Sarah Toumi, Ashoka Fellow

Changemakers Know No Bounds

See differently. Do differently. Change the world.

by Jill Barrett Melnicki

Sarah Toumi lives in France, but she spent much of her childhood with her extended family in Bir Salah, Tunisia.

During one visit, she remembers sharing with her cousins her dream of becoming an astronaut when she finished school. She then asked her cousins about their dreams.

Her three cousins — all girls — said that they were dropping out of school because the high school was 12 km away and there was no bus to get them there. And it was too dangerous to go by foot. Sarah remembers thinking, “How is that possible? I can become what I want because my school is close by and everything is open in front of me.” She thought there had to be a way to get a bus for her cousins.

So, with the support of her father, Sarah set up an organization to help children in her family’s village and beyond gain access to learning opportunities in and outside of school.

She was 11 years old.

Within four years, Bir Salah had a bus to take kids to school and seven years after that, they had their own high school.

Now 29, Sarah (Ashoka Fellow since 2014) is leading Acacias for All, a movement to curb desertification in rural communities across Tunisia. She introduces alternative crops, like Acacia trees, which help farmers increase their income while restoring the quality of their soil.

She plans to plant a million trees by 2018, re-green 50,000 hectares of lost land, and spread her message to Algeria and Morocco.

At Ashoka, we believe that once you realize your potential to make change — to work with others and creatively solve problems — you will look to be an agent of change all the time, everywhere, stretching the bounds of what is possible. You will have found your power.

We’ve seen that changemakers like Sarah will make change in every situation simply because they have learned to see differently and therefore do differently.

Seeing Differently

Consider the concept of “adjacent possible,” explored in Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From. Innovation tends to happen within the bounds of the adjacent possible, in other words the realm of possibilities available at any given moment.

Perhaps changemakers have learned to visualize these possibilities through practice. This gives them the ability to make “slow hunches” that bloom into world-changing ideas when the timing and environment are right.

Doing Differently

The adjacent possible definitely has its limits. But the “strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore the boundaries. Each new combination ushers in new combinations into the adjacent possible.”

In our personal lives, in our creative pursuits, in the workplace, in the communities we inhabit — in all of these different environments, we are surrounded by potential new configurations, new ways of breaking out and making change.

We only need to learn to see and understand the edges of possibility that surround us. And then, of course, take action.

The changemaker does this for the good of all.

Join the Movement

Today, we are launching Changemakers Know No Bounds, a fundraising campaign that highlights a new era where everyone has the power to make change.

We invite you to join us in this campaign. With your help, we aim to raise $1M USD for Ashoka’s work to realize an Everyone A Changemaker world.

To support your fundraising efforts, an anonymous donor has generously offered to match every campaign gift dollar to dollar — doubling your impact.

Please join the campaign by creating your own fundraiser page and sharing your changemaking story. Or simply by donating online. You can also show your support by engaging with us on social media. Together, we can #MakeChange happen.

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About Ashoka

Ashoka is a global nonprofit organization with a big mission to help realize an ‘Everyone a Changemaker’ world.

An ‘Everyone a Changemaker’ world responds quickly and effectively to social challenges and allows all individuals the freedom, confidence and societal support to address any social problem and self-identify as a driver of change.

Ashoka is the world’s leading community of over 3,500 social entrepreneurs in 90+ countries. We champion the most important new social change ideas and support the innovators behind them by helping them scale their solutions.

Jill Barrett Melnicki is proud to rally changemakers everywhere, all the time, to #MakeChange in ourselves and in the world around us.