39 months of sustainable community change
It's been a week since we opened a new library at a local school in Ovoshtnik, 5km away from Kazanlak, in the very heart of Bulgaria. This is the 3rd of our signature library causes — supporting education in smaller schools with limited resources — and March marks the 39th consecutive month that we have delivered sustainable change in our community.
For the past 3+ years, we have engaged over 400 people to support some 2,600+ people and animals in need by collecting over 110,000 euro. And we have done it in a simple, transparent, inspiring manner.
What did it take to achieve this? Time? Yes, just like anything worth doing. Resources? Well, yes — 1% of the resources of about 100 people, which amounts to a tiny portion of our monthly budgets. Did it take skill? No, not really. Only the goodwill to get things going.
So, yes you can. You can be a part of our community or you can start something on your own. The important part is that you do. What better way to express your gratitude for all that is good in your life than by supporting someone in need? And not during Christmas, no. Why not do it every single month, instead?
I've long dreamed about the creation of multiple communities like 1 Percent Change around the world. In fact, we are working to transform our community into a movement of such communities driven by conscious, responsible individuals. This is why today I want to share the path of 1 Percent Change so far. Perhaps, you might decide to join us ..or better yet — start your own movement now.
The Inspiration Behind
Some of you might know that 1 Percent Change commenced with a spark — from a friend to a friend — and a first cause supported by as many as 20 of our closest friends back in January 2016.
Besides, it is fair to say that 1 Percent Change started with a book — How to Change the World by John-Paul Flintoff. Several notions remain with us to that day:
- humanity stands a chance of coping with its most severe problems only if there are unity and leaders to follow
- if we have a home and a job, our living standard is higher than the world average and every one of us can achieve meaningful change with as little as 1% of our income
- together we are stronger, we can achieve more, and we should not stop despite the scale of the challenge at hand
- the easiest road to change starts with us and with our immediate circle of friends, colleagues, and partners
- we need to make a small first step and then just keep going
The 1 Percent Change Framework
We created the organisation to unite our community through a transparent and inspiring charity model that supports a different cause every month. At its core, the organisation is comprised of people who donate 1% of their income every single month.
The most difficult part of our work is selecting the right cause. More often than not, we take care to select causes that have received less attention and fall outside the scope of traditional corporate social responsibility campaigns. Besides, we have clearly defined criteria:
- diverse — we support causes from the entire social spectrum to make sure we reach out to all the different groups in need that matter to the bigger community of 1 Percent Change
- concrete — we select causes where we deliver a visible end-to-end result vs. being a drop in an ocean
- measurable — each cause has a preliminary budget that is realistic and achievable in view of funds we collect monthly
- long-term — our intention is to deliver sustainable change in the quality of life of the beneficiaries;
Above all, the foundation of our work is transparency and it comes in many, many shapes and sizes throughout the operations of the organisation:
- all donations are used for the cause and any excess funds are transferred towards subsequent causes (voted by members)
- all operating expenses (bank fees, website, etc.) are covered by the co-founders
- we do not transfer funds; instead, we purchase and donate all products/services that are needed
- we publish detailed information on collected funds and spending
If there is one thing that truly made a difference in the set-up of 1 Percent Change, it is the business background of founders. None of us had any exposure to non-profits. Instead, we knew how to set goals and deliver on them. This is how we got to build lean operations focused on long-term, visible results. One of my favourite testaments so far are the words of our friend and supporter on the occasion of our second birthday which went along the lines of
no other organisation delivers solution in this range (circa 2–3 thousand euro per month), every month, on the "field", where people need them the most
We know it works and if you feel like learning more, please visit our website or comment here.
Living our Purpose
The purpose of 1 Percent Change, however, goes beyond the causes we support every month, though they bring us immense joy and satisfaction. With our work, we aim to reach another goal —
we strive to make empathy, personal responsibility, and initiative the foundational values of the society that we live in. I.e. while most of the charity organisations exist to support a certain underprivileged group with a specific need, we exist to support the people in our community in their personal journey towards self-awareness, higher consciousness, humility, and personal fulfilment.
Sounds big, right? It is. And it requires that 1 Percent Change grows — from a community into a movement of people who act independently and yet guided by common purpose and values. Only then, we will be able to perpetuate positive change in our society.
To achieve this, we have embarked on a journey to build lasting habits in our community. The inspiration behind this next step in our story is another book — The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. What we take from the book is the concept that turning a community into a movement of independent leaders requires new behaviours and social habits. A movement, the author argues, does not start because suddenly everyone decides to look in the same direction. Instead, a movement depends on social models which begin as the habits of friendship, grow via the habits of society and are maintained based on new habits, which change the sense of self of every participant. This approach provides us with a framework for the overall vision of 1 Percent Change and the role each and every one of us plays in it.
To that end, in order to create an ever-expanding community of people driven by personal responsibility, initiative and above all empathy, we need to consciously build 3 habits:
1st habit: speak up — whenever you hear about someone in need, pause and consider is this need within the capabilities of 1 Percent Change? if yes — tell us here
Over 80% of the causes we support are proactively proposed by members of our larger community. We strive towards 100%. Besides, we screen every single cause that comes our way, we speak with the people behind it and whatever the outcome, by sharing their cause you give them hope that they have been heard and help is on the way.
2nd habit: supporting — donate your 1% every single month
We announce our monthly causes on the 1st of every month and we collect the funds throughout the entire month; so choose a date convenient for you and make a reminder to check the monthly cause, consider it and support it.
Perhaps sometimes it will not be a cause close to your heart, but consider this: the community of 1 Percent Change has already supported the causes you care about and it works both ways.
The entire model of 1 Percent Change is built around the reliability of the monthly donations of the people in the community. We select causes with budgets that fit our scale and every single month counts.
Finally, building this habit is at the core of our community — it is not about the scale of a single big donation once a year. Instead, we aim for conscious, incremental, regular support.
3rd habit: sharing — it is only when every single one of us starts proactively telling their immediate social network about 1 Percent Change, that we stand a chance of growing the community into a real movement
Here are the core reasons why:
- you grow the community and hence its potential for impact
- we seek to engage people with common values and what better place to find them, than among our friends
- the easiest road to change starts with our immediate circle, remember?
Finally, I would like to put forward words that I've shared before. Mihai Csikszentmihalyi wrote in one of his books:
…if we expended all our energies solely on taking care of our own needs we would stop growing. In that respect what we call “soul” can be viewed as the surplus energy that can be invested into change and transformation. As such, it is the cutting edge of evolution.
Here is the why and the how ..so what are you going to do about it?