Paul Hawken: Two Million Little Change Orgs
The well-known sustainable business guru Paul Hawken recently wrote that the presence of a decentralized and not-even-connected movement for environmental is not only a powerful force for change, but one for which there’s no precedent.
Hawken actually tried to quantify the number of organizations working to adopt a river, or ease world hunger, or work for peace, or a whole lot of other causes. Small, grassroots groups–collectively numbering about two million organizations, and thus tens of millions of people. There’s no overal leader, no single agenda–but he sees these splintered fractions coming together as a definable movement for environmental and social justice, and having enormous impact.
The promise of this unnamed movement is to offer solutions to what appear to be insoluble dilemmas: poverty, global climate change, terrorism, ecological degradation, polarization of income, loss of culture. It is not burdened with a syndrome of trying to save the world; it is trying to remake the world…
And I believe it will prevail. I don’t mean defeat, conquer, or cause harm to someone else. And I don’t tender the claim in an oracular sense. I mean the thinking that informs the movement’s goal—to create a just society conducive to life on Earth—will reign. It will soon suffuse and permeate most institutions. But before then, it will change a sufficient number of people so as to begin the reversal of centuries of frenzied self-destruction.
As someone who has been involved with grassroots movements since I was 12 or 13, I think he’s right. In fact, in my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, I devote an entire chapter to the intersection of marketing and social change. I even included a case study about one social movement I started that defeated an extremely inappropriate development proposal–when all the “experts” said, “oh, this is terrible but there’s nothing we can do.” Well, we got thousands of people involved–and beat the “unstoppable” thing in just 13 months. (Note: the website hasn’t been updated in years–but it was a vital tool during the campaign.)
Starting that movement is something I will always feel is one of my greatest accomplishments.
There are a couple of books I want to write about the power of people to create social and environmental justice–and peace. In the meantime, I’m planning to start a high-level Internet discussion group for marketers who want to create social and environmental transformation. If you’re interested, comment here (with a way of getting in touch) or drop me a note at shel [at] principledprofit.com, subject line: Social Change Marketer Group (if you don’t hear back from me, check in again–email isn’t as reliable as it used to be!