We are living at an incredible moment in history, where all of the existing sectors of society are redefining themselves. It started with the private sector. Businesses let loose the radical notion: if you have a new idea and you make it work, we’ll make you rich and respected. Then we will copy you.
This revolutionary idea that “everyone can make change” is now taking root in the social sector. Social media is an invaluable instrument for making changemakers.
In 1980, Ashoka was founded on the principle that the most powerful force in the world is a BIG IDEA in the right hands. For over thirty years, Ashoka has carefully selected and helped launch 3,000 of the world’s most effective social entrepreneurs in 70 countries. Over half of Ashoka Fellows have changed national policy within five years of their selection and launch.
Fabio Rosa is one such exemplary Ashoka fellow. His “Project Light” program brought electricity to over 400 rural families in Palmares, Brazil. Let’s just say that it reaped results beyond his expectations, cutting rural electrification costs by 70-90%. The project not only helped stop the drain of residents to cities, but also reversed it. A study two years after the project’s implementation found that one in every three beneficiaries was someone who returned from the city to resume living in his former rural area in large part due to the newly affordable electric service.
Fabio – like his social entrepreneur peers – stepped out of existing institutions, challenged the status quo, and built his vision for a better future. However, he first needed the space to demonstrate and refine his ideas, to recruit a team, and to determine how to scale his methods. A very modest stipend from Ashoka allowed him to work full-time to do just that. And this is how Ashoka changes the world with extremely modest resources. Ashoka has become a community of collaboration to strengthen the entrepreneur’s confidence and effectiveness.
With time, we have realized that there is an even more powerful role Fabio and other Ashoka Fellows play. These social entrepreneurs catalyze new local changemakers into being. Every time a social entrepreneur comes up with a new idea, it upsets the way things are done. It challenges the assumption that you can’t change things. The entrepreneur is sowing a seed so that anyone in any community can take this idea and run with it. The entrepreneur is a role model, plowing the earth, breaking up the existing system, and giving people seeds.
Now, enter social media.
Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and the rest of the social media gang is the strong wind that carries those seeds to the far corners of the earth. By harnessing social media, the ideas of social entrepreneurs can disseminate rapidly. With more and more citizen participation, the rate of change increases. Ideas quickly travel from Brazil to Bangladesh. Problems can be identified, teams assembled, and efforts coordinated faster than ever.
There is a multiplier effect of individuals becoming changemakers, stepping up as local role models, and joining forces with major social entrepreneurs. The end result is Everyone a Changemaker™.
The first step to an Everyone a Changemaker™ world is to believe that you can make lasting change and acting on your belief. Twitter is for the birds, unless you do something. Identify a small problem in your community and give yourself permission to overcome it. Act on your empathy for others. Once you enact change, once you internalize that you are a changemaker, you grow in confidence to tackle bigger problems. Each new problem is an opportunity for you to express love and respect in action at the highest possible level. Our world will transform as a result of your efforts.
Therefore, the most important contribution any of us can make is to increase the proportion of humans who know that they can cause change. Use social media to do it! There is nothing that brings humans greater happiness in life or that is more important to society.
About the Author: Jaime Gusching is a current Ashoka employee and a former Fulbright Fellow. Jaime is interested in social entrepreneurship, empathy education, women and girls empowerment, and changemaking.