Can We Change the World?

Barack obama yes we can

Many times we wonder if we really can change things. Some wish to change all of society, while others want to resolve a specific problem, like education, homelessness, or environmental issues. Passion drives them, but many of us question whether our actions really matter.

Simon Mainwaring’s current bestseller We First (See Beth Kanter’s book review) certainly challenges us to believe that change of all kinds can happen. Mainwaring advocates for a sea change in capitalist culture towards mandated ethical corporate social responsibility and cause marketing. He advocates for a We attitude instead of a Me attitude. His suggested primary catalyst for change is, you guessed it, social media.

If They Can Do It… From Ignite Better Baltimore

It’s easy to fall in love with social media, and believe we can change the world with it. Certainly, it is a powerful tool set for grass roots activism. The accomplishments of Middle East dissidents have shown us that with hard work over years it is possible to overcome established power structures and current media influences with these tools (see above video). Anyone of us can do this.

In the end social media are just tools. People change society, collectively. Individually, it takes hard work to get our peers one by one to move with us. Grassroots movements are not built in a day, and many are never fully realized. But as time evolves with momentum and success, we can move en masse towards desired change. The organizers behind Egypt’s January 25th revolution — Ahmed Maher, Asmaa Mahfouz, Wael Ghonim, and Israa Abdel Fattah — were unknown activists working behind the scenes since 2009.

You have to give Mainwaring credit. He advocates for change with We First, and leads by example with his marketing consultancy of the same name. As a long term resident in Washington, DC, his idealism is admirable. How that change occurs is another question.

The mandates from We First are reminiscent of the Obama campaign’s promises to sweep Washington, DC into the 2.0 conversation revolution. Three years later… In many ways Washington is still mired in bureaucratic reality. While some data has opened up, Congress is still a frustrating nightmare, and Obama’s progressive election platform of “Yes, we can” feels like the bitter empty promises of a dying love affair.

That doesn’t mean that changing the face of capitalism can’t occur. Again, any of us can become change agents, even if we are affecting one person at a time. Certainly, this book would be well served as an ethical challenge to business students. How Mainwaring convinces Wall Street and the Fortune 500 to change their ways remains to be seen. Kudos to Simon for throwing down the gauntlet, and taking an activist’s role.

What do you think? Can we change the world?

14 thoughts on “Can We Change the World?

  1. Yes, we can! Each in our own way, one tweet at a time, one smile at a time, one action at a time… It’s the little dots that accumulate into the bigger picture. Let’s keep at it! :-)

    • You’ve seen it first hand in the Middle East. I look forward to Wael Ghonim’s book. It should be fascinating!  Keep up the good work, Mich!

  2. We absolutely can, Geoff. You’re right, social media are just the tools. What’s more important is that the culture is shifting right now. The idea that just one person could change the world seemed silly, but now, it happens every day. One person started Groupon, one person started the Tea Party (or maybe it was two). Everyday people are given evidence that they too can cause the type of social change that is worth fighting for. Great post.

    • It has to start somewhere. It takes a lot of work, but it can happen.  Thank you for your comment.

  3. At the risk of sounding like some kind of conspiracy theorist whackjob… I think the whole “free market”, capitalist, and “western democratic” system is rigged… from fiat currency, reserve banking and central banks, to stock markets, to the corporatization of government and (yes) the military industrial complex. We don’t actually have the kind of democracy we think we do in the west. And until the mass majority of people realize it – and until they get so fed up that they’re willing to do actually something about it – nothing will really change.

    • Hi Jon. Good line. 
      “We don’t actually have the kind of democracy we think we do in the west.”

      Check out:
      A documentary about Gene Sharp, his book on non-violent revolution, From Dictatorship to Democracy, the Arab Spring and other popular democratic revolutions.

    • I think Simon’s book touched off on a serious issue. I also think the answer was not clear, though he does offer CSR and cause marketing as a possible answer.  A we revolution beyond the me of now. It was almost as if it was two books, and in reality the prior needed more economical and political answers and the latter was cool for us!

       I like the spirit Simon offers and yours, too. I’m also dismayed by our corporate culture and that’s why we started Zoetica.  The more of use there are, the more the groundswell builds.  We’ll see what happens. But until then, I’m afraid discontent will remain.

      What is so disheartening is how many people support the systems that hold them down. I hope this changes in the future.

  4. From where I’m sitting, few of us are able to be in peace with ourselves and  live in harmony within our own families and communities.  Progressives constantly break off and fight amongst ourselves while at the same time providing the ridicule and resistance that helped fuel the once small fringe right wing.   Capitalism is fed by us.  By every purchase, by every click of the button and turn of the channel we reinforce the ideas that the dominant culture is seeking to convey.  Buy this. Buy that. We are all feeding our hungry ghosts.  We support Coke, ADM, Monsanto, DuPont and produce enormous amounts of toxic waste by doing so.  There are scores of other corporations that are selling us down the river for profit We go along because our hectic out-of-control lives require the convenience.  I’m inclined to think our time for significant change is a long way off. Personally, the best we can do is do a good job changing our own attitudes, building our own character, looking honestly at our own fear and aversion, being kinder, more compassionate and offering ourselves for service when the occasion presents itself.  Like you Geoff.  Good stuff! :)

    • I am a big believer in helping those that want help. Like you, I am not convinced society is “awakened” enough yet to listen en masse. Good comment, Meryl.

  5. Hi, Geoff.

    I am finally here in your site and glad I got to read this post. I am so into changing the world in our own little ways. I wouldn’t go so far as to venture that I can really do something so massive, but with just one tweet or a share or even a like, we can indeed take a tiny step towards change. What little thing one person does to start change can  create a ripple effect that will spread far and wide. 

    Thanks for the read, Geoff. Really enjoyed the mind stimulation. :)

  6. Pingback: Live Podcast: Simon Mainwaring, Author of We First and CEO and Founder of We First Branding | Jennifer Neeley

Comments are closed.