Anyone who is reading this is likely interested in, concerned about or befuddled by the life insurance industry’s growing problem of the underserved.

As with any other large-scale problem, interested groups engage in activities to help the unaware become aware, then put forth solutions to help people do something about it.

While the life insurance awareness campaigns have yielded millions of impressions over the course of years, the number of households without life insurance has reached a 50-year low, according to LIMRA’s Trends in Life Insurance Ownership Study 2010. And the calculated protection gap — the difference between the amount of life insurance households should have and what they actually have — is at an all-time high, according to Swiss Re’s Mortality Protection Gap Study in the U.S., 2012.

In a similar period of time, we have witnessed positive change around other issues, like breast cancer, AIDS, heart disease, even drunk driving. Consciousness has been raised. More action is being taken. The situation is improving. If that’s true, then we must ask ourselves:

What is required for movements around social issues to be effective?

Try these on:

1)      A large number of people need to agree the problem is real and not manufactured by someone who just wants to sell something.

2)      They must see the problem has the potential for negative social impact and how they can be affected.

3)      They need to see a way they can engage in order to help the situation and create more social good for everyone.

How does the problem of the under-protected stack up on all of these? The answer is not so great.

If we were to guess which of the three issues is the biggest culprit, most might gravitate toward No. 1 — agreement. While this is an important part of the problem, I strongly believe more of the blame rests with No. 3 — engagement.

According to Neil Sprackling, thought leader on the protection gap and managing director and president of Life and Health Insurance at Swiss Re:

“We can’t solve the problem with the same logic that created it. We must find ways to engage consumers in the journey of protection before they even perceive they have a need.”

Think about the other previously mentioned examples. How did people agree that there really was a problem? Was it because they read the campaign slogans and believed they personally would be impacted? Or was it because they were given ways to engage to help others?

See also: 5 ways to use social media for Life Insurance Awareness Month — and beyond

Hmmm. While there may not be proof available, think about the times when you participated in a walk-a-thon, or donated money, or wore a ribbon of some kind. Was it to help yourself or someone in your immediate family? Maybe, but most contributors are probably in the outer circles of those people who directly needed help.

Have you ever agreed to help someone with a cause before you even understood it fully and only learned more about the problem during the course of that engagement? If you can say yes, read on.

The LIFE Foundation — through generous donations from the industry — awards scholarships to children who have lost a parent who did not have life insurance to protect them. What if we built upon this idea and gave the ability to help to the masses? What if we shifted the focus from trying to warn people about protecting themselves to asking people to help those who should have? What would the act of helping teach them about their own protection needs?

Today’s technology and social connectivity make this possible, and it is already happening in an organized fashion for people who have gaps in health insurance coverage (GiveForward.com) or who have random needs their communities recognize (Indigogo.com).

Could our industry do more to really help those in need and, in the process, teach the underserved to serve themselves? As Mahatma Gandhi said:

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

What would you do to flip the paradigm of awareness? Ideas are welcome.

 

For more from Maria Ferrante-Schepis, see:

The high-net-worth epic fail: Gen Y’s pink slip

What really matters to consumers today

Fiduciary standard: Burden or innovation opportunity?