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How do you make a difference?

In this video, we hear from people across Bristol about the many ways in which individuals can make a change in the world.
The work that I do makes change happen by working both on an individual company basis, so you can help an individual and user solve a particular problem that they have, but also on a global perspective that by adding up the impact of each individual customer that we work with, that can have a significant impact on a global level. I think that one of Happy City’s biggest roles is to ask really good questions. I’m a real believer of the fact that if we ask really powerful questions you get people having conversations. I don’t need to tell people the answers to what really matters to them. They know the answers but we need people to be having those conversations more.
Diversifying people’s thoughts and ideas is not just about everyone having the same thoughts and processes that follow through with universal concepts. It’s about different interpretations and perceptions from person to person because without diversity things get quite bland, quite linear, quite boring. And I think the most important thing about people is that we have a good working relationship here and a we have a very fair and sustainable relationships between us, but also we’re very careful about the materials, we’re very aware of the environment, we recycle as much as we can, and um, and I think we’re as progressive in our industry as we possibly can be.
Well we’re making an impact by introducing good standards, good practices, and good methods along the coastline for people to follow. We caused a change in their behaviours which I think is really important because that causes a butterfly effect. So by being involved in this project for example, I became really really aware of this issue and now I’ve changed everyone around me with just the way I’ve changed my everyday life and how I organise myself to not waste food. Well since I started the University has grown probably by a third. Every measure you want to go by; the number of staff, the number of students, the size of the estate, the turnover, it’s gone up by a third.
Yet we’ve still managed to reduce energy and to reduce carbon emissions. The expertise I bring as well as what I like to think is the passion that I have, is actually changing things and making things happen and I do think that bringing that combination of passion and drive and expertise and experience is really crucial. In terms of having impact the key thing in all of this is scale, for example, if I change how our workplace cafeteria stocks their food then that is almost certain in a very short space of time to have a much larger impact than me changing my diet for my entire life.
Same thing with charity partnerships you can, if you’re in a company you can find really high impact charities sort of, ones that focus on extreme poverty, global development, well evidenced and you can link them up with your corporate foundations or your charity partnerships and, so yeah scale is crucial to all of this in terms of having impact. By not encouraging or inviting people to just do less or be less, we encourage people to do more, to think, to question and to innovate. So really as an organisation we’re facilitators. So our job is to find the best entrepreneurs and support them to grow. So I guess we help change happen by helping other people let change happen.
And you know, the better we support those people to do great things the more impact that you know, we see in the communities we support. So I think making change happen is through small conversations sometimes that make people think. To me it’s again the novelty. What are the new ideas out there? How do I bring people together to make those work? How do I bring people together to come up with completely new ideas for sustainability? That is my particular interest. It takes a lot of research and development to get something out into the market. So in the case of electric vehicles, or hydrogen vehicles you need to be confident of the technology.
So our research and our testing and development leads us towards that goal. Change happens through people so my work is very much about talking to people, influencing people, persuading them to do things in a different way perhaps. We take a very multi-pronged approach to making change happen so my days are very varied. Sometimes I’ll be kind of like out protesting on the streets, other days I’ll be sat round boardroom tables trying to kind of, lobby and schmooze the powerful to make decisions on behalf of the students. Occasionally it’s in kind of writing papers and trying to get approvals for policy change. It’s massively varied.
So I don’t just want other academics to read my work, you know, I do want academics to read my work but I also want people anywhere to read my work, and to have their thinking challenged if not changed as a result of reading it. To at least encounter thinking differently. In my case about others who are from a different ethnic or racial group. My work can help make change happen because it’s not through my own personal work. It’s through how other people use my work and use the work that I try and help, help them do, and I guess that sort of domino effect is the real sort of impact that we can get from this.
I think the kind of work that I do makes change happen just by its long term nature. Seeing children from preventable disease, suffering from very easily preventable disease, that is where we make a change. and also making a change in terms of maternal and child mortality rate in Ethiopia. Through linking and and taking out doctors from here, working there, giving training and encouraging people, and recognising people’s own efforts on the ground as well. Not just looking at people in deficit terms but actually to celebrate how much they are doing with little that they have and through that interaction, through that process of making relationships and networking we are making change.

There are many ways we can all make a difference in the world, whether big or small.

It’s normal to feel like any attempt you make towards creating a change would be insignificant. However, it often takes a lot of small actions, as well as people with different types of interest or expertise coming together, to make a true difference.

As Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have said,

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

Watch the video, think about what is said, and add some thoughts to the comments:

  • In what ways are the people you see in the video making a difference to the world around them?
  • What ways appeal to you and why?
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