Rising to the Challenge of Change in 2016

First published on January 14 2016 at Social Good Stuff.

I spent the last night of 2015 sitting in the dark of the bush on the Western edge of the Blue Mountains. The sun set late, but when it did it was dark. Really dark. The moon hadn’t yet risen and the Milky Way splayed out above us. I always forget how spectacular the stars are when you get away from the city lights. And as a seemingly-larger-than-usual near-full moon edged above the ridgeline above us, suddenly illuminating the valley around us, I felt a fierce belief in the possibilities of this year.

We live at an incredible moment in human history. Never before have we been so aware of threats to our very civilization. Never before have we had such powerful tools to work together to address them. There is both urgency and incredible possibility in this moment, and it’s on us – the entrepreneurs, organisers, activists, dreamers, inventors and volunteers – to harness the unique tools at our disposal to create the future our communities and our planet needs.

The New Year may be cosmologically insignificant but it is a natural time for reflection, planning and goal-setting. Most New Year’s resolutions are self-focused. Lose weight, get a new job, build better relationships, meditate, etc. All of which are worthy and important.

But 2016 will also be a crucial year for many of the big questions and challenges that confront us as a global civilisation. An agreement was made in Paris, but this is the year we have to hold our government’s to account to make real steps to alleviate climate change. This year we will continue to struggle with the balance between security, privacy and human rights, and our decisions will echo for a generation.

There will be elections in the US, Australia, Iran, Ireland, Peru and elsewhere, determining the course of many issues for the next four years and beyond.

We will debate the meaning of multiculturalism, how to share the benefits of economic growth, how to build sustainable food systems. And so much else.

2016 could be a tipping point for many of these issues, for better or worst. Do we waste another year to talk and inaction while the climate gets weirder and more dangerous? Does inequality continue to grow, threatening the stability of our political and economic systems? Can we confront terrorism without losing the democratic rights which were fought for and won over generations, without losing our soul?

So my question then, is:

what impact do you want to have in 2016?

What New Year Resolutions do you have for our community and our world?

Once you’ve decided what needs to happen, you need to find people who want the same outcome you do. Who are ready to cheer you on, contribute their resources and act in solidarity with your desire for change. And where once finding those people was like looking for a needle in a haystack with nothing but your hands and your will, now it’s like deploying a metal detector.

When I founded the youth non-profit Vibewire, in 2000, social media didn’t exist. There was community, but it was built around forums for specific cultural niches (for instance, dance music) rather than on mainstream, searchable, platforms. So how were you to find our initial group of collaborators, especially if you were, as we were, determined to build a something national in scope.

This is how we did it:

A friend and I travelled to Melbourne from Sydney on the overnight bus, put posters up at three universities that day, then got the overnight bus back to Sydney and went straight back to uni.

Fast forward to 2011 and the founding of social impact crowdfunding platform StartSomeGood.com. Not only was our founding team spread out in three cities in the US (I was living in San Francisco at this stage) but the set of campaigns we launched with came from four countries.

The challenge of finding, connecting and collaborating with people anywhere around the world has practically disappeared. This is a snapshot of the StartSomeGood team last year, beaming in from five countries at the time:

Social media is just one of the tools empowering this internationally-connected new breed of changemaker, along with blogs, website builders, petitioning sites and fundraising platforms like StartSomeGood. Crowdfunding has made it easier than ever before to pitch your vision and rally your community around the future you are creating, and people everywhere are using it to fund new enterprises, initiatives and campaigns to create the progress we need. The best thing about founding StartSomeGood has been the opportunity to work with and support incredible changemakers who are working to make a difference every day.

So I believe we will rise to the challenges of 2016 because I know there are passionate, brave, committed people all over the world determined to help, and I’m determined to help them.