As I was driving on the highway the other day, I saw a billboard that caught my attention. It said something about “Ordinary People Making a Difference,” and I perked up, only to realize it was a military recruitment advertisement.
This got me thinking, what does it mean to make a difference? My experience leads me to think that “making a difference” relates to social entrepreneurship and other types of social action. However, the fact that the US Air Force is using the same terminology makes me wonder whether I am placing too much importance on the type of work that I enjoy.
So how can an ordinary, everyday person make a difference?
- Decide what bothers you about the world – Have you been compelled by the heart-wrenching tales from earthquakes in Haiti? Perhaps you just witnessed a documentary about the plight of sex slaves in cities around the world? It is important to pinpoint an issue that you are passionate about, something that you are willing to devote your free time to.
- Educate Yourself – Learn more about the topic at hand. Read newspaper articles on the subject, watch a documentary about it, follow a blog that covers your topic. It is important not to take action without knowing what you are confronting (that is not to say you should be paralyzed, but simply a reminder to “look before you leap.”)
- Find out what is being done already – You are probably not the first person to notice this issue, find out what organizations have already been dealing with the subject. Check out their profile on charity navigator.
- Join the movement – Find other passionate about your cause. Donate to good non-profits whose missions align with your principles. Organize a fundraiser. Educate your friends and family about the issue, show them an article, recommend a documentary, etc.
This is what I view as the basic model for making a difference. Perhaps this model is too narrowly focused. It focuses on charity and non-profits, while these may not even be the best models for enacting real change. They also assume that one cannot make a living off of fighting for his favorite cause.
However, for the majority of those living in the developed world, careers, social lives, family life, and other daily obligations do not often integrate people’s favorite humanitarian causes. The model outlined above is a suitable route for someone looking to incorporate social causes into their daily agenda.