How to make change happen (and be a leader in your own life)

Maybe you're angry about climate change. Maybe you can't stand the way that politics is being run in your country. So, what can you do about it?

You've probably worked out by now that there's more than one way to make a difference, but let's break it down a little bit to see just diverse a "leader" or change-maker can be.

Below are the "mechanisms of change" (or how to make stuff happen) that you can use to get your issues on the agenda:

Becoming the power holder / decision maker

If you're the person in power, you can call the shots and make sure that your agenda is being met. These sorts of leaders include politicians, CEOs, bosses and managers, but can also be as simple as the decision maker in a household!

If you're in a position of power, consider how you can use your influence to put the issues that you care about on the agenda. For example, a CEO can make the decision to divest in fossil fuels, or a politician can decide that they will make gender equality a key policy issue for their next campaign.

If you're a power holder in your community, workplace or household, jot down some ideas about how you can make decisions that help to work towards your goals for the greater good, even if it's as simple as banning plastic bags at your office.

Influencing the powers holders to make better decisions

Ok, so we're identified who the power holders in our society are. Now, what can you do if you're not in a decision-making role? One option is to persuade those who ARE in power to do things differently.

Consider activities such as meeting with your local member of parliament and discussing why a particular issue is of concern to you and the community. These are your political representatives, so if you can demonstrate that an issue is significant, they may be willing to take your issue all the way to where the power holders can hear it.

Ways to influence decision-makers include:

- Meeting with them to discuss particular issues and ask them to make change happen

- Presenting them with a petition of the people who want to see action on a particular issue

- Inviting them to an event for your issue/cause

- Writing them a formal letter as a concerned citizen (we've put together a guide for doing this effectively).

Confronting the powers holders and pressuring them to do what you want

Naturally, decision-makers don't always listen, so sometimes groups and individuals may see the need to put pressure on key power holders to make better decisions.

Examples of this could be holding protests or rallies to show the decision-makers that you're not happy with how things are, and that you want things to change. Think about union strikes: a group of people are able to clearly demonstrate their desire for change by withdrawing the labour, with the goal of pressuring decision-makers into meeting demands for change such as safer conditions and fairer pay.

Non-violent, peaceful protests that are fought on issues as opposed to personal attacks on decision-makers can enact real change, and may be a last resort when those in power just don't seem to be paying attention.

READ THIS NEXT: How to be a climate activist: getting started

Educating decision makers and/or citizens

If you see that those in power aren't dealing with the issues that you care about, then it's worthwhile considering whether a lack of awareness and/or education is the issue.

Nobody can be an expert on everything: maybe your boss/MP/CEO simply isn't aware of the issues at stake (although, this isn't always the case!). You can be a leader by helping to spread awareness and information about your cause.

With this tactic, it's best to present facts clearly, succinctly, and without an aggressive tone. Rather than blaming someone for what they are doing, show them how they can make changes that will have positive outcomes.

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Meeting the immediate needs of the crisis

Angry that your local council isn't doing anything about the litter at your local park? Consider going and picking it up yourself. Yes, this isn't always a long-term solution, but sometimes if you want something done, you have to get started yourself. Check out the movement this guy started by simply picking up rubbish on his way to work each morning.

Being a leader by initiating action is a brilliant tool for making real change happen: it's always more credible when someone can confront power holders and demonstrate that you're so in want of change to occur that you're willing to do the work. You'll also help to inspire those around you to take notice, plus the media always loves a story about someone doing good for the cause they care about (and good media coverage can spread your message and put pressure on decision-makers).

In addition, you might not actually have enough time to wait for decision-makers to make up their minds if your crisis is occurring RIGHT NOW: there's not much point in going to your local politician for help saving a landmark or animal species if by the time the wheels of bureaucracy have groaned into motion, there's nothing left to save.

Social change through personal change

If you were campaigning about animal rights, it would be pretty strange if you kept buying cage-eggs and buying cosmetics that were tested on animals, wouldn't it?

Often if we want to influence change in others, we need to start with out own lives and out own actions. After all, if you're not willing to make some sacrifices for your cause, how can you expect other people to?

Here at 1 Million Women, we're all about starting with everyday actions, so we're put together the Carbon Challenge as a tool that you can use to discover practical and effective ways to reduce your own carbon footprint. You'll be amazed at how much power you, as a single individual and consumer, have when it comes to the future of our planet.

Making changes in your own life will help to inspire those around you, and will also help you to be a powerful advocate for your issue. Start with the here and now!

Building alternative institutions

What can you do when nothing else works? Change your perspective.

If you don't like the way that the company that you work for treats its staff, consider seeking out or creating a new way of doing things. Start your own company based on your values, or find a company that shares your values.

We've seen examples of this kind of action from around the world, from Bhutan rejecting the GDP and using happiness as a way to measure the "worth" of their society, to Vietnam's farming kindergarten, which reconceptualised learning to be more planet-friendly.

Sure, perhaps you can't make your own government or start up your own country somewhere, but you can always look at rebuilding institutions from the ground up based on your values, be it a home, a company, an organisation or a school.

So what are you waiting for?

Get out there and start making change happen!

Special thanks for Claire Pettigrew and Christopher Brew for the inspiration for this article

Images: Shutterstock and Pixabay

Read this next: We're all trying to buy happiness, but is that what we really need?

1 Million Women is more than our name, it's our goal! We're building a movement of strong, inspirational women acting on climate change by leading low-carbon lives. To make sure that our message has an impact, we need more women adding their voice. We need to be louder. Joining us online means your voice and actions can be counted. We need you.

Steph Newman Former Social Media Assistant Suggest an article Send us an email

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