Broken Windows Theory

How Broken Windows Theory impacts prosperity for individual and community.

Positive environments promote respect and attracts positive outcomes leading to prosperity.

Positive environments promote respect and attracts positive outcomes leading to prosperity.

If you want to enhance this world, small actions matter, as does focus and quality.  I set my target on two nature parks in Colchester: Hilly Fields and Cymbeline Meadows.  In these parks I pick up litter, clear graffiti and do other actions that enhance those parks.  I focus only on these two parks, where I have the resources of time and energy to make a serious impact in this world.  Each day I carry out small quality actions on a sustained focused basis in these parks, so that I have a cumulative impact over time from multiple small actions.

Broken Windows Theory is a social theory worth knowing about if you want to enhance your local community.  It is likely that the problems in your community started from small beginnings and grew to a fully blown crisis.  People follow patterns, so if the pattern is of a negative nature it will attract further negativity. If you break a window in your house, then do nothing about this window, people will lose respect for your house, for you, and for the community.  The broken window encourages others to break windows, and this leads to an ever-increasing spiral of vandalism, decay and social breakdown.

Broken Windows applies to relationships.  If you have weak boundaries, the parasite will start with invading your boundaries in small ways, if they get away with their busting of your boundaries, the parasite will make larger invasions, and anyone who witnesses the invasions also invade your boundaries too.

Individual and community need strong boundaries, and a zero tolerance for breaking those boundaries.  Broken windows fixed quickly encourages respect, a message conveyed that you and community have respect for yourself, your home and your community.

Hilly Fields in Colchester has a serious littering problem, which requires a sustained campaign to reverse.  If people see litter or others littering Hilly Fields they lose respect for the park, they will litter the park and will do other more serious anti-social actions.  My strategy with Hilly Fields is to show not tell, and to enhance the park, but always to leave the choice to others how they wish to treat the park, never controlling them or telling them how to behave.

I am slowly seeing the benefits of my sustained action in Hilly Fields, I am seeing others pick up litter, and it appears there is less litter being dropped, though I still carry away a large bag of litter each day.  When people see me picking up litter I am setting an example.  When people see lack of litter they are likely to keep the park litter-free. It is critical to success against a negative activity like littering to act with zero tolerance, to move rapidly to address the negative activity, such as removing the litter as quickly as possible each day.  If you wish to make a lasting impact you need focus and sustained action over time, there are no half-measures.

Based on Broken Windows Theory, small actions like littering attracts more serious problems; the reverse is that positive small actions attracts larger positive outcomes, often in unexpected ways.

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11 responses to “Broken Windows Theory

  1. Reblogged this on ELANA – The Voice of the Future and commented:
    GREAT IDEA!

  2. Good post, and very timely! (Can’t say more at this stage.)

  3. You already know that my son loves to pick up trash around our neighborhood. You’ll be happy to hear I now regularly see a teenage boy out also picking up trash, too. It’s becoming difficult for us to find any trash at all. Progress! :)

  4. It is so saddening that people throw their waste in park land and hedgerows in the countryside, even when i have seen bins provided some still fail to dispose of it correctly…
    One thing I taught my children and my granddaughter is follow suit is not to drop litter…. And to take it home with you…
    Well done that the domino effect is starting to happen in your area Alex

  5. Alex, I am so happy to hear your efforts are catching on and making a difference. I found the same is true here as well. When I began to clear the field outside my apartment it was filled with trash which not only was deep within the field by along the edges as well. Over a few weeks I began to see others pick up things along the edge and less litter was found. I assumed after winter I would find a lot of trash to clear when the snow melted. But much to my surprise I found only a couple small things. Without saying a word to anyone, the entire mentality of how people treated this field changed.

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