Things DO Change

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Purpose: Whether we realise it or not, we focus our attention on the present moment, and don’t notice that change is happening around and within us.  On top of that, we tend to compare the present situation with a desired future and think that change towards it is very slow moving!

Process 1: Take a moment to think about what social changes have occurred in your lifetime, particularly related to racial, gender and sexuality, and environmental values and behaviours  …

Write these down in your Joyality Journal.

Now think about the stories you have been told by your parents about their childhoods and young adult lives. What changes in racial, gender and environmental values and behaviours have occurred in their lifetimes? What is different for you compared to when your parents were your age?

Write these down in your Joyality Journal.

Now think even further back, to the stories your grandparents have told you about what the world was like when they were growing up. What changes in values have occurred between their lifetimes and yours?

Write these down in your Joyality Journal.

Reflection: Looking back only a few generations, through the lives of people that we know and love, we can see that change does happen and that values that seem immovable transform. Many people who were alive at the beginning of the 20th century thought that women would never have the vote, or have the educational or career opportunities that we experience today. When African Americans, Australian Aborigines and Black South Africans were still legally segregated from ‘whites’  in schools, transport, and areas of towns in the 1950’s most people thought that would not change. Even in the early 2000’s it was hard to believe that so many people, businesses and governments would be taking such an interest in environmental issues and solutions as they are today.  When issues are institutionalized like this, it can be hard to see how things could ever change. Yet because some people maintained a clear and passionate vision of a better world and fought for that vision, things changed.

Process 2: Now think about yourself and your own life.

How have you changed over the past year? The past five years? The past ten years?

Write this down in your Joyality Journal.

Reflection: You see yourself everyday so you probably don’t notice yourself changing most of the time. But when you look back at the person you were even one year ago, you probably feel very different than you did then. You are constantly changing, evolving, growing up, expanding your views and your horizons, and deepening your capacity to live well in this world and work to heal it.


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Reframing “Radical” and “Activist”

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Process: On a blank page in your Joyality Journal do a quick free association with the word “radical”. Just write whatever words or phrases come into your mind when you say the word radical, don’t censor yourself, write as many as you can think of.

When you are finished do the same thing for the word “activist”.

When you are done with both, look back at what you have written down.

What words came up? Common ones might be “crazy”, “angry”, “in your face”, “passionate” or “unrealistic”. The words “radical” and “activist” have come to carry negative connotations for many people and can produce a lot of discomfort and a desire not to be associated with these identities.

In order to creative rapid, effective, and positive change in the world it is crucial to redefine what words like “radical” and “activist” mean to us. The word “radical” literally means “of or going to the root”; the radicle is the first root a plant puts out when it germinates, and anchors the plant in the Earth allowing it to grow. The word “activist” simply means someone who acts intentionally to bring about social, political, economic or environmental change. It doesn’t specify that one must stand on street corners badgering pedestrians or march in the street waving signs in protest. These are all legitimate ways to be an activist, and we need those people out in the streets, but if that’s not for you, it’s okay, you can still be an activist.

Are there any other words that feel better for you to identify with, that describe your motivations and actions to make the world a better place?

Reflection: Just allow yourself to sit with  the following statements, say them to yourself, either silently or out loud:

  • “I am an activist.”
  • “I am radical.”
  • “I am …. whatever alternative labels you came up with … changemaker, change agent, advocate, etc.”

Just notice your feeling state, scanning your body and focusing on your feelings and sensations, in response to each one.  Adopt one for your own personal use … the one that feels most empowering and nurturing for you.  But also practise feeling okay about the other words, in case other people label you that. Breathe and be. Know that they are all just labels, socially constructed reality that, to some extent, we can choose.

Free write in your journal if that feels good.

Know that we are all active in some way, even if we don’t see ourselves that way. Even if it is only as consumers, that still makes us activists for the economy, and for a particular type of economy at that. We cannot escape the fact that our choices and actions, however small, have rippling effects across the globe and throughout the planet’s ecosystems, even though we do not personally see or feel them. Our extractive and globalized economy ensures this fact.

We see then, that one does not have to march in a protest waving hand-painted signs or stand on a street corner aggressively asking people to donate to this human rights organization or that environmental protection group. We all know those activists, and though their intentions are good and their passion is inspiring, they usually do not succeed in convincing us to support their cause. This is because their strategy touches on our guilt and our privilege, and more often than not this causes people to avert their eyes, walk faster, feel defensive, and try to put as much physical, mental and emotional space between themselves and those starving children or drowning polar bears. This does not have to be what activism looks like. In fact – if we want to create rapid, positive and inclusive change – this style of communication is often not the most effective strategy.

Source: Written by Rachel Taylor, based on a process created by Eshana Bragg for her ‘Action for Social Change’ workshop, SIT Study Abroad ‘Sustainability and Environmental Action’ program (2008).


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What is Your Issue/Passion?

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This process is designed to help you find a “seed” for a Passion Action or Passion Project. This might be a very simple action (deciding not to use plastic straws), or a large ambitious project (eg., starting a new political party!).  It can be something completely new in your life, that you’ve not thought of before. It may be something you’ve been wanting to do for awhile but keep putting off, or it can be a project you’ve been working on for a while and want to take some new steps with. This is your chance to channel your energy into something you care about deeply, and get lots of support along the way. You will be developing and working with this “Passion Action” throughout the course of the Joyality Program.


Think of an issue, a particular problem, or something you feel really passionate about. (Although we all have issues and problems in our personal lives, this is an opportunity to focus on something that has broader effects on ecosystems, society and the planet.) It can be an issue you are already working on, something that really upsets you, or something that you really love and want to protect.

Try to pick something that is specific and manageable, not so broad or vague that you get totally lost and overwhelmed. For instance, if you’re passionate about the issue of the waste of resources and the pollution it creates, instead of focusing on “waste” , try something more like “waste in coffee shops” or “waste at our local school”. This way you have a point of focus and a defined community in which to take action. Now turn the issue into a challenge. “Zero waste in coffee shops” or “waste reduction at our local school”.

If you’re feeling stuck or confused, look back in your journal to the What is it you want to sustain? exercise to help yourself focus on what you care most about preserving in this world. This might remind you of things that are particularly threatening to what you love and/or particular skills or avenues you have to create change.


Write your issue/problem and challenge down in your Joyality Journal. Writing it down helps you solidify it in your mind and serves as a kind of mental commitment to that issue.

Write a bit about how you feel about this issue, “I feel … “.

Write a bit about how you would feel if this issue was resolved, healed or transformed, if we met or addressed the challenge, “I would feel …”.

Now, take it one step further and identify just one action you can take right now that relates to or helps to solve the issue you are passionate about. For instance, if the challenge you have chosen is “zero waste in coffee shops”, your action could be bringing a reusable coffee cup with you everyday so you don’t use disposable cups anymore. Choose something that is realistic, but that you are not doing already. Remember that, although it may seem small, if everyone took this action it would change the world.


After you have written down this seed of your Passion Action, take a moment to close your eyes and imagine billions of people across the planet taking this simple, realistic action. How would that change the world? How does that feel?

Now come back to focusing on your own self, and reflect on the (likely) assumption that you alone, as one person, taking this action will not “make any difference” at all. We understand the pull of this assumption, it feels really true sometimes!

However, your impact is likely to ripple out in unexpected ways, through having conversations with people and others witnessing your action. You might inspire others to take the action with you! Additionally, taking positive action towards something you care about has positive psychological and emotional impacts and maybe even a positive physical influence on your health. Aligning your daily actions and choices with your core values about life is a deeply empowering and satisfying thing to do. It can help you feel more purposeful and positive in yourself and your life, and more in control of things you care about. It often has a cascading, self re-enforcing effect, empowering you to make other changes in your life you never thought possible and aligning your reality even more closely with your values.

What personal benefits do you think taking this Passion Action might have on your life and well-being? (We will explore this further in Your Passion Action: Identify Barriers and Benefits)

“Almost anything you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. ”

            – Gandhi

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Your Resource Matrix

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Purpose: This exercise helps you to identify the resources and strengths you already have that can be used to create positive change towards a sustainable future (or, more specifically, in your passion action).

Preparation: On a blank sheet draw two lines to divide the page into four quadrants. Label the first quadrant “personal qualities and passions”, the second “skills, experience and knowledge”, the third “physical resources and tools”, and the fourth “connections with people and organizations”.

This exercise can be done individually or with a friend, but doing it with a friend can be more fun and perhaps easier as well. If you are doing it with another person, trade papers so you are writing in each others journals and take turns completing the exercise with one person asking the questions and recording the answers in the other persons journal as they answer.

Process: Try to be as thorough and specific as possible with this exercise, and focus on strengths  that you can use to be a powerful positive changemaker. You might find it easiest to write in dot-points inside each quadrant.

What personal qualities and passions would make you a good change maker?

  • What issues really fire you up?
  • What do you love doing?
  • What qualities or character traits to do you have?

What skills, experiences and knowledge do you have that would be useful for bringing positive change?

  • What academic or work experiences do you have?
  • What issues or subjects do you know a lot about?
  • What interpersonal, technical or physical skills do you have?

What physical resources and tools do you have access to that could be useful?

  • This can include things like financial resources, communication resources, or transportation resources. These are often things we take for granted as “normal”, forgetting the power and abilities they give us.

What connections do you have with people and organizations?

  • Who do you know?
  • Who do members of your family know?
  • What groups, clubs or organizations are you or have you been a part of?
  • What personal, academic and/or professional relationships do you have?

Spend 5 minutes to write yourself a short ‘bio’ paragraph as if you were about to give a public talk, presentation at a conference or workshop, based on some of the dot points you’ve recorded on the page. Start your bio with “[Your name] is a powerful changemaker who …”.  Better still, if you are doing this with a friend, write bios for each other!

Reflection: How do you feel after doing that exercise? We often forget all the qualities, skills, resources and connections that we already have and therefore we forget how much we are actually capable of doing NOW.  It can be easy to feel like you don’t know enough, or don’t have enough experience or power to affect any change. We have a cultural habit of relegating our dreams and our happiness to the future, and anchoring them to circumstances. We do the same with our power. We hope this exercise helps you realize that, while your potential is limitless, you already have everything you need to get started.

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Source: Eshana Bragg, inspired by an exercise from Katrina Shields (1991), In the Tigers Mouth: An Empowerment Guide for Social Action (pp.21-22).

Your Passion Action: Identify Barriers and Benefits

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Purpose: This is a simple but critical exercise in creating change, whether on an individual, community or social/political/economic scale.

Preparation: From now on in the Joyality Program, let’s call the actions you just identified that you (and others) could take toward your issue/passion your “passion action”. You will be able to refine your passion action as we journey through the Joyality Program, so allow yourself to be creative with the process.

Process: Underneath where you’ve written your passion action in your Joyality Journal, draw a vertical line down the middle of the page. Now, to think about what the barriers and benefits are related to your passion action, ask yourself a few questions:

Barriers (write these down the left hand side of the page):

  1. What is stopping you from taking this action?
  2. What will be hard about taking this action?
  3. Are there any skills or resources you need and don’t have in order to undertake it?
  4. Are there psychological or social barriers to taking this action?
  5. How will you overcome, deal with or address these barriers? (write these down the right hand side of the page, beside each of the barriers)


  1. What are the benefits to you in taking this action? How will your life be better if you do this?
  2. What benefits are there psychologically and emotionally? Physically? Socially?
  3. What are the benefits to other people and the planet when you take this action? Describe these in some detail … what will the world be like if the issue you are addressing is resolved, healed or transformed?
  4. Will taking this action make it easier for you to take other actions?

Reflection: Now that you have identified the barriers and benefits of the action you have chosen to take, you have a much better understanding of what taking this action will involve. You will be prepared for the challenges and take them in stride instead of allowing them to discourage you. You also have a clearer idea of why taking this action is important to you and how your life will be better if you do this.

Source: This process was developed by Eshana Bragg and Rachel Taylor, inspired by the community based social marketing approach developed by environmental psychologists Doug Mackenzie-Mohr and William Smith (1999).


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