where does change come from?

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead

When I asked my 11th-grade English students to write a journal entry of their thoughts on this quotation, I admitted to them that I had selfish reasons: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about who and what causes change.

Where is the most effective place to which to direct one’s energy to make things different? The political arena? The world of media? Nonprofit organizations? Or perhaps businesses?

In The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, Jacqueline Novogratz describes her life’s work, largely in Africa and Asia. Most of that work has focused on helping women start and maintain small businesses. Her chapters on Rwanda, describing that country before and after the civil war and genocide of the 1990s, are especially gripping.

Today, Novogratz is in charge of the Acumen Fund, which combines capitalism with philanthropy by investing donations in what it calls “breakthrough enterprises that help the poor” in Africa, Pakistan, and India. Acumen also trains leaders through the Acumen Fellows program.

As the lines continue to blur between the business and nonprofit worlds, the possibilities for real change seem to be only increasing. I recommend reading The Blue Sweater and checking out Acumen’s website.

(Oh right, the 11th-graders. They pretty much all agreed with Mead’s assertion – though several of them were wise enough to point out that change, even if caused by a few, has to be spread to the many to really be effective.)