You don’t have to be the next Bono; but is everyone a changemaker?

Posted on December 16, 2010


Is everyone a changemaker?

Are you a changemaker? According to Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka, you are. ‘Everyone is a changemaker’ is his mantra. And he is not alone in thinking so. Drayton envisions an ‘everyone a changemaker’ future, but points out that there are a few bumps on the road to this destination. If this transition is to occur smoothly, he says, some fundamental societal changes are necessary to support this shift.

“Most important, society cannot significantly increase the proportion of adults who are, and know they are, changemakers and who have mastered the necessary and complex underlying social skills until it changes the way all young people live” (Drayton, 2006).

Further, Drayton adds that:

“Although it is normal for support areas like finance to lag behind change in the operating areas they serve, the emergent citizen sector is now at significant risk unless it can quickly engineer major structural changes in both its institutional finance sector and the broad grassroots sources of support in its post-breakeven zone. (..) Society’s core interests are in making it easy, not impossible, for young people to take initiative and build ongoing services. But our existing financial services institutions fail us” (Drayton, 2006).

Pressure off: you don’t have to be the next Bono

Perhaps it is such, that innate we all are changemakers. Yet in which way we choose to fulfill our changemaking potential will be an individual expression. However small or large a contribution one makes, it matters. As mother Theresa famously once said “there are not great acts, only small acts done with great love.”There might be some truth to that. All acts contributing to someone else’s wellbeing are valuable. Not everyone must be the next Jacqueline Novogratz, Bono, or mother Theresa. In fact, the value lies in that we are different, that we will contribute in diverse ways, and some will engage in the lager-scale societal changes, others will contribute in their local environments. So whether you are that person who helps the old ladies over the street, smiles at your neighbor, helps tourists with direction, spare a change to someone who just lost their wallet, volunteer in a local NGO, donate money to your favorite charity, or if you are building a social enterprise of your own, either way, your contribution matters. It is a part of a lager complex and sophisticated whole.

I previously posted a TED talk by Jessica Jackley, the founder of Kiva, wherein she also addresses the factum that we all like to contribute. To her, it is all about the stories; the local, day-to-day, interactions and the stories that arise from this very interaction. The stories we tell matter, she says, the stories we tell about ourselves matter, but more so, the way in which we engage and participate in each others’ stories is of the deepest importance. And then she adds an interesting observation: it is a reality that we care so deeply (and that we desire to be useful), but we are afraid to try, and we fear to mess it up, because we care. But, she concludes, love is resilient enough to go out there and try.

Dinner party hosted by life itself

The point is not to make you feel guilty about however much or little you feel you are contributing to others wellbeing, but contrary make you see, that you matter and all acts of kindness are valuable. We are all different, we have different life situations at any given moment, and hence our contributions will be as diverse. If you after reading this are thinking, that in fact you would like to become more engaged, then take a moment to contemplate, in which way that could be done, such that it fits into your life.

What is your best way to contribute?

Imagine that you are at a nice, cozy dinner party hosted by life itself. Its joyous, inspiring and a lot of fun. Within these walls you are fully accepted and loved for exactly who you are. Have you ever attended a dinner party where suddenly the host announces that under your plate there is a hidden note, containing a task you most perform (such as doing the dishes, preparing the desert, dancing with uncle John, giving a toast; or is that just a Danish thing?!)? Well, in this case there is also a note under your plate, you take it out and it reads ‘what is your contribution to make tomorrow better than today?’ and the other side is blank, awaiting your answer. Give it some thoughts, write it down, and ask yourself the same question now and again, as you go with the flow of life.

Yes we can

It seems to be such, that whenever someone does an act of good, they tend to become prone to do even more of such acts, and so it grows exponentially. Perhaps, then, the message is that yes we all have a changemaking potential, and even when the acts seems small and unimportant in a larger picture, it is not, because all matter and things grow, taking on a life of their own, creating waves of good flooding over the globe. At least, one can hope so.

So whether you are planning on being the next Bono, are giving your seat to old ladies in a crowded bus, or meet the world with a smile, keep up the good work, because your actions matter! The ‘yes-we-can’ movement is on.

Reference: Bill Drayton, 2006, ‘Everyone A Changemaker: Social Entrepreneurship’s Ultimate Goal