that others have extended invitations so there are probably enough new members. There is no compelling reason to get personally involved. In my Pack we use two methods to make peer-to-peer recruitment effective. First, we focus on providing a quality program that boys want to share with their friends. They know their friends will have fun as a Boy Scout so they invite them. Second, we provide incentives for recruitment. For example, one year if a boy recruited another member to our Pack he received a Headlamp to use on camping trips.
I am currently a member of the World Clown Association Publication Committee. This is my second time serving on the committee. Twenty years ago I completed my second term as World Clown Association Education Director. When I was the Education Director, and more recently on the Publication Committee, I tried to increase the number of people writing for Clowning Around, the magazine published by the WCA. I discovered that a general request for articles wasn't very effective. I think members assumed that it wasn't their responsibility, somebody else would write. I believe that often they didn't think they were capable of writing an article or couldn't think of a topic. However, I discovered that a specific request is more likely to gain results. For example, if I hear somebody mention a topic that should be covered, I say, "That's a great idea. Why don't you write something about that?" When somebody shares an experience with me, I say, "You know the WCA members would be interested in that. Would you write that up for Clowning Around?" With a little specific encouragement they write an article. Sometimes that is all they write. Often that initial success provides them with enough encouragement that they continue writing for the magazine.
What shared responsibility do you see that you can take personally? If people have a shared responsibility, how can you make them feel a personal responsibility? How can you encourage them to respond?