You can’t change a problem with the same thinking that created the thinking in the first place.
Systems change involves changing the system dynamics that create social problems in the first place. This means getting at the belief systems, routines and power dynamics that are the underlying causes. Living in Community sees that many of the conflicts about sex work have to do with power inequity, poverty, racism, colonization, and stigma. We believe that we need to look at sex work issues in a systemic way so we can make the kind of
Systems change looks like:
- Really good policies that shine the light on sex worker experiences and uphold their rights to health and safety. The City of Vancouver’s Sex Work Enforcement Guidelines are a good example of municipal policy that promotes a respectful, non-discriminatory and consistent approach among all employees who interact with anyone in the sex industry through the course of their duties.
- Working with the media to change how sex workers are portrayed in the media.
- Strong housing strategies that address the unique needs of sex workers.
- Changing the culture of policing to eliminate bias and stigma.
We know that we can’t simply provide band-aid solutions to the big social issues of our times. Food banks are important – but they don’t fix poverty. That’s why we are focused on helping to create policies that shift bigger systems and transform how we think about sex work and how we interact with sex workers.
For example, the City of Vancouver’s Sex Work Response Guidelines is a balanced approach to safety, health and well-being for sex workers and neighbourhoods impacted by sex work. We work with other organizations and institutions to develop their own policies that get at the root issues that create inequities for sex workers.
The Enforcement Guidelines, developed by the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) are another important example. Adopted in 2017, these Guidelines provide guidance to police across BC, both RCMP and municipal police forces, about how to enforce prostitution laws. The Guidelines aim to encourage consistent sex work enforcement practices in order to ensure the safety, dignity, and well-being of those involved in sex work, and to enhance police response to violence against persons involved in sex work.
One of the key ways that Living in Community changes systems is by engaging as active citizens. We keep a focus on the issues of sex work with different levels of government and politicians, as well as with the broader public. We advocate with government and politicians to keep sex work issues on the table, ensure adequate support for sex work support organizations, and educate those in power to understand sex work. We work with the media where there is negative coverage of sex work and we help the public to better understand the lived reality of people who engage in sex work.