Changing the World, Right Here at Home

united-way-laporte-countyIf you are anything like me, you have a desire to make this world a better place. Every day we have opportunities to take the high road, invest in someone else’s success, show simple kindnesses, and maybe even inspire others to a higher vision. Changing the world starts right here where we are, where we live, where we work, and where we play.

I have always loved the “starfish” concept. There is great value in helping each individual; but, to really effect significant change in our world, we have to create impact on a greater scale. How do we change systems to make them more friendly, accessible, and effective?

United Ways around the world are stepping up to the plate. Armed with best practice research from groups like The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation and the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the path to a brighter future continues to unfold.

From Harwood, United Ways have learned to “turn outward”. To be better listeners, observers, and researchers. With a clearer picture of the needs and aspirations of our communities, we can do what we do best – bring people together around a common agenda to create a better future. We can track higher-level change based on the work of many partners rather than just report an individual organization’s outcomes. We can engage all facets of business, government, and the community to learn from one another and reach shared goals.

The Collective Impact model explained by John Kania & Mark Kramer in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (Winter 2011) lays out five crucial steps for large-scale social change. First, a common agenda shared among the partners; second, a shared measurement system; third, mutually reinforcing activities; forth, continuous communication; and fifth, a backbone support organization. Using this model, local United Ways are facilitating collective impact partnerships that are changing not only the way we work together but the entire future of our communities.

Creating hope in a world that some experience as hopeless requires a combination of faith in ourselves, faith in one another, and a sense of possibility about the future. We need more than just great plans; we need progress – real, measurable progress. Plans without progress actually diminish our fragile sense of hope. We need forward movement to help us rediscover our power to shape our environment.

We need a jolt to our systems, a powerful counterforce to spark and leverage change. At a time when it may seem safer to sit back and wait for the next shoe to fall, we have a choice. Give up in complacency and defeat and hope that someone else steps up to fix things, or come together as a powerful force in our communities to change the world, right here at home. Instead of worrying about where we are heading, we can set the course and steer the ship together toward a new trajectory. Start small and local; get involved in your community and get to know people who are different from you; broaden your understanding and perspective. Each goal we achieve together rebuilds our confidence and sense of purpose for the long haul.