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Archive for the ‘social change’ Category

Me, presenting at ConspireNY

Presenting at ConspireNY

Life has been ridiculously busy lately and I’ve obviously let this blog go by the wayside for a bit. I hope to properly pick it up again soon, but in the meanwhile this is a post I wrote for the StartSomeGood blog recently and I figured I should also share here.

During February, thanks to the generous support of Renata Cooper and Forming Circles, I had the opportunity to attend two great conferences in Thailand and the US respectively where I was thrilled to meet changemakers and social entrepreneurs from at least 16 countries and learn more about their projects, challenges and insights.

The trip started at the Ci2i Learn/Share Lab for Co-Creative Impact and Innovation outside Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand (I know, I know, it’s hard work this whole social entrepreneur thing sometimes). This was a very different sort of event from the norm: more intimate, focused and generative. It involved 25 of us living together for three days while exploring the practice of co-creative changemaking through a variety of case-studies and conversations.

The participants had come from every continent on earth. Their stories and their commitment to a style of leadership which encourages participation, empowers others and shares successes were inspiring and very often moving. Many were working in incredible challenging environments, against entrenched systems of inequality, supporting refugees, the disabled or those seeking an alternative to business as usual.

What did we mean by “co-creative leadership”? We didn’t let ourselves get too bogged down in definitions (you can see the raw notes from the event here) but for me it came down to a few key elements:

  • a vision for a different future (the why) but an openness to collaborate on the right path to get there (the how);
  • a preparedness to share or forgo credit;
  • a belief that the process to create change is as important as the outcome. A belief in fact that empowering people through the co-creative process is an outcome.

I learned about the incredible work of Edgeryders in catalysing new ways of thinking, working and living in Europe, of The Barefoot Guides out of South Africa, a co-created resource to deepen and develop approaches and initiatives that contribute to a changing world, of the struggle and progress of the Initiatives for Community Transformation in Uganda, as told by Peter and Grace, who had never left that country before (and who we will soon be supporting to run a campaign on StartSomeGood) and of Christina Jordan, our host and Ashoka Fellow, who has worked in Uganda and Belgium and now Thailand (and ran this campaign on StartSomeGood recently to support a refugee community) and is now spearheading the formation of Ci2i, a global community of co-creative changemakers.

Then it was on to the US and, after a week of meetings in San Francisco and Washington DC, the AshokaU Exchange in Providence, Rhode Island.

Speaking at AshokaU Exchange 2014

Presenting at the AshokaU Exchange

The Exchange was in some ways the opposite of the Learn/Share Lab: more expansive, relentless and individual. But no less inspiring and valuable. It brought together 800 people to explore how we embed and support social entrepreneurship on university campuses, split approximately 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 into students, faculty and funders. The students gave it a great energy, the faculty members shared incredible programmatic insights and the funders gave it gravitas and a sense of possibility. Together it was an exciting mix, with several concurrent streams of panels and workshops, short TED-style talks, banquets, small-group dinners and many side meetings.

I was able to share the work we’ve been doing bringing traditional grant funding and crowdfunding together through our Crowdmatch model and present on how student-led projects can raise the funds they need to launch and grow. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to announce a US-based Crowdmatch partnership in the near future.

The trip ended in NY where I presented at the first ConspireNY, a night of conspiratorial Pecha Kucha presentations. This was beyond nerve-wracking for me, as the requirements of the Pecha Kucha format (short talks with automatic slides, in this case 5 minutes with 20 slides which advanced every 15 seconds), brevity and perfect timing, are not at all my public speaking fortes. But given that I only prepared the talk that day (I was busy!) I was very pleased with the result and received great feedback. The video should be online soon.

Thanks again to Renata and Forming Circles for making this trip possible with their sponsorship! I learned a lot, made new friends and contacts and am confident it will lead to some exciting new partnerships and projects for StartSomeGood, so watch this space!

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The Changemakers Festival is over for 2013. After 155 events in every state and territory attended by more than 5,000 people, and after personally attending 14 of those events, it’s time to step back and appreciate what just happened.

We are so grateful for the participation of so many organisations and individuals around the country. Events were hosted by corporations, universities, social enterprises, non-profits, community groups and individuals. They ranged from pitch competitions to participatory workshops, film screenings to panels, major conferences to yoga and mindfulness courses. Deloitte hosted social enterprise pitch nights in all 11 of their offices around Australia, the most of any organisation. Hub Sydney hosted 12 events, the most of any venue.

Online events included Google+ Hangouts, twitter chats and webinars. Progress conference brought together 600 changemakers in Melbourne’s Town Hall and the Transitions Film Festival premiered a program of social change films in Adelaide. #4Good Brekky meetups happened in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Byron Bay early in the morning and the Green Drinks meetups happened in Sydney and Brisbane in the evenings. Opening Night events were held in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Alice Springs with 500 people turning up.
We estimate 5,000 people attended a Changemakers Festival event in total. Thank you all for turning up and being part of this conversation. Your voice is important.

Thank you also to our sponsors who backed us in this first year as a national distributed festival and allowed us to make it happen. Organisational sponsor The Australian Centre for Social Innovation has been an incredible home for the Changemakers Festival. Principal sponsor Deloitte threw themselves into the Festival. Supporting Sponsors were the Macquarie Foundation, ING Direct, Good Design, The Government of South Australia, The Steve Lawrence Innovation Fund, IN Daily and StartSomeGood. Thank you all for your vision and your support.

On a personal level thank you to TACSI for embracing this idea and inviting me to help make it real. Thank you to the amazingly talented team I worked with, who all did so much with such limited time and resources. Carolyn, Elise, Ryan, Christian and Natasha, it’s been such a pleasure to work with and get you to know you all better.

I was lucky enough to get to 13 great events during the ten days, 7 in Sydney, 5 in Melbourne and 1 online. They included Yoga for Change and the #4Good Brekky meet-up early a couple of morning, Deloitte-hosted social enterprise pitch events in Sydney and Melbourne, the FWD and Progress conferences and Unleashed Summit at the Opera House. I presented the youth-led organisation of the year at the Unleashed Awards which was a great honour. And to wrap the whole thing up StartSomeGood and Think|Act|Change threw the closing night party at Button Bar. Despite my fears that the awful weather would kill our attendance heaps of great people came out and it was a lot of fun. As had been the trend all week I met interesting, passionate, inspiring people.

It has genuinely been one of the great weeks of my life. I met so many great people and heard so many great ideas and stories. And this is what it’s all about. It’s about coming together and sharing our unique perspectives. It’s about learning from one another and supporting one another to make a difference.

This is just the beginning. I’m super-excited to build on this platform and take the festival to a completely new level in 2014. I hope you’ll be part of it!

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Bubble - zzub nik on flickr
I’ll never forgot the republic referendum held in Australia in 1999.

The polls had looked bad in the weeks leading up to the vote, with the combination of those genuinely in favour of us continuing to be a constitutional monarchy and those unwilling to vote in favour of the specific republican model on offer holding a modest but firm majority but I never lost my optimism. It just seemed too ridiculous that we’d turn down the chance to take the final step of legal independence from Britain. Yes, it’s symbolic, but that’s precisely why it was an important step. And as the day arrived the polls were tightening right on cue.

The day of the vote was sunny in Sydney and I had a great time handing out how to vote cards for the Yes campaign. At the time I lived in an electorate that generally voted conservative, being older and wealthier than the average, but it felt clear that the majority were voting the way I wanted that day. The energy from those taking out how to vote cards was very positive and they clearly outnumbered those taking the cards from the No campaigners. We’ve got this! I thought.

I was at a party when the results came in. It was relatively early in the evening when the outcome became clear. It wasn’t even that close. We’d lost, 55 to 45, and didn’t carry a single state.

I was stunned. Mortified. Outraged. I couldn’t understand how this could have happened. Almost everyone I knew was voting Yes. My family, my friends. Even in the moderately conservative seat of North Sydney the vote had clearly favoured us. How had we lost? How could the rest of Australia have made this appalling error? The emotional hit was worse than anything I’ve experienced after an election. I was confused, angry and sad.

And I wasn’t the only one. The mood of the party went sour quickly. Someone admitted to voting No and was set upon (verbally) by a couple of people. More arguments broke out. I wasn’t even in the mood to drown my sorrows or ramble philosophically and so left.
It turns out that North Sydney was something like the second highest Yes vote in NSW. And my friends and family were nowhere near representative of the feelings of the population overall. I was living inside a bubble, and was disorientated when it burst.

I was reminded of all of this today when I read “Hashtag Feminism” in The Monthly, a review of a recently released collection of feminist writings from the Destroy the Joint organisers called Destroying the Joint: Why Women have to Change the World. The author notes a disjunction between the feeling expressed in the writings that Destroy the Joint had been an establishment-shaking, world-changing movement of real social significance and that fact that she herself had never heard of them before, and nor had anyone she knows.

This is what most of politics is like most of the time. We all exist within our bubbles. There is no neutral ground upon which to stand and assess “mainstream opinion.” Those who claim to speak on its behalf rarely resemble the masses they pretend to be one of.

The reviewer of the Destroy the Joint book felt that “many of the contributions to this book highlight, for me, the insularity of hashtag activism: social media as echo chamber.”

But life is an echo chamber. We live in a particular place, surrounded by other people who live in that place. We interact with others in a particular industry or cultural community. We seek out those who share our interests and values. And, yes, social media reflects these general barriers to infinite understanding which exist in human societies.

As is so often the case the new thing being discussed, in this instance social media, is being pointed to as a reason for our insularity when in fact it merely reflects it. It takes effort to seek out and understand the viewpoints of those unlike us. Few of us do it enough. It’s easier to consume content I mostly agree with or about things I am already interested in.

However  in identifying this shortcoming of social media, and of the Destroy the Joint movement, but really of humans in general, it’s easy to miss the real story here. We’ve always been insulated from the full spectrum of human experience and opinion but before social media our isolation could very well be an entirely individual experience. In so many domains people previously believed that they were “the only ones,” whether it was gay kids in the country or women frustrated with the general level of misogyny in our society or someone obsessed with blues in the suburbs.

Now for whatever it is is you’re into there’s others like you forming communities online. And yes, deep engagement with a community is perspective-skewing, but so too is watching the commercial TV news each night (you might think, for example, that we are suffering from a crime wave or a weak economy).

For those who have become involved in feminist activism as a result of Destroy the Joint I have no doubt the experience has been genuinely world-changing, discovering a community of others who feel strongly about the same issues as them and are prepared to do something about it would be incredible empowering and exciting. Have they won the battle against misogyny in the last nine months? Of course not. But they are active and involved and speaking up and changing lives and inspiring active citizenship and that’s actually pretty awesome.

This is how it works in a democracy. We find others who care about the things we do and we work together to convince others and affect the changes we feel are needed in our community. And social media has given us a powerful new set of tools to do this convincing and connecting, to learn from and to share our experiences and to support and sustain each other in the long-term effort to create a better future.

Image by zzub nik on Flickr made available on a creative commons license.

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A couple of weekends ago I spent Sunday hanging out as a mentor at Social Startup 48, a Startup Weekend-style event where participants create a company from scratch over a single weekend, only for social impact. It was a fun, inspiring and thought-provoking experience and I’m thrilled to have been involved. There’s nothing I like more than participating in creating new things, working to support new changemakers to realise their vision.

To my fascination the event was mildly controversial in social entrepreneurship circles in the lead-up, with push back against the announcement on the Australian Social Innovation eXchange (ASIX) website and Emerging Leaders in Social Change LinkedIn Group (members only). I threw myself vigorously into the later conversation, before I had any involvement in the event.

The issue people had with it was, largely, the slogan: “How fast can you make a difference?” Change doesn’t happen quickly they insisted, any and all change efforts require long-term study before making a move or trying anything else. Non-experts will only stuff it up. Something like that.

And of course, this is very true for many change efforts. Bringing diverse stakeholders together is often slow difficult work, as can making change inside any large institution. Building trust within community requires a long-term commitment, especially if you are from outside that community. Understanding all the dynamics of an issue (is this even possible?) and the work already done requires careful study.

But these are not the only pathways to creating change.

Social entrepreneurs are the inventors of the social change world, and just as it was for science for many hundreds of years,  it is the inventors, the tinkers, those who get their hands dirty to go to work on figuring things out through action and learning, who have often created huge and innovative leaps forward in delivering social outcomes.

The point is not that one approach is better than another but that we need both. The greatest advances occur when the breakthroughs pioneered by the inventors is scaled through market mechanisms, government action or cross-sector partnerships, or by reaching a tipping point in cultural consciousness.

An event like Social Startup 48 would seem to naturally attract those drawn to the later approach, but not exclusively. Look through the list of participants and you would see researchers, academics and bureaucrats amongst their number. Working in teams to make decisions fast is an amazing learning experience no matter where you’re coming from.

It’s also true that in science the greatest breakthroughs are often earlier in people’s careers. It is the ability to see things from new angles, less encumbered by the prevailing wisdom or business-as-usual, which often (again, not always) leads to transformational breakthroughs, not experience.

So inviting newer, younger and more diverse actors to participate in creating change, however “fast” or “slow” they go about it initially, is a crucial part of creating change. We need new ideas and new participants to contribute to many wicked problems and creating more participation in our changemaking systems is a critical democratic advance in its own right.

It’s also worth thinking about what motivates people to walk the unquestionably long and hard road of affecting systemic social change. Could this motivation itself not arrive in an instance, when eyes and hearts become open to the need for change and the possibility of being involved in making it happen? In my experience many changemakers can trace their decision to commit to proactively creating the future to a specific formative event. If done right Social Startup 48 could be that experience for people and even if none of the specific ventures designed over the weekend reached any sort of scale the experience of conceiving and launching a social venture, learning about what works and what doesn’t, will inform their future endeavours. Vibewire was the third organisation I founded and StartSomeGood is my fourth. You learn most by doing.

Certainly spending Sunday afternoon hanging out in the Queen Street Studios with everyone and seeing ten very busy teams hashing out their business models, core stories and make plans for pitching gave me a lot of joy – 50-odd people prepared to spend their weekend and sacrifice their sleep to make a difference is something to be celebrated! There was an amazing buzz as teams huddled to make rapid-fire decisions then scattered to fulfill tasks: coding, shooting video, taking photos, developing a business plan, preparing the slides for their pitch, designing a logo (or organising to have four different teams logo’s designed in the case of Crowdworthy) the focus ramped up across the day as they approached the deadline or pitches to be submitted.

The pitches were well-executed and the many of the ideas were well thought-through and compelling and the progress made was very impressive overall. You can see videos of all the pitches in the storify I made and check out the Social Startup 48 ventures listed on StartSomeGood.

The collaborative consumption movement was in full swing – fully eight of the ten ventures were a platform of some kind. This was in-part a result of the rising profile of and huge untapped potential for a more collaborative approach to consumption and community-building but also, I think, a result of teams having been somewhat pre-assigned, so as to spread certain skillsets, especially technical, around the groups. I can see the logic behind this but I think a more purely self-organised approach playing out on the Friday night would result in a less equal spread of skills across teams and therefore a greater diversity of teams which would produce more diverse ideas and ventures.

There are other little tweaks and improvements I am going to suggest to the organisers, which is the whole point – you have to run an event like this to figure out what works. No amount of research or modeling would ever teach you as much as putting yourself on the line and actually organising the event, seeing who turned up and how they responded, listening to your community and learning from what happened and doing it that much better next time. Social Startup 48 gave 50 people the opportunity to take that courageous first step, without which no other steps would follow.

Congratulations to the great team behind Social Startup 48 – I hope this is the first of many ss48 events in Sydney and around the world.

To get more of a taste for the weekend along with videos of all the pitches and many of the presentations check out storify.

[View the story “Social Startup 48 – Sydney” on Storify]

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The social entrepreneurship world is all atwitter about the latest New York Times column by David Brooks which questions the effectiveness and strategic usefulness of social entrepreneurship. On some level it feels hardly worth responding to, just check out the opening paragraph:

If you attend a certain sort of conference, hang out at a certain sort of coffee shop or visit a certain sort of university, you’ve probably run into some of these wonderful young people who are doing good….

So, this is clearly going to be another one of those columns typical of David Brooks-types, to take their limited personal experiences and exposures to what’s happening in the world beyond their local coffee shops and think tanks and spin that out into a grandiose theory to describe some supposed trend in the world. So you can guess what’s coming next:

It’s hard not to feel inspired by all these idealists, but their service religion does have some shortcomings. In the first place, many of these social entrepreneurs think they can evade politics. They have little faith in the political process and believe that real change happens on the ground beneath it.

That’s a delusion. You can cram all the nongovernmental organizations you want into a country, but if there is no rule of law and if the ruling class is predatory then your achievements won’t add up to much.

World, meet Brooks’ latest straw man, a caricature of social entrepreneurs based, it seems, on a few people he has met at “a certain sort” of coffee shop and conference, although he doesn’t tell us what sort that is (presumably the sort that draws someone like David Brooks).

This is almost too-silly on its face to waste effort on, as the google search Brooks clearly couldn’t be bothered doing will instantly turn up numerous social entrepreneurs working on exactly these issues: increasing the rule of law and reducing corruption, both in the United States and all around the world.

Brooks is right that a country where law and order have broken down is not fertile ground for social entrepreneurship. You won’t find a lot of NGOs in Somalia. But surely no-one would argue that business and government should be left simply to monitor themselves? Once democratic rights are won they must constantly be maintained and re-imagined to serve the needs of each generation. It feels particularly odd for a conservative like Brooks to dismiss the role of citizens to hold the political system to account from the outside.

Hence the need for third sector players like Transparency International, founded by social entrepreneur Peter Eigen, which works to expose and reduce the culture of corruption worldwide, exactly the sort of initiative Brooks seems to be calling for. Change.org, founded by Ben Rattray, just listed as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year, is expanding political participation and involvement, the Cost of Freedom Project is working to help people register to vote, the starting point for political participation in the US, and  organizations like Teach for America, Global Citizen Year and The Association of Young Americans amongst many many others are inspiring the next generation of involved citizens.

In Australia organizations like Vibewire, Our Say and Left/Right play a similar role. Third sector advocacy organizations like GetUp in Australia, MoveOn in the United States and Avaaz globally, and those like them focused on every issue you could imagine, very directly engage in lobbying government and mobilizing public sentiment around specific policy debates. You could literally go on listing social entrepreneur-founded and led organizations which engage directly with the political process all day, hundreds of counter-examples to what Brooks claims is the “prevailing ethos” of social entrepreneurship which seeks to “evade politics”.

Naturally you could also list (and meet in coffee shops) social entrepreneurs working to affect change outside the political process, on issues like hunger and landmine removal, educational reform and peace-building, leadership development and mentoring, inventing more sustainable technologies and distributing life-saving medicines and everything else you could imagine. Do all these social entrepreneurs successfully change the world? Of course not. But market failures and government negligence abound and working to support each other locally, regionally and internationally is both a form of community self-preservation and a fundamental human instinct which has saved and changed millions of lives.

In the diversity of efforts arrayed against a variety of challenges we find things that work and, often in partnership with government and increasingly with business, push those solutions forward to reach greater levels of impact, to save more lives, empower more communities, facilitate greater participation in our democracies and support those still fighting for that same opportunity in their countries.

We need all these changemakers, and more, to bring about change on all scales and create better futures for our communities. We need to support programs that inspire new people to get involved in creating change, not deride their desire to serve as naive and ineffective as Brooks does. Social entrepreneurs are the innovators and risk-takers of civic society, often pioneering new approaches which are adopted and scaled by governments, and holding governments responsible for the impacts of their decisions. Their optimism is based not on naivety but pragmatism, on being resolutely focused on getting things done.

I only hope that Brooks chooses his coffee shops and conferences a little better in future as I’m sure he’d learn a great deal from greater contact with a wider spectrum of social entrepreneurs and come to appreciate the many ways their passion and commitment manifests in an open society.

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My timing was a bit off on this – reports have emerged of the head of Invisible Children and filmmaker behind KONY2012, Jason Russel, being detained by the police while having some sort of emotional breakdown. I have never questioned Russel’s motives and feel awful for him, the stress has clearly taken a terrible tole on him and I hope he gets rapidly better. I think the conversations raised by the KONY2012 campaign are important and it will be a shame if, as is likely, this event ends those conversations. It doesn’t feel right to remove the blog post below – which I actually wrote on Tuesday on the train – and I hope it is clear that my critique is not aimed at Invisible Children but rather at the reaction of some of my peers in the social media for social change space.

I’m sure most of you have seen or heard of the KONY2012 video recently released by the American organization Invisible Children, which gained 70 million views faster than any video in history, and the resulting controversy over the content, framing and approach of the video and organization. I’ve participated in these debates on Facebook and Twitter, mostly passing along links to articles written by people far more expert in the situation in Central Africa than I. This blog is not to further hash out those issues, please read posts here, here and here if you want to learn more (if you have watched the video but have not yet read these critiques, I really encourage you to do so).

What I want to address here, specifically, is the commentary I have seen from several of my peers in the social media for social change space describing KONY2012 as one of the most high-impact social media for social change campaigns ever. Irrespective of how you feel about the video itself and the approach it takes to the issues in Uganda and Central Africa, I think this is a reaction that should give anyone who cares about the use of social media for social change pause.

The key question, as I said in reply to one of these sorts of statements, is to define what we mean by “impact”.

Think about it this way: if a car ad went viral on social media, receiving 70 million views in just a few weeks, but afterwards there was no increase in the sales of the car being advertised, would the marketing industry describe it as “the successful social media marketing campaign of all time”? Of course not. Success is not having a video go viral, success is something changing in the real world. If it didn’t have a measurable impact on sales the advertising firm that produced it would be unlikely to be retained, despite their social media success (see for instance Burger King’s recent decision to dump Crispin Porter & Bogusky, creators of the hugely viral campaign “subservient chicken”).

I believe in social media-enabled activism. I believe in the incredible power of these tools to connect, inform and inspire us. I believe they have created new forms of activism and have supported the creation of global campaigns and alliances which have had an impact on many issues and in many places. But when we lose sight of this real-world impact and become infatuated with youtube views as a measure of impact in and of themselves, we sell short the incredible potential of these tools. In our adoration we risk becoming the caricature of the social media slacktivist the media likes to deride: caught up in the act of sharing, content to click ‘like’ or to retweet and then move on, satisfied our work is done. But for social media activism to have an impact the work is only ever just beginning at this initial point of engagement. I believe that creating a world of changemakers requires not just the sometimes-too-easy work of generating outrage but rather the complex work of building better futures together in communities fueled by positivity and participation. But this is another discussion.

Now this isn’t to say KONY2012 won’t have an impact; it just hasn’t yet. And any impact it does have will be hard to judge based on the somewhat confusing goals of the campaign. Invisible Children want the US Government to be involved in bringing Joseph Kony of the Lords Revolutionary Army to justice, and this, in fact, is exactly what the US government is already doing, as Obama dispatched 100 soldiers to aid in the search for Kony and the LRA late last year. Invisible Children are calling on Obama to not withdraw these forces, but there’s been no indication he was considering such a thing. They also call on the International Criminal Court to focus on arresting Kony, but he is already their most-wanted suspect.

The point I’m trying to make goes beyond this particular campaign and to the heart of how we believe social media can affect change. Awareness is undoubtedly a critical part of this process – you can’t act on an issue you are unaware of – but it is still a means to an end.  If you were organizing a rally around an issue, do you consider your impact to be the number of people who turn up to the rally? Would Martin Luther King Jr. have considered the March on Washington a success just based on turn-out? I doubt it: success is judged by the extent to which the rally helped influence decisions and actions taken afterwards. Success is social or behavioral change, not simply awareness.

Two of the biggest protest marches ever held in Sydney were against the Iraqi War and in favour of an apology to the indigenous stolen generation. Neither could possibly be claimed as “the most successful march of all time” because, despite their enormous numbers, they simply didn’t create the change they were looking for. Australian forces still invaded Iraq in support of the US and the then-government continued to refuse to budge on the apology. It was only two elections later, with a change of government, that this issue moved forward.

Those of us who work in and believe in social media for social change need to judge the success of campaigns on the ends, not the means. Not page views, not YouTube hits, not even money raised, but on changes affected in the circumstances of people and issues in the real world. We can complement and be impressed by the amazing spread of the KONY2012 video, and people can (and naturally will) look to learn lessons about how to generate a similar response, but we have to reserve labels like “most high-impact ever” for when we see actual impact being generated. When we get caught up in virality as an end in itself we diminish the potential of social media rather than celebrating it and we risk losing sight of what must matter most.

Do you think KONY2012 deserves to be called impactful yet? What are some examples of social media campaigns you’ve seen that did create real-world impact?

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In the US alone, $14.6B is spent annually on Mother’s Day for “stuff” that could just never say what’s in our hearts. What if instead, we all just unleashed that love on the world? How would it impact our world if we stopped using stuff as a surrogate for love? What if we invested that love to make the world a better place for Mamas & children everywhere?

I got this provocative question from an amazing changemaker I have been fortunate to meet while in the US, Stacey Monk, founder of Epic Change. Epic Change support a select group of grassroots changemakers and social entrepreneurs around the world, starting with Mama Lucy, who founded a school in her village in Tanzania.

Epic Change is using social media and the power of love this Mother’s Day to fuel a campaign that both honours Mama’s around the world and raises funds to support the work of Mama Lucy and another three grassroots change agents in Tanzania, Afghanistan and Nepal. To Mama With Love invites people to create “heartspaces” to honour their Mum’s, the mother of their children, other mother’s they admire.

It’s a pleasure to be able to express my eternal gratitude for all that my Mum has done for me, and for our whole family, and this is a particularly appropriate and gratifying way to do it. My mother has always been a changemaker, a peace activist and pioneering broadcaster, CEO of arts organizations and now chair of a progressive think-tank.

I know she would admire the vision, commitment and work of the five (including Stacey) Mama’s being recognized and supported by To Mama With Love.

Thank you Mum, for everything. All my love, always.

Here is a screenshot of my heartspace:


You can create a heartspace to honour your (or someone elses) Mama at www.ToMamaWithLove.org and both share love and create change this Mother’s Day.

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