Shawn Shafner finding impact podcast

FIP 029: Breaking Taboo with Shawn Shafner

When taboos exist, issues are skipped over. This is bad news when you’re encouraging people to come together to solve societal issues. Shawn Shafner is a master at breaking the taboo of shit. He created The People’s Own Organic Power Project – AKA The POOP Project – which is breaking boundaries in a subject long bound up by stigma and taboo. I first met Shawn at the World Toilet Summit in Philadelphia in 2010 and it’s been great to watch him take his message global.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • Breaking taboos is important not just for sanitation, but other societal challenges, such as issues of old age, death, HIV/AIDs, and menstruation.
  • Social media is by far the most scalable way to get your story out there, which can be a powerful medium to break the taboos your organisation is fighting for.
  • Other news and media companies are attracted to taboo subjects, which can be great for your marketing campaign, so your message gets amplified by others.
  • Being sensitive to audiences reactions is important, and listening is key. Making it clear in the title, what your video/blog/show is about, is one way to screen out people who might take offence.
  • “Making creativity happen” with a group of people is hard. What you can do instead is create structures that invite creativity to come. So you might throw some pipe cleaners into a group and suggest they make stuff.
  • In using communications to garner support for your cause, it can be useful to pique people’s interest by showing them the status quo, get them really angry, then show them how it can be different, and what they can do about it.


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