Yazidi women (EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Agencies/Flickr)

Acknowledging failures and errors is the first step forward

Small changes can have big impacts: Style guides can help journalists be more accurate and precise about conflicts around the world. Cutting through red tape in bureaucratic processes can expand access to progressive programs without passing new laws. Taking low-level offenders to treatment instead of jail can change the trajectory of a life.

Then again, big changes—like Yazidi women creating a women-only community to rebuild and heal after genocide—can have big impacts, too. This is our roundup of stories about making changes of all sizes for the better.

  • The cost of living is skyrocketing around the country, and wages have failed to keep pace. Paltry wage increases won by labor unions across the country mean little when those dollars don’t go as far as they once did. That is why unions should make affordable housing an organizing priority. Read The American Prospect op-ed. 
  • Journalism shapes the way we understand the world, and accuracy and precision matter. Words like “ethnic”—as in “ethnic tension”—can obscure and mystify what’s really going on in conflicts around the world, so the Global Press Journal banned the word in its style guide. Learn more at Neiman Reports.
  • NGOs are getting better at admitting to failure—making the industry more transparent and encouraging open and honest conversations. For decades, only successes were rewarded by the funders and supporters of NGOs, and failures have been carefully hidden or disguised—making it difficult to create open channels for discussion about what works and what doesn’t. Bright Magazine has the story.
  • Displaced Yazidi women who escaped ISIS violence are building a women-only commune in north-eastern Syria, free from “patriarchy and capitalism.” Read The Guardian report.
  • Over-policing is a problem in many U.S. cities, but a new program in Albuquerque allows police officers to take low-level offenders to substance abuse treatment, helping individuals avoid arrest and a criminal record, The Albuquerque Journal reports.
  • The Affordable Care Act was supposed to make mental health services available to all, but fell short of the promise. Some cities, including Denver and Seattle, are stepping up and raising taxes to fill that gap. Governing magazine has the details.
  • When conservative American lawmakers are unable to legislate services like Medicaid or SNAP out of existence, they throw up bureaucratic roadblocks in front of people who need to access those services. In addition to proposing new laws, a progressive agenda should push for reversals of those roadblocks, making it easier for people to access the benefits for which they qualify. Read the op-ed in The American Prospect.

Jessica McKenzie is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, NY. Previously, she was the managing editor of the civic technology news site Civicist and interned at The Nation magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @jessimckenzi.