I've worked in many different places in many different roles. The thing that has always surprised me, whether it was on the machine shop floor or the board rooms of local government, is how little impact people believe that their everyday choices have upon the world. They believe that their actions pale into insignificance compared to those of the government, corporations or even a group of neighbours and therefore it doesn't matter what they do.
I'd like to tell you about an organisation that I am involved with that turns that perception of power on its head.
You are not alone!
There are many other people passionate about the same things as you. It's just sometimes difficult to find those people within your regular routine. Perhaps you are lucky enough to work with people with similar interests, but more often too many of us find ourselves in places where it is more acceptable to talk about the last evening's popular TV rather than our concerns about palm oil.
Meetings with like-minded people such as permaculture gatherings, transition initiatives and green drinks evenings don't happen often enough. Social network groups can be great ways to interact, but sometimes lack specific goals and can descend into virtual schoolyards. But these interactions confirm that we are not alone and we know that if X number of people did Y then together we could accomplish Z...
It's not easy to get lots of people all agreeing on one thing at the same time and in the same place, but great things happen when people get organised and maintain pressure to get the results they want. Mostly though, day to day, we are influenced by the things that our peers do.
Alex Laskey speaks at TED about behavioural science. He builds software that helps people use less electricity in their homes. To cut an eight minute talk down to a few sentences, he thought things like saving money or saving the environment might motivate people to use less electricity. It turned out that these factors had little effect. It was telling people how much higher their bills were compared to their neighbours that motivated people to change their behaviours and significantly cut their electricity use.
It turns out that we do have power and a lot of it, but it really helps if the things we do are visible to others. That's why magazines like Permaculture magazine are so great – they highlight the work of our peers and give us hope and inspiration. What about daily decisions? Wearing skinny jeans (well whatever the jean fashion is at the time you read this) is very visible but whether they are organic, fairly traded or second hand is not.
The question then becomes how do we highlight the World Changing attributes of our jeans and the other everyday things that we do? This is where the organisation World Changing Me, and specifically the website www.worldchanging.me comes in.
The site focuses around thirteen different lifestyle areas: Travel, Food, Pollution and Waste, Energy, Animal Rights, Human Rights, Education and Culture, Health and Well-being, Water, Community, Finance, Building and Biodiversity. The choice of these areas was influenced by David Holmgren's permaculture flower, though some of David's domains such as Land and Nature Stewardship were too large to fit into one World Changing lifestyle area. But you will see some familiar domains.
Within each lifestyle area are listed 'quests' which is just our way of saying a set of actions or steps you could take to benefit the world or yourself or sometimes both, they often help save you money too. Each quest has a toolkit to help you get started and links to products or instructions that will help you complete the quest. We link to things you can get for free, share or make, as well as to places where you can purchase products. You can of course buy things at your local stores too.
The big idea of the site is to show everyone, including yourself, just how World Changing you are through your everyday actions and that as an individual your actions can and do count towards improving the world.
The more people that sign up for quests and complete them, the more that action becomes the norm. By registering, and doing a quest you give visibility to the fact that, for example, your skinny jeans are organic, fairly traded or second-hand.
You can blog or add photos of you doing the quests and follow people. In that respect it's a social network for making a positive difference in the world.
Your actions count
It's not about pledges. Only actions count to the website's grand total when you "check in" to complete the quest. You can register on the site as you or as Superwoman, we don't mind – just as long as you only have one account and are honest about your achievements.
The quests are about everything that's going on in our world and could do with some improvement from our monetary system to deforestation to workers rights. You choose which quests you want to be part of and which you don't. You will probably find that you are already doing a lot of them, like taking a reusable bag with you when you go shopping, washing only full loads of clothes or gardening organically. So you could help lead the change by signing up, checking-in, blogging and generally inspiring others.
We also welcome quest suggestions. If there is a quest that you would like to see people doing on the site, go to our contact page and let us know. That way we can increase the number of World Changing quests and you can get people doing what you find important in the World.
In the meantime, check out www.worldchanging.me and influence the change you want to see by making your actions visible.
Morag Embleton is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of World Changing Me. She is passionate about the Earth and all living things especially trees and orangutans (and chocolate).
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