So many people in the U.S. were focused on this Martin Luther King quote in the last weeks. People were looking for new ways to raise their voices, not in hate but in love. They were expressing the values they believe in, values as simple as helping people who are fleeing a war and making them feel welcome.
These were regular people who felt the need to connect and care for neighbors in a new way. People like Shanna Castillo who started a neighborhood Facebook group, Love Trumps Hate Sunset Park Brooklyn, like the Community School in DeKalb County, Georgia who inspired many more schools across the country to put up signs in front of school with welcoming messages showing their solidarity with migrant neighbors, and like Marina Aleixo in Minneapolis who hosted a Welcome Dinner for two families who fled from the Republic of Congo.
All these people, and you might be one of them, are inspiring us to get more active in our communities. But how do we actually turn this behavior into part of a larger culture? How do we become a culture where changemaking is habitual and where we infect each other with the thrill of being a help in someone else’s life.
Here are four strong pillars of a more inclusive, welcoming, understanding and LOVING society in the longterm. We’re looking forward to hearing your take on this.
Each of us can be– no, has to be– a changemaker
The belief that everyone can be a changemaker is the credo that drives more and more organizations, like Ashoka, Do Something, change.org or ChangeX, to empower people to get involved as active citizens.
We all can seek ways of making our world a little better day by day, regardless of how much time we have, whether we want to participate at a professional or voluntary level. It doesn’t matter what our age, our skills, or our passions are. Everyone has something to give.
One thing people tell us a lot when they register to start an idea in their community is that they would like to be a good role model for the children in their lives. As this Welcome-Dinner starter from St. Paul:
The current political situation in the U.S. means that we need to make an extra effort to make sure that immigrant families feel welcome in our community, and I wish to set a good example for my own children about what it means to be a responsible citizen of our United States of America.
Being a changemaker means being a good rolemodel for children and really acting on values we preach, such as inclusiveness, equality, and diversity.
We’re all powerful if we decide to be so: it’s that simple. Anyone can make the decision to act: no permission is needed.
Ideas that have a social impact need to be open to everyone
There are so many ideas out there that can help us to build the communities and ultimately the societies we want to live in. Making the ideas that have proven to work more accessible to people is key to social change at scale. Accessibility here means ideas are a) easy to find, b) open to adoption, and c) easy to start.
As Tina Rosenberg wrote in the New York Times: Ideas help no one on a shelf. Let’s take them to the world.
Playworks, for example, is an idea that has been successfully improving recess for children and teachers in elementary schools in the U.S. since 1995. Today, Playworks is up and running in many schools across Ireland, as the only country outside the US.
The idea was introduced to schools on the West-Coast of Ireland in a pilot, providing trainings in 2013. The teachers loved it, as it solved many problems they saw in their schools like bullying in the school yard, concentration level of children in class. They also reported that it lowered stress levels of teachers.
Now they act as ambassadors and trainers for Playworks in Ireland. The pilot was run by Ashoka Ireland, and it’s growth is now coordinated by ChangeX. This way the idea can spread further without the team from Playworks needing to start an expensive outpost in Ireland.
Imagine what we can achieve if we work together on putting the right ideas in the hands of the right people.
Collaboration at the grassroots level: Overpowering top-down change
How can we “restore political life by restoring community life? This means complementing state provision with something that belongs neither to government nor to the market but exists in a different sphere, a sphere we have neglected.” George Monbiot puts out this question in a series well-worth reading in the English Guardian, that is as relevant in Europe as it is in the U.S. right now.
When you look at how countries in Europe picked themselves up after the recession, it’s not enough to look at bail-out plans decided on by governments. We must also look at initiatives that were driven by communities, supporting one another through the highs and lows that have come their way.
Without the recession, there would be no Men’s Shed movement, which created new meeting spaces for men in Ireland and the U.S. There wouldn’t be a movement of Welcome Dinners in the US without the country having gone through a decisive election. If we live this power every day, that often strikes in times of crisis, it can take us to a new scale of change.
The key factor for the success of any community is the proportion of its people taking responsibility to improve life for all and to work together to make positive change.
Teaching our children empathy and an open mind sets the stage
Empathy is a very complex range of emotional states including caring for other people and having a desire to help them; experiencing emotions that match another person’s emotions; discerning what another person is thinking or feeling.
Recent research suggests that teaching these “soft skills” and cultivating the social-emotional intelligence of children, is just as important as cognitive development in the school curriculum if we as a society want to prepare children to be future leaders.
Luckily, there are lots of social innovations operating in this area, such as Roots of Empathy.
Roots of Empathy is an elementary school program founded in Canada. It has proven over the course of nearly 20 years to contribute to an increase of pro-social behavior and a decrease in aggression amongst children.
It’s an experiential learning session, in which a parent brings his or her baby to a classroom on 9 occasions over the course of a school year. A Roots of Empathy instructor uses the baby to help children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. This “emotional literacy” taught in the program lays the foundation for more safe and caring classrooms.
From Peacefirst and Playworks to WorldSavvy or Generation Citizen, there are many programs taking the empathy education from understanding the person next to you to understanding the person living in a country you have never been to but whose life is affected by your decisions.
If we start prioritizing an education that focuses on these social skills rather than knowledge we’re on a great path to raising a generation that creates a more inclusive society. Seeing that Millennials are already asking, more than their parents, how they can make a positive difference in the world by choosing careers that have a purpose, shows us that we are on the right path.
If we collaborate on making these four principles our guidebook for social change, imagine the world we can create.
Join us now by signing up to ChangeX and find the idea that awakens the changemaker in you.
Take a look at our #MinnesotaWelcomes campaign if you’d like to collaborate on creating connected, loving communities of neighbors who care for each other across Minnesota