How to Change the World

A person’s power to change the world is quite hobbled when he or she is acting alone. Real change is possible when we form ourselves into voluntary associations (non-profit organizations), with a sense of a mission to change the future for the better. David Bornstein’s book, How to Change the World, has inspired many of us to organize with others on a mission to take back this planet, or a part of it, from the dark side, one good work at a time. The cause you feel deeply about may not be important to everyone, but you have to find your “us”; that is really all that matters. Peter Goldmark, president of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1988 to 1997, wrote:

It’s got to strike you that a quarter of a century ago outside the United States there were very few NGOs (nongovernmental organizations involved in development and social work) and now there are millions of them all over the globe. Nobody could make that happen at the same time. Why did they grow? They grew because the seed was there and the soil was right. You have restless people seeking to deal with problems that were not being successfully coped with by existing institutions. They escaped the old formats and were driven to invent new forms of organizations. They found more freedom, more effectiveness and more productive engagement [emphasis added].[1]

The whole world is feeling the effect of “restless people” forming themselves into new organizations. “Twenty years ago, for example,” Bornstein writes,

Indonesia had only one independent environmental organization. Today it has more than 2,000. In Bangladesh, most of the country’s development work is handled by thousand of NGOs. India has well over a million citizen organizations. Slovakia, a tiny country, has more than 12,000 . . . In Brazil, in the 1990s, the number of registered citizen organizations jumped from 250,000 to 400,000, a 60 percent increase. In the United States, between 1989 and 1998, the number of humanitarian voluntary societies registered with the Internal Revenue Service jumped from 464,000 to 734,000, also a 60 percent increase.[2]

This tremendous increase is necessary, because:

While governments must be held responsible for translating the will of the citizenry into public policy, they are not necessarily the most effective vehicles, and certainly not the sole legitimate vehicles, for the actual delivery of many social goods, and they are often less inventive than entrepreneurial citizen organizations.[3]

You already knew that “governments are not necessarily the most effective vehicles for actual delivery of social goods.” But did you know there are 6 million non-government organizations in America, and that many, or most, of the good works we admire and respect are achieved by these voluntary associations. “NGOs are quicker than governments to respond to new demands and opportunities,” writes Jessica Mathews, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.”[4]  I started three non-profit organizations in order to change the world. Some people see things as they are and say, “Why?” I dream things that never were and say, “Why not?” Write to me and ask me about them.

Bornstein, David. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas. Oxford University Press, 2004.

[1] David Bornstein, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas (Oxford University Press, 2004), 4.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 8.

[4] Ibid. 9