Are you a changemaker? Approximately 5% of the Irish population consider themselves to be changemakers. Another 20% feel a responsibility to do something to improve society but haven’t yet taken action, often simply because they don’t know how to go about it.
That means there’s a whole lot of changemaking potential that we haven’t yet realised?
The challenges we face in modern society – climate change, world hunger, race or gender inequality, or the recent refugee crisis show us that we need to realise this potential and empower more people to take responsibility and effect change.
We wondered what it is that makes a changemaker and took the opportunity to find out with four great entrepreneurs in one tent at Electric Picnic. Mark Little, journalist and successful founder of the Irish news startup Storyful, Aoibheann O’Brien, social entrepreneur and co-founder of Foodcloud, an app addressing the problem of foodwaste and Brendan Dunford, the founder of Burren Life which places farmers at the creative centre of developing and delivering key conservation actions.
Here are a few takeaways we’d like to share with you on how you can become a changemaker.
Let us know in the comments below or via mail what you think. Could you be a changemaker? What is holding you back? What drives you to take action in your community?
1. Change complaining into action
â€œIt’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.â€ Brendan Dunford took this advice from a farmer he worked with in the Burren and since then it has become his mantra. Some complaining is of course still allowed, but do you also wonder what your contribution, however small, to solving a problem could be? There are too many solutions out there to get stuck with a problem. Changemakers are doers. How do you become a doer? One step at a time.
2. Gather your ideas (they don’t even have to be your own)
â€œLocal Changemaking takes passion, a sense of community and place.”, says Brendan. The good news: We’re all passionate about something. Maybe it’s computer coding, gardening or dancing. Every passion or skill can become your changemaker skill. Write down the ideas you have or, if you don’t have an idea yourself, just look at the ones that are already out there.
That’s how Foodcloud started. The two founders Aoibheann and Iseult, both passionate about solving the problem of foodwaste, were still studying at Trinity College Dublin when they came across an idea from the US where technology was used to bring leftover food to those who needed it. They picked up that idea and grew their own business in Ireland out of it, which has delivered the equivalent of 1,3 million meals to people in need since its start.
Local changemaking doesn’t have to be about starting a business from scratch. Even alongside your day job you can start ideas that have an impact at the local level. Just copy what’s already there. On ChangeX you can find many â€œopen sourceâ€ social innovations that you can get started in your community with a reasonable time commitment.
3. Make a commitment first
It all starts with a commitment. An idea remains an idea unless you really commit to it. “The will to make a clear commitment is one of the most important characteristic of the real changemaker,” Paul O’Hara points out. We all know how easy it is to say “I wanted to do that as well” or “I had that idea before”. The changemaker is the one who does what it takes to run with that idea.
At ChangeX we don’t leave our office without taking some of our commitment cards. Writing down your commitment and sharing it with others is the biggest step you can take on the changemaker road, though it’s the least time consuming one.
4. Talk to as many people as possible about it
Once you start talking to others about what you’d like to do you’ll be surprised how much support you get: â€œThere is so much goodwill out there for good ideasâ€, says Aoibheann. Her advice: “Invite as many people as possible out for a coffee and talk about what you’d like to do.â€
If you’d like to build a bigger community to work on your idea with, a place where everyone can take part in committing to change, gather new ideas, take action and become part of a network of like-minded people, you could also host a ChangeX meetup. Or, do what Brendan does in the Burren: The community there goes on a long walk together once a month in order to talk and exchange ideas. Maybe, one day even someone like Prince Charles will come along and join in.
5. Tell good stories
â€œThe best way of gathering supporters is to tell good stories,â€ argues Mark Little who has built a very successful business around finding the stories of unheard voices with his social media agency Storyful.
â€œThe pictures of the dead body of a boy on a Turkish beach showed us the power of stories and how they can transform into real action. Technology allows us to connect within seconds and within hours politicians step up to do something.â€ If you want to find supporters for your idea and spread it further – or maybe just in your local area – make use of good stories to spread the word. Start with one piece like a blog post and spread that further through different channels. If you touch people with your story they will join you and become your long-term supporters.
6. Work hard at the grassroots level
Technology makes it easy for us to feel like activists, acting for a good cause. It just takes a Like on Facebook, a Share on Twitter, or our name on a petition on change.org. â€œClicking on liking and sharing is meaningless if we don’t do anything offline,â€ says Mark and Aoibheann adds “whether Foodcloud works in a community or not does not depend on how many people are using the technology in an area, but on the level of active engagement at the community level,” and if people in the community are well enough connected to take on a challenge together.
If you’d like to build these connections and become part of a network of changemakers just join our ChangeX community.