Four Ingredients of Outstanding Social Change Movements

Posted on 29 December 2014
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Element Magazine, New Zealand Herald

One of the great attributes of human kind is our curiosity of, and desire for, better ways of being and doing.  

Calls for change are challenging us every day from every direction. The challenge is to navigate our way through the ‘noise’ to identify a Great Idea from the rest.

One such Great Idea worth shining a light on is an initiative borne out of the call for change to the way the one in four of us who lives with a disability (access needs), experiences our society, and the world.

The Be. Accessible social movement, started in New Zealand by Minnie Baragwanath in 2011, promises a brighter future for any person with access needs. Three years later, we’re seeing changes happen – employers are opening their minds to a wider range of workforce options, businesses are changing their physical infrastructure and cultures to be more inclusive and accessible, and we’re witnessing a growing number of leaders with a disability taking up positions in mainstream communities across New Zealand. You could say the future now looks bright with this movement underway.

How has Be. managed to create and drive change, and what can we learn from great social movements like this?

Every Great Idea - just like Be. Accessible - is much more than just that.  My observation is that it needs four key ingredients; public and political will, a mobilising lens to activate greater collective action, capability of leadership and team, and a compelling vision and story. 

This was brought to life at a recent celebration ceremony for Be. Accessible Leaders by Hon Tariana Turia, former Minister for Disabilities, who said:

“Inspiration is found in abundance in the Be. Institute.

One of the most exciting approaches to transformation has been that which I have witnessed with Be. Accessible.

In my eighteen years in Parliament, I came across many passionate individuals with projects which impressed me as I saw the many sacrifices made to improve outcomes.

But with Be. Accessible, it is the whole package.” 

The overarching philosophy used throughout the Be. Accessible movement is to base the focus on value, strengths and contribution of us all, including those with a disability or access need. Looking at it this way, we notice that the innovations, enhanced diversity, cultural richness, problem-solving skills, and economic value is significant and worth responding to. That’s where the Be. movement makes sense to business and communities.

With its unifying qualities, the Be. Accessible vision is simply that New Zealand becomes the best place in the world to Be. What New Zealander wouldn't hope for that?

Every "Great Idea"... needs four key ingredients; public and political will, a mobilising lens to activate greater collective action, capability of leadership and team, and a compelling vision and story.

A similar approach was taken when Borderless initiated the international social change film and campaign, A Grandmother’s Tribe nearly eight years ago.

The Great Idea was to support grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa raising their orphaned grandchildren since losing their own children to HIV/AIDS. The movement began after building a community of interest and activating a network of 200 grandmother groups across Canada using the film as a catalyst.

Through a partnership with the Stephen Lewis Foundation, the initiative has remained alive and well, and the movement has delivered life-saving results to more than 450 grandmother groups in sub-Saharan Africa.

The timing and will was the no-brainer; it was well overdue, the capability was created through an unexpected partnership, the problem was easily re-framed into an opportunity to change lives by supporting the grandmothers, and the vision remains simple – children are one third of our population and all of our future; through the grandmothers each one of them has a fair chance at life.

Through observing and being involved with resonating causes and needs like these, Dean Easterbrook and I chose to create Borderless nine years ago. Our dream was to develop a company that is both a leader and supporter of those who wish to make a positive difference. It has been an evolutionary journey but an extraordinarily rewarding one.

In this column, over coming months, I will bring you stories of social change that I hope will help unlock opportunities for us to each respond to the calls for change around us.