Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What is a Changemaker? Reflections on Ashoka's EACH Vision and the Changemaker's Campus at #ACW2011

During the second quarter of this year, I had the honor of working with Ashoka Paris and a global team of professional group conversation facilitators in hosting a 3 day set of dynamic dialogues at the first ever Ashoka Changemaker's Campus.  Our theme was building Ashoka's Everyone A CHangemaker or "EACH" Vision.

Months before June's global event, when I had just signed on to help the Paris team and was presenting some ideas for feedback from the rapidly growing Ashoka Belgium group, someone from a local company asked me "but what do you actually mean by the word changemaker?"

I remember winging an answer that most of the room seemed to feel comfortable with at the time, but today - yes, even after helping to organize and attending the Changemaker's Campus in Paris, I am still not 100% sure that my definition of a changemaker is the same as how others in my professional space use it. If I have learned nothing else in my years of exploring the emerging "changemaker space," it's that we tend to have lots of issues with semantics. In the end, that might not be such a bad thing.

Are you a Changemaker? 

Of course you are - even if you're not calling yourself that yet.... and no, you actually don't have to participate in a changemaker campus to be one!

As I see us, we changemakers are a rapidly growing global tribe of hearts with minds who dare to accept and embrace that we actually can have a world where EVERYONE has the means and incentive to contribute to a thrivable human existence on this planet. We are the Blessed Unrest that Paul Hawken writes of - the largest movement in the world that nobody saw coming.

When I close my eyes and allow myself to see the EACH Vision as we embody it now, we are a beautifully gleaming mosaic of social innovators, social entrepreneurs, social investors, social enterprises, social ecosystem builders, socially engaged corporations, community based initiatives, NGOs, Foundations, LC3's, community action networks, government agencies, informed & engaged consumers, philanthropists, volunteers, moms, dads, kids and grandparents ALL OVER THE WORLD who have already decided and who will eventually decide to work together more and more, in big and small ways, to turn the world around, and set our planet's human development on a sustainable course for a thrivable future.

There we were at the Changemaker's Campus. 1000 of us with power networks, ready to reach across sectors and silos and backgrounds to start thinking big about growing the number of changemakers everywhere. We were bankers and policy wonks, practitioners and investors, corporations and consultants, and cutting edge social innovators from every corner of the globe tackling complex human challenges in incredibly exciting ways. We lived on campus at HEC, one of France's most prestigious business schools. We ran into each other to linger over serendipitous conversations in the long halls, outside of state of the art classrooms, where we learned from each other about our collective potential to build a world where the EACH vision could become real. 

The Changemaker's Campus main 2 day "EACH program," with 3 cross-cutting collaboration tracks (which followed a special sectorally themed cluster program), turned out to be a delightfully gooey and messy banana split of an event experience (with drums sprinkled on top!), where the many flavors present worked wonderfully well together.  For three days, we experienced the special magic that happens whenever changemakers gather. Idea sparks flew, mountains moved, foundations were built, and our collective sense of resolve and direction was sharpened. 

There was a collectively intoxicating giddiness in the sudden knowing: 
  • that we are many; 
  • that we are powerful; 
  • that we are very real and growing daily in our reach.
Changemakers are everywhere among us, already playing your parts to make the world a better place in large and small ways - many of us only beginning to understand the power of the impact we can have on the world with our personal choices about how we spend our time and money. Some of us are driving change from within the towers of industry, some of us are generous in helping out with crowdfunding and online votes for projects our friends send us links to. Some of us are driving innovation from within communities of likeminded people; some among us will influence new national policies, and millions of others of us are influencing the economy through spending habits that we are increasingly linking to the kind of impact we want our households to make in the world. 

Ashoka's Founder, Bill Drayton, proposes that teaching empathy in elementary schools would create a next generation of changemakers that would really kick the building of a more peaceful society into overdrive. I couldn't agree more. But frankly, I also don't think we'll need to wait for those kids to grow up before we start witnessing an intense acceleration of Changemaker activity in the world. I personally sense that the most important "big thing" we must begin doing together is to work harder at measuring and showing the collective impact of the (billions?) of Changemaker actions that are now happening 24/7, all over the planet.

My call to all of us is what are we all measuring, and what can we start measuring together? Which indicators, which targets, which micro-level actions and trends can growing groups of us commit to measuring together, in ways that can help all of us more clearly see and understand the new world that is emerging through our collective actions?  How wonderful it would be if we could figure out how to use our networks of networks to build bridges to a shared new perspective on what our unique pieces of the global change puzzle look like, when we are able to look at them together. 

Co-creating a world where Everyone is a Changemaker involves all of us who believe in a better world taking a frank look inward, at our own personal values and potential value to society, and making choices in our lives that reflect the kind of human beings we want to be, and the kind of change in the global human condition that we want to be a part of.  It is up to each of us, the world's people who choose to work and buy and invest in the part of society that believes in the betterment of humanity, to build our own bridges to a thriving new reality, and personally choose to walk over them. 

Finding your own comfort zone within the Everyone A Changemaker vision is a transcendence of all political dogma; it's not a passing new age fad. It's about choosing to identify yourself with the growing global tribe that knows the world’s best kept secret: that alongside the armageddon of crumbling global economic and political systems we all see in the news lately, other kinds of widespread positive change in the human condition are possible and increasingly real today, thanks to the growing millions of individuals, families, organizations and institutions that are engaging in new kinds of dynamic alliances across silos, across boundaries, and across dogma to co-create it. The world we are building holds empathy for the human condition at it’s core.

There is hope. 

Look around you, people. See the bridges to a more just society around you everywhere, and choose to walk into the reality of building and being the better world you believe in. We changemakers are the anti-conspiracy movement that’s opening up new possibilities for each and every person on the planet to thrive, in an inclusive, cooperative and a thriving world. 

Trust me, even if reading this blog post is the first time you’ve ever thought of yourself as a changemaker in whatever position life finds you, I can assure you it won’t be the last time in your lifetime that you will be called upon to reflect on the impact you can make in building a better world. We are taking over the world's leading business schools. We are infiltrating old institutions and (not so covertly) co-creating some new ones. We are sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, parents and grandparents from all over the world who are embracing this life’s large and small opportunities to redress local and global imbalances.  

Surely if you have access to the information today that leads you to this post, you are already  powerful beyond measure in what you know you can do with a few simple searches or clicks to support your favorite cause, social action or concern. What I guess I’m really saying Paris gave me is a certainty that more of those kinds of easy choices, on many levels in our lives, are yet to come. Changemakers at all levels of society are conspiring to create a world where all of us doing our part is as easy and natural as breathing.  If you don’t think you are a changemaker yet, you will be... we are making sure of that :-)  

#gratitude to Ashoka for allowing me to play such an active role in thinking through HOW to host the amazing event that the Changemaker’s Campus became, and to the amazing group of facilitators who lived up to the trust I place in them to help make the event "anything but a conference." I loved the experience and feel transformed in my thinking about my own potential value as a Changemaker because of it.

Feeling inspired? Share this post with some budding changemakers in your life and pass the positive energy along :-)


  1. Great blog, thank you for sharing! I guess I don't have an excuse anymore; I am a changemaker - and thanks to people like you, we are a growing tribe! :-)

  2. Thanks for this - another way to describe what's driving me.

  3. Beautiful tapestry of thoughts to express a concept that is sure to continually and exponentially change the world for good. You are a wise woman exuding positive energy wherever you go. Know that and continue to do what you're doing. - Mary

  4. I posted your reflections in my facebook!

    Thanks Christine for sharing hope and wisdom.


    Alicia Leal

  5. I am moved and will share this.

  6. I couldnt agree more with everyone is so inspiring...we all can be changemakers...we are changemakers already even if in small ways in our lives, with our neighbours, communities etc...Thank you so much for this Christine. I will also be sharing.