What does changemaking mean? Do any of your actions really matter in the grand scheme of things?
Sparking a change often starts with a simple thought or question. ‘That doesn’t seem fair - why is that the way it works?”, or maybe, “There has got to be a better, more efficient way”. However, many of these thoughts are brushed aside or worse, they have simply been accepted as facts over the years. In reality, these problems don’t just disappear. Climate change, food insecurity, poverty, greenhouse gases, air pollution, deforestation - the list goes on - are all pressing issues facing us today.
But, with the overwhelming number of problems existing in the world, where do you start?
First, start small! Identify some issues you see happening around you. Ask yourself: Why does this matter to me? Do I have an idea on how to solve it? Do I have a good understanding of this issue?
Another question to reflect upon is, "Does this problem affect me personally?". If the answer is no, this is where many cut their path to changemaking short. Many give up before their journey has even truly started. In psychology, there is a widely studied social phenomenon known as “the bystander effect”, in which the presence of others discourages an individual from taking action, even in an emergency.
Could the bystander effect be magnified, and looked at from a global scale? Could our collective inaction and lack of responsiveness be the working of the bystander effect?
To overcome the bystander effect, challenge yourself to disrupt the status quo and give yourself permission to take action. Nowadays, there is an infinite number of resources and information accessible at your fingertips. Below, we discuss a few online educational platforms that allow you to gather more information about various social and environmental problems.
The first platform is Global Changemakers, an international youth organization focused on supporting youth-led sustainable development. With the mission of empowering youth to create positive change to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable world, this platform offers online training sessions, free online resources, a 12-week virtual mentorship program, a podcast, and a blog. In addition, Global Changemaker recently introduced its Online School featuring online courses such as “Project Management for Changemakers”. It is a self-paced course that guides you through the process of creating, running, and scaling solutions to problems in your community as well as applying for the funding to bring it to life. The course fee is $35 USD, and is taught by other youth changemakers who are experts in the topic. To date, Global Changemakers have supported youth both online and in person in more than 180 countries. To learn more, visit their school page.
Another platform is SDG Academy, which develops free open online courses and educational materials focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs, developed by the United Nations (UN) is a collection of 17 interconnected goals to be achieved by 2030 to ensure peace and prosperity for our planet and everyone in it. To learn more about SDGs, check out our article here.
Through taking online courses on SDG Academy, you will have the opportunity to debate with and exchange ideas with some of the world’s top sustainable development experts as well as with other students. One interesting example of a free, self-paced course is “One Planet, One Ocean”. It takes a look at how the ocean functions, how human interactions have impacted the ocean, and most critically, how we can take better care of this massive natural resource. This specific course consists of 6 modules (3-4 hours per module), requires no prerequisites, and is accessible at any time. Start your learnings today by visiting https://sdgacademy.org/.
For those looking for a more structured approach, Seneca College offers programs such as the Sustainable Business Management (SBM), an eight-month graduate certificate program that allows students to gain knowledge relating to sustainable business strategy and its economic, environmental, and social value. Roles that you may enter upon graduating from the program include: Sustainability Officer, Project Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility Officer, and Community Engagement Manager.
Once you take the first step, it’s important to stay motivated! Willpower is finite, so how can you maintain motivation in the long run? One solution is to create a ritual, meaning to plan out a set of behaviours to perform at a certain time and place. This absolutely doesn't have to be a rigid plan. In fact, rituals differ from simple habits in that it is anchored on a deeper meaning or purpose. The more mindfully these rituals are performed, the more you become aware of your deeper intentions behind performing them, and the more they become automatic and even second nature without you realizing it.
“Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction”.
The key takeaway here is simply to start now and break the bystander effect! Any form of action you take, no matter how seemingly insignificant, will amount to ripple effects of lasting positive changes.
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