Recently, I was watching a group of children play tag in a local park. The premise, of course, is that one person is "it." He or she does his or her best to tag another participant, who then becomes the new "it." When I was a kid, being "it" never had a positive connotation. The entire purpose of the game is to pass along the unwanted responsibility of being "it."
Last week, I found out about a fascinating online collaboration project. The site, sponsored by the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, is called the Responsibility Project. In a way, this group effort is the opposite of the game of tag. As in tag, you try to pass along the responsibility of being "it," but in the Responsibility Project, you do so positively and productively.
The whole point is to spread the idea of people helping out other people. The project's founders designed the Web site pedagogically to help transmit social-skills concepts, and its sections on films, resources, and blogs are easy to navigate -- and hard to leave. They offer intriguing exercises in thinking about responsibility on a personal and social level.
The Responsibility Project began with a television commercial that showed individuals doing positive things for one another. The overpowering success of the commercial inspired its creators to develop a series of short films, and a Web site to showcase them. Even the names of the films -- Dinner for Two, Table Guardians, and Transit -- are intriguing.
The most recent addition to the site is Dinner for Two, a delightful six-minute animation that is geared toward children but will also resonate with every adult who has ever had to grudgingly share anything with anyone else. The feature, which hopes to teach children about responsibility, has an accompanying discussion guide with higher-order critical-thinking questions. Yet, as its story line dips up and down, we adults hold our breath in anticipation of the outcome, and we realize that the message of this film is highly relevant to the child still alive inside each of us.
In the site's Resources section, visitors to the site can share links to a book, television show, movie, or Web page that encourages the idea of responsibility. Recent submissions include sites such as GoodCharacter.com, Teendriving.com, and Love and Logic, as well as a book called The Spiffiest Giant in Town.
Inside the section called "What's Your Policy?," readers can choose a word to complete a question. For instance, the question "What is your idea of a responsible ________?" offers such fill-in words as parent, employee, manager, neighbor, and friend. (The choices are organized in a tag cloud, an array of words in various type sizes relative to their popularity.) When you click on your choice to finish the question, reader responses to the question will appear. You can partake in the discussion or simply read what's there to gain a fuller appreciation for the power this site can have in creating positive change in a community.
I heartily recommend that you explore the Responsibility Project page and send the link to your friends. I look forward to seeing your opinions about this innovative Web site.