What if we could change the world one step at a time?

Slava Bowman from Unsplash
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever had.” — Margaret Mead.

I am sorry to start this article about how we can change the world with a quote, but I like the sound of this one. Each part of this quote tells an important element about how the fear of not being able to change anything around us is constructed. About how absurd it sounds that we could have any impact whatsoever. Yes, we are not Gandhi, Rosa Parks, or Jesse Owens, who each one, with none or big power, were able to help forging a new future. We are normal people, living normal lives. We do not feel brave, or angry enough. We do not feel competent, or aware enough. And probably we do not feel we are important enough. But we are. We are 7 500 000 000 important people.

How? Think of the number of people who interact with you. From close friends, to professional relationships, to random acquaintances. Think of the number of interactions, discussions, dinners and meetings you have with all these people. Now, think about the people who have influenced you into changing your behavior. The same way these people have influenced you, I can guarantee you are also influencing someone else. You are also modifying someone else’s behavior.

And that happens everyday: when you pick up a can that is lying on the floor instead of being in its due place (a.k.a. garbage) next to someone you know. This person will think twice before throwing a can on the floor. When you decide in front of a parent with a kid, not to cross the road on a red light even if no car is coming. You are teaching this parent a lesson. It happens when you are grocery shopping with your parents and you choose the glass packaging instead of the plastic one. You will explain them why and you might be helping modifying a die-hard behavior. Or when you cook a meat-free dinner with vegetables to your friends. You are not transforming them into idealist vegetarians, but you are showing them that it does not take meat into every dish to make a tasty, gourmand dinner. It also takes place when you are a good listener to your teams, you coach them, support them, make them grow. When they will be managers, they will remember how you have treated them, and they might just want to act the same way. We are all role models into some kind of invisible butterfly effect. Everything I am trying to change in my life and around me has come from someone else. So to you my friends, my family, my colleagues, my unknown digital inspirations: thank you. Some of you know who you are, but most of you do not realize the impact you had on me.

There is no news that we are living in a world today that is in a transitional phase. We accepted the fact that communication will never be the same. But now we know that our economy will inexorably change as will our way of working and consuming. But most importantly, the basis of everything, our democratic societies, will also change. When confronted to change, people see threats, but there are also opportunities. Very different worlds can be forged from now on and we have to decide which one we will create.

The will for change is here. The different elections happening around the world have entered all homes, invaded all dinner discussions and permeated all public spaces. And these last months showed to what extent we are passionate about these discussions. Passionate about who will guide us towards a better future. But putting all of our faith into one woman or one man so far away from us seems a risky bet. Imagine if we’d only put half of this energy into actually creating the change we want to see around us, one step at a time?

Getting back to the quote (“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever had.”), this is what I believe in.

Believe: I believe we all have the power to foster change. We are tired of watching TV and hear day after day another ecological, social, ethical, political or alimentary scandal. I believe that every gesture counts. Like boycotting that brand that put horse meat into cow-meat lasagnas, or that one that uses 3 packaging layers for a simple yogurt. Like reviewing our recycling gestures: are we doing enough or could we do a 5% more that could have a 50% bigger impact? It is the small steps or gestures that we make every day that change people’s attitudes.

Few: who wants to live in a better world? I would dare to say that almost everyone. The message here is that we are not that few. We tend to put our trust into very little people doing very big things. What if we built a world where we would work the other way around? 7 500 000 000 doing very small things? Who has the bigger impact?

Caring: change has to come from care. Therefore the first step is to care. Yes, changing the world is about love. Love of our planet, of our fellow human beings, but also of our fellow animal beings. Love of democracy and citizenship. Love of progress, but not only economical: educational, ecological, sustainable. Let’s start by asking ourselves what it is that we love in our world and then we will realize what we really want to keep, and what we need to fight for. This is where change will come from. From each heart and each home.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. — Jack Layton

But sometimes we do not know where to start. For those looking for some inspiration, I will keep writing a series of stories in the weeks to follow, with small gestures to change the world, that can go a long way.