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FEBRUARY 12TH 2011 

Making plans for change

When we look around our neighbourhoods and our lives and see so many things that we need to change, it’s tough not to feel overwhelmed. And then along comes a happening that shows us how much can be accomplished by one or a few people who take the time to do something.

There are several inspiring examples to draw from, not the least of which is the recent uprising in Egypt that resulted in the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. What began with a few demonstrations, strikes and Tweets, ultimately brought tens of thousands of people together to demand an end to the 30-year autocratic rule of Mubarak. From start to finish, it was just a few short weeks — 18 days to be exact. It’s a significant example of how the will of a few people can galvanize a nation and create change, almost overnight.

Another example is Tea Party in the US and what they managed to accomplish in their early days. For those of you waiting for me to tell you I think their movement is going to save the US, I’m not. The moral here is in the how, not the what.

After President Obama swept into the Oval Office with the Senate and House both run by Democrats in 2008, the first thing he did was enact bail-out legislation that cost American taxpayers over $700M.  Some will tell you that saved the US economy. Others will tell you that it was an unprecedented act of government building that is completely inconsistent with the Constitution.  Again, either might be right, but neither is the point.

This is. In response to what they saw as a huge financial, moral, and constitutional wrong, a few people—Libertarians, Republicans—began to hold rallies under the name of the Tea Party, aimed at reminding citizens and politicians that the government shouldn’t be running the economy. Their passion allowed them to use the machinery of the Republican Party to capture nominations in a host of States that ultimately led to the Republicans gaining control of the House in the recent mid-term elections.

But this phenomenon—individual citizens forming a national movement and co-opting much of the Republican Party—would not have been possible 20 years ago. As Matt Bai observed recently in the NYT, two things fertilized the ground for the Tea Party, interestingly as they had for the ideologically-opposite MoveOn.org just a few years prior.

“The first is that both movements were made possible by the internet revolution,” observed Bai. He points out that it would not have been possible for the Tea Party to take over parts of the Republican Party if they had to go through the local apparatus of the party rather than use blogs and social media to find one another and achieve critical mass.

“Second, these activists are products of a do-it-yourself culture—the internet-age notion that expertise in most things is just a few clicks away.” He points to E-Trade and WebMD as empowering examples of how the internet has dis-intermediated our world.

All of this is at the core of Citizen Capitalism. If you think some small aspect of your daily life needs changing, be that change, and then tell others about it. Chances are that others feel the same way you do, and will act with you to cause others to see the light. C’mon, if a few people can band together to change the shape of the mid-term elections in the US, how hard can it be for us to affect change for the better in our family, our neighbourhood, and in so doing, our world?

Tell us how you feel about making change. If there’s one small thing we should each focus on, what should it be? Share your answer at: editor@citizencapitalism.com, subject: small things.

PS: If you want to read the entire NYT piece, here’s the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/weekinreview/31bai.html?_r=1



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