“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”Mother Teresa
This week, International Women’s Day has caused a flurry of activity across social media. With their invitation to #choosetochallenge, IWD has invited people across the world to cast a stone. By raising our hand, posting our photos and using the hashtag we have created our ripples on the pond of gender equality.
But without persistence, ripples on the pond fade. Unless we keep making the active choice to cast a stone, again and again, and unless we recruit others to cast their stones too, our impact fades and the water stills. It is only through persistent action by many, by creating a movement, that we create the choppy waters of change.
At Becoming, we help women lead unapologetic lives. We help them, not only to create change for themselves, but to consider how they share that change, that new-found freedom and wisdom with others. We help them to create and sustain ripples in their homes, workplaces and communities that leave the world in a better place.
So lets think about how you can create and sustain ripples:
Identify your passion
The International Women’s Day hashtags are brilliantly selected to appeal to the broadest group of people. 2019’s #balanceforbetter, 2020’s #eachforequal and this year’s #choosetochallenge are all inclusive hashtags that are easy for individuals and organisations to connect with. Whether you’re passionate about the general topic of women’s equality, or a very specific segment of it such as disabled, black, LGBTQ+ women, or even a non-gender specific issue such as child poverty, you can find a link from your issue to the IWD’s call to action.
But in order for it to be something that you will sustain, it needs to be something close to your heart. It is sometimes too easy for individuals and organisations to jump on the bandwagon of an issue, without being able to demonstrate how they are committed to it for the long-term. So, do your research and find the issue that speaks to your heart. Once you find your passion, you’ll be motivated to cast those stones all day long.
Find your collaborators
One person, casting a stone, does not make a movement. It takes a crowd, all passionate about the issue at hand, to create the kind of ripples that make change. As Derek Sivers explains “The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader”.
This article from the BBC analyses the growth of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Notably, it focuses on the intentional, decentralized nature of its leadership. “Group centred leadership is in our guiding principles”. Movements are about more than one person, you need to recruit more people. And you need to be inclusive about who you recruit. “The movement now includes many of diverse backgrounds, who had previously not felt connected to the cause”.
And of course, it isn’t always necessary to be the leader, to create the movement. It is just as valuable to be a follower, to be a collaborator.
“The truth is that there are amazing individuals working within movements who are not always the focus of the story, but the story wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for them”Malini Sekhar and Annie Plotkin-Madrigal
Focus on solutions
An effective movement impacts the issue that it is focused on. It is not about generally doing good. It is about finding specific solutions that create shift and change.
For example, the HeforShe movement doesn’t just campaign for gender equality, it specifically equips men with tools to help them stand in solidarity with women. Or Speak Out Revolution doesn’t just talk about the issue of harassment and bullying in the workplace. Instead, they gather data through their survey, and use it to launch targeted campaigns in specific industries or on specific issues.
So, it isn’t just about casting a stone, but which stone, into which pond?
And lastly, a movement is only a movement if it attracts attention. Greta Thunberg caught the attention of the world very quickly, going from a protest in Sweden in 2018 to a speech in front of the UN and being named Time Person of the Year in 2019. But attracting attention can also require persistence. The Black Lives Matter movement started in 2013, but only really reached global momentum in 2020, and is now nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2021.
So, you need to figure out how you will attract and keep attention – whether that is in your local community, your country or globally. Who do you want to witness you casting your stones, and creating your ripples?
The call from International Women’s Day to step up and #choosetochallenge is a compelling one. But there is the risk that once we have cast our stones, the ripples fade again. To keep those ripples spreading, and to create the choppy waters of change, you need to start or join a movement. What will yours be?