Visioning and symbolic actions - Big Jump Challenge - Toolbox

Visioning and symbolic action

How can we even trigger a change in the world? Through which means can we get our message heard? And how do we develop creative and effective ideas for our Partner Jump?

Attention: The river walking module is now available (see below)!






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Can we really change the world?

When asked what the world should look like tomorrow, we should actually all have a say. But often the feeling we have is that "politics" or "business" (or their "lobby") decide arbitrarily - and that those who have neither much money nor political influence, are not heard. But there are people who do not let that put them off. They are active, demanding participation in decisions and drawing attention to their needs and visions of a better world. This can create movements, and put great changes into motion.

What does that have to do with symbolic action?

Symbolic actions are instruments that go back to the Indian independence struggle. Mahatma Gandhi, an Indian lawyer, wanted to free India from British colonial rule. It was very important for him to not fight oppression and violence by using the same means. Instead of armed resistance Gandhi called upon the Indian population to participate in demonstrations and strikes, and also to be aware of their own power to change things. For example, through its own manufacturing of traditional Indian clothing, which also then became outwardly a symbol of the struggle for independence. An important step on India's road to independence was the common struggle against the unjust British salt tax and prohibition against extracting salt and selling it yourself. Gandhi walked almost 400 km across the country to the coast, to break the ban and pick up a lump of sea salt. With each passing day more people followed him, until the whole world took notice of this salt march. That helped make the Indian independence movement successful: Gandhi showed with simple images of concrete examples, how an independent India should look, and so also underlined the extent of suppression by British rule.

What does symbolic action have to do with the Big Jump?

The Big Jump takes inspiration from such symbolic actions: When people all over Europe go swimming at the same time for the future of rivers, this creates attention and makes it clear that many people want better implementation of water policy. With the big jump, the vision of ​​how our world should look tomorrow, is already included in the action: If we could swim safely in Europes, we will have achieved quite a lot. Through the actions of the youth network for river action, another important issue is demonstrated symbolically: young people show that young generations work together for a Europe of rivers (and beyond!). They cooperate across national borders.



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Symbolic actions, that sounds good, but what can be done with it precisely? How, can the world as we would like it to already be today - at least symbolically - help us? That you learn here!


Don’t just stand there, get walking! This module is our invitation for a symbolic action, and joint visioning with and along this river.  This module aims to inspire you to plan and implement a Riverwalk. It will provide you with important background information and examples from previous Riverwalks.  Download it here (PDF).

Use Your Imagination and develop symbolic actions for Rivers

The following exercises will help you to use your own imagination to develop ideas for your actions, which can further communicate your message and inspire people to reach your goals - in a creative, compelling way!

Session I: Gallery of good ideas

This session helps you to think about your vision for making a better world, and develop ideas where you could begin to initiate a change.

Instructions for Session I (Pdf-Document)

Session II: Idea workshop for a Partner Jump

To change the world, a clear vision of what the world would make a good deal better is useful (see Session I). To communicate this idea to give it a form of expression that convinces, carries away, makes sense, excites, perhaps even agitates - this is the way in which your idea can turn into a movement. For this, creativity is required. Then you have a very powerful way to plan actions, organize campaigns, and cause small and large changes. For example, through a Partner Jump, which you can customize creatively and effectively through symbolic actions. In the following exercise, you can develop this idea.

Instructions for Session II (Pdf-Document)






Do you have other ideas on how to develop a vision and/or it may be already a reality today? Then we will write a tutorial or instructions on it for a Visioning and Symbolic Action Tool! We publish good ideas in the toolbox so that other teams can imitate them, and this raises your collaboration score!

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  • A background article about Gandhi, social innovation and the Big Jump Challenge here: Ziegler, Rafael; Schulz, Sabrina; Richter, Lukas; Schreck, Martin (2014): Following Gandhi. Social Entrepreneurship as a Non-Violent Way of Communicating Sustainability Challenges. In: Sustainability, 6 (2), S.  1018-1036. To Download


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In order to put the ideas that you have developed here into action, continue with Big Jump organization and PR. You want to know more about how you can contribute your ideas and vision to the world? Then check out Non-violent communication and stakeholder dialogue, which is about Gandhi's approach to non-violent communication and how to allow for and lead a successful dialogue with various stakeholders. And in case you still want to do something more or different on the topic of water conservation: go back to the Toolbox Overview and choose another interesting topic!

Come by and check it out again, we regularly update the Toolbox with new ideas!