Wondering how to build a community focused on making a positive change? Learn why everyone is a changemaker, and what that means in real life.

In February 2007, a lithe, dynamic young Senator from Illinois ran for President of the United States on a platform of one word: change.

Whether or not Obama delivered that change is your call. But we can’t deny the way his campaign spoke to a deep disaffection with the status quo.

Yes, everybody wants change; many will even vote for it. But few will step up and become changemakers themselves. It’s the tragedy of our time; that we’re so informed and connected, yet feel so powerless.

But why? We’re inundated with positive examples of those with the vision and determination to make something happen. These examples are so diverse that there’s no set formula for what makes a changemaker, but we can spot patterns. 

Activists and social entrepreneurs responsible for making waves in the world today could all be said to share these eight qualities:

Clarity

Changemakers know what they want and can set the agenda in a way that everyone understands.

Authenticity

Bringing about real change means addressing a real need in the community, doing so from the heart.

Resilience

This is a long, bumpy road. You’ve got to learn to take a few knocks and keep going.

Outspokenness

Speak up, loud and often. Others can’t contribute to your vision of a better world if they haven’t heard of it.

Humility

You can be moral without moralising. If you lead humbly and by example, others are far more likely to follow.

Integrity

The strength to stay true to your convictions often defines a changemaker when the temptation to sell out rears its head.

Sagacity

Otherwise known as simple common sense. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take things one step at a time and set realistic goals.

Ambition

Of course, those realistic goals should take into account the incredible things a motivated person can really achieve.

These are the eight pillars supporting the work of the world’s Greta Thunbergs, Emma Watsons, and Leonardo DiCaprios. We’re living through the age of celebrity activism, with ambitious (and certainly well-funded) campaigns thrust under our noses whenever we glance at a screen.

Change for the many

With all this going on, many people feel blinded by the lights. In a world of celebrity changemakers and superstar social entrepreneurs… what is there left for the rest of us to do?

The answer is ‘everything.’ These high-profile projects can’t exist without demand and appetite for change. They need to be driven by market forces in the case of social entrepreneurship, and political will in the public sector.

Both these mechanisms are democratic; everyone has a voice and the means to amplify it. We walk around with godlike tools of communication in our pockets. Subsequently, we’re only ever one viral tweet away from celebrity changemaker status.

What we choose to spend our energy and resources on defines our impact. We are all social entrepreneurs, and that’s something we need to get excited about on a global scale.

Three sectors, one community

It’s worth exploring that distinction between the public and private sectors, as well as the voluntary or charity sector. Each holds a wealth of opportunities for those wishing to make their mark, and each must march together.

If one sector is allowed to steam ahead of the others, we’ll see change… but for who? The fate of Facebook shows what happens when private sector ideas flourish without democratic oversight.

For its own part, the public sector can stagnate if its heavy hand isn’t challenged by healthy market competition, while charities simply can’t exist at all without philanthropy.

These three sectors, the three estates of the modern economy, need transparency, cooperation, and mutual respect now more than ever. They need active, vocal champions to complement each other’s natural talents.

You can be just such a champion. Whether you’re starting up a social enterprise, joining a community action group, or volunteering with a charity; each appeals to a certain type of person, each is equally valid and desperately needed.

Location, location, location

These opportunities aren’t only there for different types of changemaking. Indeed, the time is right to drive change at all levels, all over the world.

Globalised culture allows effective decision-making and communication on a massive scale. But these huge international systems are paralysed without context on the ground.

A curious side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic came about when global NGOs found themselves unable to fly aid workers into trouble spots. The solution was to use more local volunteers, who more than rose to the challenge. 

Local expertise, that frontline context, proved invaluable and taught an important lesson. Changemakers in the New York boardroom need changemakers on the ground in Kenya and Myanmar. Those previously overlooked have turned out to be the most passionate and effective advocates.

All over the world, similar pockets of dormant expertise exist, ready to be activated and put to good use. People want to help. Executives have a moral duty to identify these would-be changemakers and provide opportunities. 

And if you’re someone wanting to bring change but unsure where to begin, you have the duty to stand up and make yourself known.

Be the change in your local community

SPEAK was founded on the idea that anyone can be a changemaker. Community building and helping others learn a language already helps over 33,000 people make a positive impact around the world.

Could you do the same for your area? Are you waiting for a sign? Here it is:

Learn how to take SPEAK to your city.

In the meantime, it’s time to get started. Search for community projects near you.

Are you interested in how the social franchising model at SPEAK works? Read  Part 1/5 - "What is social franchising?"

Author: Rory Stobo

Rory is a writer, performer, and activist from the grim (but beautiful) North East UK. He currently resides in Cambridge, working as Chief Copywriter for the award-winning digital agency, Sookio.

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