Updated: May 1
"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers. Because they change things. And while some may seem them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." -Steve Jobs
This New World Requires a New Sort of Person
Bill Drayton coined the term “social entrepreneur” and founded Ashoka, the organization that supports 3,500 of these changemakers in 93 countries. He’s a legend in the social impact world, and he gives us a generous dose of clarity and hope in discouraging times.
Bill believes we’re in the middle of a necessary - but painful - historical transition. For millennia most people’s lives had a certain, and rather predictable, pattern. You went to school to learn a trade or a skill — baking, farming or accounting. Then you could go into the work force and make a good living repeating the same skill over the course of your career.
But these days machines can do pretty much anything that’s repetitive. This new world - and workplace - requires a different sort of person. Bill calls this new sort of person a Changemaker.
Changemakers and Problem Solvers
Changemakers are people who can see the patterns around them, identify the problems in any situation, figure out ways to solve the problem, organize nimble teams, lead collective action, and then continually adapt as situations change.
To form and lead these communities, you have to have what Bill calls “cognitive empathy-based living for the good of all.” Cognitive empathy is the ability to perceive how people are feeling in evolving circumstances. “For the good of all” is the capacity to build teams.
It doesn’t matter if you're working in the cafeteria or the inspection line of a plant, companies today only hire people who can see problems and organize responses.
Millions of people already live with this mind-set. But too many people still occupy the world of following rules and repetitive skills.
Are You Making Change Happen?
The central challenge of our time, Bill says, is to make everyone a changemaker. To do that you can start now. Think about some problem you've recently witnessed — a patron at a gas station hurls a racial slur to the local cashier. This is a big moment. Stop what you are doing and ask yourself if there’s anything you think you can do to solve the problem, not just for this cashier, but for the next time it happens, too.
Very few people take action to solve the first problem they see, but eventually they come back having conceived and owning an idea. They organize their friends and do something.
Once someone has had an idea, builds a team, and changes their world - no matter how small - they become a changemaker. They have the power. They'll go on to organize more teams. They'll make more change. They will always be needed.
To paraphrase Bill, we ask you: “Do you know that you are a changemaker? Are you practicing changemaking? If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to these questions, you have urgent work to do.”
Success and Social Transformation
In an earlier era, he says, society recognized the universal need for literacy. Today, schools have realized they need to make to changemaking equally universal skillset, and they have gone on to develop the curriculums and assessments to do so. The ability to make change happen has to be their new criteria for success.
It may be that not everybody wants to be a changemaker in this way. But Bill's genius was his capacity to identify a new sector category. Since he invented the term "social entrepreneur" over 36 years ago, hundreds of thousands of people have said, “Yes, that’s what I want to be.” The changemaker is an expansion of that social type.
Social transformation flows from personal transformation. You change the world when you hold up a new and more attractive way to live. And Bill wants to make a certain, intangible quality universal: Agency.
Millions of people don’t feel that they can take control of their own lives, let alone spark a larger social change. But if we could give inspire everyone to experience just a single moment of agency, to be bold, to put love and respect in action, the ripple effects really would change the world.