The social entrepreneurship organisation, Ashoka, coined the term changemaker to mean, one who desires change in the world and makes it happen. They can also be described as social entrepreneurs, activists, ARTivists, and members of our communities creating simple changes every day. The kind of change is often social change but can also be environmental, economic, and cultural.
I believe that all of us are creative, our lives are continuously changing in subtle and less subtle ways and each of us has a role to play in positive change.
This week I wanted to share a range of changemaking projects, movements, and initiatives to give a sense of the huge potential for creating change. I didn’t want to randomly list projects, I needed a way of giving it some structure. As luck would have it I discovered Deepa Iyer’s work [The Building Movement Project] and the Social Change Ecosystem map.
‘ Social Change Ecosystem map ’ — Deepa Iyer, Building Movement Project. SM, © 2018 Deepa Iyer. All rights reserved. All prior licenses revoked.
According to Deepa Iyer, the creator of the framework, individuals, organisations, and networks can utilise the map to align with their values and identify roles to serve the broader ecosystem.
The entire framework, along with a guide, can be found here: https://bit.ly/EcosystemRoleMap. [None of the information related to the framework can be altered or used for commercial purposes. Please check the parameters in the guide. For more information on training and workshops related to the framework, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.]
The map describes new ways of understanding and appreciating how we ourselves work and how we might work with others. It reminds me that we don’t have to be a certain way to be a changemaker, there is a place for all of us.
Inspired by the map, below I have presented a range of creative examples that represent the values of the roles described.
“I see the through-lines of connectivity between people, places, organisations, ideas, and movements.”Deepa Iyer
Creativity for weaving connection. Weaver’s projects create connections between people and places. Look beyond borders — the 4-minute experiment’ by Amnesty International is a project that took place in Berlin between ordinary people: refugees and Europeans who had not met before, sitting opposite one another for four minutes. It shows us that we need time to see one another and that when we do, we see the humanity in each of us, and just like us they experience love, suffering, etc.
“I innovate, pioneer, and invent. I take risks and course-correct as needed”Deepa Iyer
Creativity for experimenting. Experimenters’ projects are innovative, daring and can surprise and change perceptions. My example is a movement started by Ron Finley, known as an urban gangsta gardener and founder of Gorilla Gardening. Ron’s Ted Talk introducing his work in South Central LA is an inspiring and entertaining watch!
“Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.” … “Growing your own food is like printing your own money” Ron Finley
3 Frontline responders
“I address community crises by marshalling and organising resources, networks, and messages.”Deepa Iyer
Creativity for responding. Frontline responders are efficient, calm, and organised and create new ways to peacefully engage the space that lies between opposing forces.
The Freedom Riders were “groups of white and African American civil rights activists who participated in Freedom Rides, bus trips through the American South in 1961 to protest segregated bus terminals. Freedom Riders tried to use “whites-only” restrooms and lunch counters at bus stations in Alabama, South Carolina, and other Southern states. The groups were confronted by arresting police officers — as well as horrific violence from white protestors — along their routes, but also drew international attention to the civil rights movement” Source
Other frontline responders: The non-violent Peace force
“I imagine and generate our boldest possibilities, hopes and dreams, and remind us of our direction”Deepa Iyer
Creativity for envisioning. Visionaries see the possibilities of better futures, and their creative visions catch our imaginations, engage our hearts and unify us.
‘Imagine’ by John Lennon is a stunning example of how creativity can be harnessed in the form of words and music to give us a vision and a deeply heartfelt sense of what kind of change is possible in our world.
“Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will be as one” [listen here] ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon.
Other visionary projects: ‘The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible’ by Charles Eisenstein. ‘From what is to what if’ by Rob Hopkins.
“I develop, organise, and implement ideas, practices, people, and resources in service of a collective vision.”Deepa Iyer
Creativity for building. Builder’s projects are well organised, detail orientated, collaborative, and are all about turning dreams into reality. Habitat for Humanity is an international organisation with the vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Through fundraising and building homes for and with some of the poorest people on the planet they “help families and communities to build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter”. They create homes, security, and a sense of empowerment.
Other builder projects: Barn raising in the US or Meitheal in Ireland. Architecture Sans Frontières UK — ASF-UK ‘Supporting communities and practitioners in co-designing more equitable cities’. Self Organised Architecture ‘Road-mapping a viable community-led housing sector for Ireland’.
“I nurture and nourish the people around me by creating and sustaining a community of care, joy, and connection”Deepa Iyer
Creativity for caregiving. Caregiving projects are about creating communities of care. Humanitas Deventer is a nursing home in the Netherlands where students can live for free in exchange for 30 hours per month of volunteering and socialising with the residents. It is a simple idea and a beautiful example of caregivers creating new ways of living, and building connections across generations. “As part of their volunteer agreement, the students also spend time teaching residents new skills — like how to email, use social media, Skype, and even graffiti art.” [The Converation]
“I take uncomfortable and risky actions to shake up the status quo, to raise awareness, and to build power”Deepa Iyer
Creativity for disruption: Disrupter’s projects are about challenging and agitating the status quo. My example for this is the street manifestations of social justice movements such as Extinction Rebellion: a global environmental movement using nonviolent acts of civil disobedience to persuade governments to act justly in the current climate and ecological emergency.
“I recognise and tend to the generational and current traumas caused by oppressive systems, institutions, policies, and practices” Deepa Iyer
Creativity for healing. Healing projects tend to trauma and understand its connections with systemic inequality. The practice that has been most profoundly healing for me has been Movement Medicine “.. a creative, embodied meditation practice … rooted in ancient wisdom and modern understanding of how change happens. Its intention is to help you to access more of the physical and emotional intelligence that’s inside you through bringing awareness to the way you move, feel and think. Whatever your level of experience, age or condition, conscious movement practice is a force for creative expression and mindfulness in day-to-day life.”
Other healing projects and organisations: The nap ministry ‘Rest is resistance’. Process work, Bioneers, Open Floor, 5 Rhythms, Soul Motion, Expressive arts therapy. These groups are brimming with creative workshops, courses, rituals, and ceremonies that support the healing of individual and collective trauma.
9 Story tellers
“I craft and share our community stories, cultures, experiences, histories, and possibilities through art, music, media, and movement”Deepa Iyer
Creativity for storytelling. Storytellers directly engage art for social change, channel profound creative energy and weave in their capacity to embrace vulnerability. For this section, I choose Banksy and in particular Kissing Coppers, as it is a great example of how visual storytelling starts conversations, disrupts, and raises questions. There is still uncertainty about this piece and whether it is about the normalisation of homosexuality or using the common discrimination against homosexuality to call into question the moral authority of the police.
Other storytellers and projects: Theatre: Theatre of the oppressed. Playback Theatre: Upcoming performance by Creativity and Change Cork: Climate Connection and Change. The centre for cultural power. Spoken word: Kae (formerly Kate) Tempest. Film: Mandela Long Walk to Freedom, Made in Dagenham, The crying game
“I teach, counsel, and advise, using my gifts of well-earned discernment and wisdom.”Deepa Iyer
Creativity for guides: Guides create projects where they honestly, transparently, and humbly, coach, teach, and mentor. A wonderful example was the late Sir Ken Robinson and in particular, his Ted Talk about changing the education paradigm.
Projects that come from the creative work of guides include direct democracy schools. The Sudbury school’s pedagogical philosophy can be summarised as: “Learning is a natural by-product of all human activity. Learning is self-initiated and self-motivated”
There are thousand more projects I could have mentioned, and I know I will think of so many more after I have sent this out but I need to stop there, or else this email will turn into a book (which would be an amazing idea actually… hmm).
Most of the projects and ideas mentioned arise due to collaborations between different people and different roles and can fit under several categories but hopefully, there is enough here it inspire you and give you a sense of what is possible!
A simple enquiry
I recognise myself in the Social Change Ecosystem Map as a combination of a visionary, builder, guide, and healer.
What roles and examples resonate with you? What kind of changemaker do you think you are? What else might be possible in your own work and your collaborations with other changemakers?
Wishing you a beautiful week and please, if you have other inspiring examples and/or changemaking projects that you are involved in please write and let me know about them!