Everyone a Changemaker

The citizen sector's path to a better world.

To make the world a better place, many people for many years saw government as the employer of choice. Government remains the most powerful instrument of change. But another sector, run by ordinary and extraordinary citizens, is proving far more innovative-and more attractive to bright young changemakers. Two speakers at Government Executive's July 15 Excellence in Government conference explored the dichotomy. Both are leaders in the pursuit of a better society and more responsive government and both held appointive federal positions before deciding they could be more effective working from the outside. Patricia McGinnis has spent the past 14 years as president of the Council for Excellence in Government. Its focus has been to improve the operations of the federal executive branch, with an emphasis on deepening the knowledge of career officials, promoting a better understanding between them and their political bosses, and boosting public appreciation of the challenges and achievements of the public service.

As McGinnis steps down this year, the good government community loses one of its guiding lights. But perhaps she's had enough. When I asked her if she believes government has been improving, she noted long-term advances in fields including public health and environmental and consumer protection, but observed that "lack of leadership, bipartisanship and political will on the part of our elected [especially] and appointed officials have stymied progress on many tough, complicated challenges."

Bill Drayton long ago gave up counting on government for social change. In 1981, he founded Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, named after a long-ago Indian emperor who was a social innovator, and began promoting the importance of "social entrepreneurs." Now operating as a kind of social venture capital organization, Ashoka is investing in hundreds of people and their ideas around the world. Their inspiring stories are told in Ashoka's book series, Leading Social Entrepreneurs and in How to Change the World (Penguin Books, 2005) by journalist David Bornstein.

Most of the work has been abroad, where technologically simple but organizationally difficult changes can bring electricity or clean water or better health practices to impoverished populations. New ways of providing drip irrigation, a huge productivity-enhancer for farmers, have achieved sufficient scale to attract capital from private sector players with a social conscience, encouraging Drayton to believe that business will get behind the increasingly sophisticated entrepreneurs of the fast-growing "citizen sector."

Drayton now is focusing on the next generation. An American Ashoka fellow, J.B. Schramm, was chosen for his College Summit idea, which brings together hundreds of low-income high school seniors for four-day workshops to complete college applications. Most end up in college, laying the foundation for pulling their families into the middle class. For younger kids, Drayton is promoting systematic teaching of empathy. And Youth Venture, another organization he founded, finds sources of support for middle and high school students who have ideas for initiating social change. Drayton believes that the impulse for doing good must be unleashed among lower income children whose parents and schools don't provide as much support as is found in higher income communities. And he reasons that a taste of success early will encourage young people to continue seeking change when they become adults.

Thus Drayton, who has won many awards for his work, restlessly keeps looking for new paths to social betterment. His central goal now is to achieve a world in which "everyone is a changemaker." Government, he says, should both embrace such people and help create the conditions in which changemaking can succeed in society at large. This year's change-talking presidential candidates, and others devoted to public service, would do well to listen to his iconoclastic ideas.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.