Rise up: The world can’t fix itself

Do you despair at the news? Deplore those in power? Dream of a future that’s not quite so apocalyptic? Cool. Then what are you doing about it?

thought starterIt’s your fault the world is broken.

And mine.

It’s our friends’ fault, and their friends’. Our families’ fault, and lovers’ and neighbours’ and colleagues’… it’s all our fault.

As a child of Venezuelan ?? immigrants raised in the United States ?? and transplanted to Britain ??, I’ve seen my fair share of division, anxiety and hopelessness these past few years.

Stunned by the rise in violence, inequality, prejudice and authoritarianism in the places I’ve called home — and lots of other places besides — I’ve worried, grumbled and despaired. I’ve even publicly sobbed ?.

And do you know what that solved?

Exactly nothing.

Want to know what does make things better?

Doing something.

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being an astronaut ?‍?. I still do.

Then, as now, I’d look up at the moon and stars wishing I could be up there exploring the furthest reaches of the galaxy. But I never asked Santa Claus for a telescope, never did a space project for the school science fair, never applied myself at mathematics or physics, never took an astronomy class, never even read a book about the mysteries of the universe.

To this day, I’m a space ignoramus. ?

But on the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, when I was 10, my teacher gave me a baby tree to plant in the garden. I took it home, dug a little hole in the backyard, and gently covered the sapling’s roots with soil.

? … ?

That one small act made a difference. It sparked my interest in my own planet, which prompted me to start a student environmental club at school, which led to my environmental studies at university, which resulted in me pursuing a career in sustainability, which makes me feel proud when I march in the streets with a new generation of climate activists.

Dreams as big as the universe achieve nothing on their own.
But the tiniest of actions can make a world of difference.

I’ve spent my whole life in some of the richest and most powerful countries in the world, surrounded by some of the most well-educated and privileged people in society — people who say they want to live in a world that’s safe, kind, healthy and just. And yet, the way most of us spend our time and money, behave at work and in our communities, and focus our talents and skills doesn’t reflect what we say is important to us.

  • We’re “too busy” to do the right thing. ⏱
  • We don’t believe we can make a difference. ?‍♀️
  • We’re afraid we might fail. ?
  • We’re not sure know where to start. ?

Meanwhile, the world you live in is being shaped by the people who do things. The politicians ruining your country, the Silicon Valley hot shots making your job obsolete, the CEOs trashing your planet… they’re all people, flesh and blood just like you, who did something — ran a campaign, started a business, made things happen.

So ask yourself this: Who are you expecting to create the world you want to live in? Everyone else?

It’s you. And me.

Each and every one of us — through our actions, or inaction — is responsible for making the world what it is today, and what it will be in the future.

In November 2016, I was bereft. Britain’s EU referendum had been heralded by the murder of a female politician, and followed by a string of hate crimes. A bona fide lying bigot had just been elected president of the United States. Terrorism was rampant.

I realised that all my thoughts ? and prayers ? and hopes ? and tears ?and social media comments were changing nothing. So I sat down with my most creative friend, Robbie Dale, and we set ourselves a challenge:

What could we do to make this messed up world a little better?

wishlist riseWe used the resources we had to hand: a printer and an internet connection. We printed “A place for…” on a few hundred sheets of paper and folded them into small place cards (the sort of thing that marks your place on the table at a wedding). We wrote all sorts of stuff on the cards — everyone, you, immigrants, redheads, cat lovers… ?

We put these all over London, in cafés and pubs, on store shelves and public transport. We made it easy for anyone who found one to go online and make their own. We asked people to share photos of the place cards on social media. We started a guerrilla campaign to remind people that we’re all in this together.

Within days, we saw place cards pop up as far away as the US ??, Russia ??, Germany ??, Greece ??, the Netherlands ??, the Philippines ??, Canada ??, Colombia ??and Zambia ??.

We were contacted by major media outlets.

We were asked, “What next?”

So, we resolved to do more.

thought starterI read up on some history, Robbie read up on some psychology, and together we came up with a toolkit for anyone who’s thought about changing the world but isn’t quite sure where to start. We filled a small envelope with six simple paper tools inspired by Martin Luther King’s six steps of nonviolent social change, informed by behavioural science, and designed to get users through the hardest part of taking action — getting started.

In 2019, after more than a year of beta testing, we launched a social business: Thought Starter.

We’ve sold Thought Starter kits online and in retail shops. We’ve run Thought Starter workshops in businesses and charities. We’ve helped everyone from school kids to pensioners start writing books and making films, launch business ventures and community projects, break bad habits and adopt better ones.

Now, we want to do even more ?.

  • We want to put the power to make real change into the hands of as many people as possible.
  • We want to work with businesses to give employees the tools to change the world in their day jobs.
  • We want to turn all the talking shops at conferences and summits into ‘doing shops’ where ideas and inspiration are turned immediately into tangible action.
  • We want to mobilise a generation of doers, working with schools and youth organisations to give away one kit to an underprivileged young person for every kit sold.

But for us to do all that, we need you to do something too…

thought starterEverything Thought Starter does is designed to make it simple for you to do something about the things you care about.

  • Follow @todaydothis on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for one thing you can do each day to make the world a little better than the day before.
  • Sign up to Thought Starter’s ‘do-something-about-the-newsletter’. Once a week, we focus on one news story and tell you one thing you can do about it that will make a difference.
  • Grab yourself a Thought Starter Kit and kickstart whatever change you want to see in the world.
  • At the very least, share this article with someone who needs to read it.

And if you want to talk to us about doing something together, say hello ?.

What we each do, or don’t do, has an impact on the world around us. Across a lifetime, across all of us, our choices can add up to make the world better… Or worse.

The arc of the moral universe bends toward justice only if we bend it, not if we just hope it will bend. We can only be the change if we’re willing to do the changing.

If ever there was a time for each of us to make things better, whatever that means to you, this is it.

Please. Do it. Do it now.