Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters

Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters


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Empower yourself in today’s highly connected, socially conscious world as you learn how to wield your passions, digital tools, and the principles of social entrepreneurship to affect real change in your schools, communities, and beyond.

At age eleven, Jessica Markowitz learned that girls in Rwanda are often not allowed to attend school, and Richards Rwanda took shape.

During his sophomore year of high school, Zach Steinfeld put his love of baking to good use and started the Baking for Breast Cancer Club.

Do you wish you could make a difference in your community or even the world? Are you one of the millions of high school teens with a service-learning requirement? Either way, Be a Changemaker will empower you with the confidence and knowledge you need to affect real change. You’ll find all the tools you need right here—through engaging youth profiles, step-by-step exercises, and practical tips, you can start making a difference today.

This inspiring guide will teach you how to research ideas, build a team, recruit supportive adults, fundraise, host events, work the media, and, most importantly, create lasting positive change. Apply lessons from the business world to problems that need solving and become a savvy activist with valuable skills that will benefit you for a lifetime!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781582704647
Publisher: Simon Pulse/Beyond Words
Publication date: 09/16/2014
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 71,118
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)
Lexile: 1130L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Laurie Ann Thompson cofounded a successful Internet start-up with her husband during the technology boom. She has volunteered with Youth Venture, an organization that supports teens with big ideas, and she makes time for other volunteer opportunities as they arise. Thompson has more than twenty-five published articles in Faces, Know, Kono, WeeOnes, ParentMap, and more. Visit her at

Read an Excerpt

Be a Changemaker |  1  |
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America, in a speech to his supporters in Chicago on February 5, 2008

You’ve heard the saying, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” I’ve found this to be true more often than one might expect. Sometimes it’s because other people can’t do it. They just don’t have the skills or the tools that you do. Other times they just won’t do it. It is, after all, what you want, and it’s your definition of right.

How many times have you complained about something but done nothing to fix it? Or noticed something and thought, Someone should do something about that? We all have those thoughts sometimes. And it’s okay, because none of us can solve every problem we encounter. But guess what . . . you’re someone. And when you set your mind to it, you absolutely can do something that matters.

Fortunately, there are some exciting changes happening in your world right now. People are realizing that applying the best practices from the business world to the worst problems we face as a society is an effective step toward creating the solutions we need. And, modern-day technology makes it easier for everyone to do, especially young people. You truly have the power—now more than ever before—to be the change that you seek.



Craig Kielburger was flipping through the newspaper in search of comics when he came across the headline, “Battled Child Labour, Boy, 12, Murdered!” Because Craig was also twelve, the words grabbed his attention and he stopped to read the article. He soon learned that the boy, Iqbal Masih from Pakistan, had been sold into slavery at the age of four and chained to a carpet loom for nearly six years. After escaping, Iqbal spoke publicly against the common practice of child labor in his country and others. Many suspected Iqbal’s death was an attempt to silence him and his message.

Craig had never heard of child labor, so later that day he did some research. What he learned shocked him: more than 250 million children were working around the world, many in slave-like conditions. It was more than Craig, growing up in a middle-class neighborhood in Ontario, Canada, could even imagine. So he decided to do something about it.

Craig went to school and told his class what he had learned. When he asked if anyone would help him stop child labor, eleven friends raised their hands. Together they embarked on a journey, founding a group called Free the Children. In his book, also called Free the Children, Craig says, “None of us had much experience with social justice work—just a desire to take action.” As you’ll soon see, that desire is enough.

At first, Craig and his friends had a hard time getting anyone to take them seriously. They approached several established charities to ask how they could help, but none of them were interested. What could a group of kids do about such a huge, complex problem? Finally they decided they would have to do it themselves.

After years of hard work and determination, Free the Children has grown and expanded. Now a respected international charity, educational partner, and leader in the field of youth empowerment, the group addresses all kinds of social issues in addition to child labor. Since 1995, Free the Children has provided:

• Medical supplies worth more than $16 million around the world

• Clean water, health care, and sanitation for one million people

• We Day events to celebrate youth activism and volunteerism, attended annually by 160 thousand teens

• Daily education for fifty-five thousand children

• Economic self-sufficiency for thirty thousand women

• Quality activities for millions of young people

• Construction of more than 650 schools and schoolrooms

• Programming and building projects in forty-five countries

So, what can young people do? Anything they set their minds to. And if they can do it, so can you.

Just like Craig (and in no small part thanks to Craig) more and more people—young and old alike—are realizing that young people really can make a big difference in their communities, in their countries, and around the world. It’s called youth empowerment, and many people think it’s the next big movement.

Like other movements before it—civil rights, feminism, and gay rights, to name a few—this new movement is about empowering a group of people whose opinions and abilities have previously been ignored by society. But this time, it’s about empowering the world’s youth—about helping people like you seize the power to make your world be everything you want it to be. And you can be a part of it.

In the past, movements mostly involved people waving signs, participating in marches, and banding together for rallies and protests: actions intended to force the people in power to do things differently. Those are still valuable ways to change the world, but today’s activists have more options. Young people everywhere are rising up and directly creating the changes they want to see in their communities and around the world—right now. They’re applying modern business practices and using powerful new technologies to build brand-new organizations from the ground up. They’re solving the problems they see in the world around them—all by themselves. They are changemakers, and you can be one, too.

In case changing the world into what you want it to be and being part of the youth empowerment movement aren’t enough for you, trying your hand at changemaking has other benefits, too. You’ll learn more about something that interests you, find out more about yourself, have fun with your friends (and make new ones), and solve real problems. Launching a social venture—a project that seeks to fix a social problem—gives you experience being creative yet organized, working with a team, managing your time wisely, and setting goals and taking action on them—all skills that are critical to success in school, on the job, and in life.

Today’s companies—more than ever before—are on the lookout for employees with proven problem-solving abilities, creativity, critical thinking skills, collaboration experience, and communication techniques. After becoming a changemaker, your resumé will practically write itself! Because of that, colleges and universities are looking for applicants who have these kinds of activities, too. Want something to show the college admissions officers—not to mention scholarship selection committees—that you stand out from the other applicants? Changemaking shows off your real-world leadership skills and demonstrates a commitment to community service in a way that short-term volunteer positions can’t.

With all that to gain, what have you got to lose?

If someone had told me when I was a teenager that I could change the world, I think I would have laughed. I was female, at a time when that still limited my choices. I was short. I wasn’t beautiful, wealthy, or connected to anyone with significant power or influence. I knew I wouldn’t go to an Ivy League university. I had never led anything. In fact, I did my best to blend in and avoid being noticed at all costs. Change the world—me? Not likely.

Skip forward several years—okay decades—and I can only pity the girl I was then. That girl never knew I’d have a successful career working at IBM, Microsoft, and Intel—some of the biggest technology corporations in the world—or that I’d help launch a successful startup. She never guessed the satisfaction I’d get from volunteering for organizations whose missions I care about deeply. She couldn’t imagine that I would find my true calling and become a confident leader in the process. And she couldn’t have dreamed I would discover my path to changing the world.

I don’t want you to have to wait that long. I want you to have all of those things—the sooner, the better—because I know you can dream it, and those dreams can come true.

Maybe you think this sounds like something for other people—ones with money, IQ, connections, confidence, free time . . . whatever? Think again. Everyone can be a changemaker! And that includes you. As Craig wrote for Santa Clara University’s Architects of Peace project, “I realize, now, that each of us has the power to be Superman and to help rid the world of its worst evils—poverty, loneliness, and exploitation.”

You already have the ideas, the passion, the energy, and the talent! You will have to learn a few new skills—basic tools that will help you get the job done. And, you’ll have to work hard and do things you’ve never done before. But inside this book, you’ll find all the practical knowledge as well as the encouragement you need to go out and truly make a difference.

Each chapter will introduce you to young people who have already changed the world. You’ll see what they did, why they did it, and how they succeeded—or failed—so you can learn valuable lessons from their experiences. You’ll also gain a whole lot of knowledge and find many resources to help you do it yourself. Plus, you’ll discover some of the many existing organizations dedicated to helping people just like you.

Some of this information might seem a little overwhelming at first, but just take it in small doses if you need to, and work your way through it at your own pace. You don’t even need to read this whole book before you start something that matters! You can read it cover to cover before you begin, or just start whenever you’re ready and use this book as a reference along the way.

It’s true that changing the world—even a small part of it—is rarely easy. You might not end up accomplishing what you set out to do, or it might take longer than you expected. But don’t let that stop you! You can start creating the world you want to live in—today, tomorrow, and beyond—anytime you choose. You don’t have to do it all, and you don’t have to do it immediately. Just start something small, and see where it takes you. As Craig says in Free the Children, “It all begins when one person finds the courage to take action.”

You are the changemakers and the change. I’ve seen it, I believe it, and I know it to be true.

Monique Coleman, actress, founder and CEO of, speaking at We Day Seattle on March 27, 2013, attended by the author

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

1 It's Your Turn Now 1

Profile: Free the Children 2

Why Youth? 3

Why You? 4

You Can Do It 6

2 What's a Changemaker, Anyway? 9

Profile: Team Revolution 9

Changemakers and Social Entrepreneurs 11

Let's Go! 15

3 The Secret Formula 17

Profile: Actores de la Preventión (Prevention Actors) 18

Why This Chapter Matters 19

What's Your Passion? 19

What Are You Good At? 21

What Needs to Be Done? 22

Some Areas to Think About 24

Passion + Skill + Problem = Venture! 26

On Your Way 29

4 Researching Your Big Ideas 31

Profile: Project ORANGS 32

Getting Started 34

Save Everything! 35

Internet 35

Conducting Interviews 37

Surveys 41

Other Research Options 42

There Can Be Only One … For Now 43

5 Building Your Dream Team 45

Profile: Richards Rwanda 46

Common Positions and Titles 47

What to Look For 50

Who to Ask 51

How to Ask 51

Elevator Pitch 52

Holes in the Roles 53

Don't Worry If You Don't Have It All 54

Being a Leader 54

Leadership Tips 55

The Magic Words 56

What If Things Don't Work Out? 57

6 Enlisting a Savvy Adult 59

Profile: Greening Forward 59

Why You Need an Adult Mentor 61

Finding a Mentor 61

How to Approach a Potential Mentor 63

Sample Mentor Agreement 64

Advisors 66

It's Still Up to You 67

7 Meeting Magic 69

Profile: Girls Talk, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation 70

When and Where? 71

Breaking the Ice 71

Meeting Musts 77

Sample Agenda 77

Standard Operating Procedure 79

Unmeetings 80

Last Words of Wisdom 81

8 Business Planning 101 83

Profile: Team aWEARness, Transition House 84

Business Plan Basics 86

Putting It All Together 94

Sample Business Plan: Team aWEARness 94

A Plan Is Just a Plan 98

9 Money Matters 101

Profile: Youth Ultimate Project 102

Budget: Planning What Might Happen 103

Bookkeeping: Tracking What Did Happen 103

Banking 105

Taxes 106

Learning from the Numbers 109

Your Money Mind-Set 110

10 The Art of Making Money 113

Profile: Les Manos United 114

Donations 115

Grants 118

Make Your Own 121

Hybrids 124

Other Options 124

A Penny Saved 125

Doubling Back 125

11 How to Sell Well 127

Profile: Baking for Breast Cancer 127

What Is Marketing? 129

Branding 130

Promotion Tactics 131

Advertising 133

Making Your Own Marketing Campaign 135

12 Working the Media 137

Profile: StudentRND 137

Social Media 139

Traditional Media 141

Sample Press Release 143

Other Media Considerations 147

13 Speeches that Sparkle 149

Profile: Triple H (Homelessness, Hunger, Hope), Girls Inc. 150

First Impressions 151

Golden Opportunities 153

What to Say 155

How to Say It 158

Presentation Software 159

Networking 161

14 Event Planning Boot Camp 163

Profile: TEDxRedmond 164

To Event, or Not to Event? 165

Sample Event Budget 166

Planning 168

Checklists 172

Sample Event Planning Checklist 173

How Did You Do? 175

Is It Really Worth It? 176

15 Covering Your Assets 177

Profile: Change the World Kids 178

Risk Management 179

Personal Safety 182

Laws 182

Becoming Official 183

Taxes 187

Insurance 187

Other Financial Risks 188

Other Legal Issues 189

Working with Young People 189

Ask for Help When You Need It 190

16 Pairing Up for Perfect Partnerships 191

Profile: NeverSeconds 192

Why Partner? 193

Where to Find a Partner 195

How to Go About It 196

Sample Mind Map 197

Final Thoughts 199

17 Making It Last 201

Profile: Everybody Dance Now! 202

Sustainability 204

Avoiding Burnout 205

Hand-Off 206

Fresh Meat 208

The Multitudes 210

In It for the Long Haul 210

18 Now What? 213

Profile: Project Believe in Me 213

But, What About…? 215

Where Do You Go from Here? 217

Looking Forward, and Back 219

Acknowledgments 221

Resources 223

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