Bill Drayton isn’t a name known to most people in the central Colorado Rockies, but perhaps it should be. Drayton invented the term “social entrepreneur” and 36 years ago founded Ashoka, an organization that supports 3,500 social entrepreneurs all over the world. He’s a legend in the nonprofit world.
Here at Ark Valley Voice, we like to think he’d support our delivery of facts and information via online, independent journalism offered for free to people countywide.
Drayton says that the old way of doing things – go to school to learn a trade or a skill such as farming, accounting or widget-building then go out into the workforce and do it for the rest of your life – is coming to an end. He thinks we should all think about becoming a new kind of person, a “changemaker.”
Changemakers, according to Drayton, are people who can see the patterns around them, identify the situational problems, figure out ways to solve the problems, organize fluid teams and lead collective action. But he doesn’t stop there. He says that real changemakers learn how to continually adapt as the situation changes; they change careers, strike out in news directions and attempt new things.
Now, lots of people already do this, but others live in a more rigid world of established rules and repetitive skills. They tend to take comfort from predictable patterns and can find change unsettling because what they hear society saying to them is: “We don’t need your kind – you or your family.”
Naturally, people influenced by this perception will resist change and even lash out in anger in an attempt to fend off the fear of uncertainty, but fear as a motivating influence is not a positive force.
According to Drayton, the central challenge of our time is that every one of us – everywhere – needs to become changemakers. It’s a mental shift – to see a problem and learn to organize a team to solve it.
Anyone at any age can decide to become a changemaker, but it is generally better to start this mental shift when we are young. Most of us learned to walk before we were afraid of falling.
In the industrial age, society realized it needed a literate workforce and organized to accomplish that. Now, says Drayton, schools are developing curricula and assessments to encourage the changemaking mentality. He says social movements follow similar steps. First they gather together powerful and hungry co-leading organizations. Then, they open the group to everybody because you never know who is going to come up with the crucial idea. Then, the movement creates regular, newsworthy chapters or “episodes” (much like the civil rights movement) that show people a changemaking path.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our social institutions, our businesses and our governments could help people feel that they can take control of their own lives and have a voice shaping solutions to the challenges we face? Social transformation usually flows from personal transformation; people change the world when they hold up a new model for living.
For Ark Valley Voice, we express our changemaking role as “Truth has a voice.”