We are the people we’ve been waiting for: How to answer the question, ‘but what can I do?’
We are the people we’ve been waiting for: How to answer the question, ‘but what can I do?’
“I want to help. I know we need solutions that are transformative, not tokenistic. But I have no idea where to start.” - Almost every person alive and paying attention today
Hello and welcome, you are our people. Since Australia’s recent federal election especially, barely a week goes by where we don’t hear from someone asking this question in one of the following ways:
“I’m freaking out, or my kids are freaking out, that the world’s going to blow up if we don’t get our act together. I really need something bigger than signing a petition or bringing my keep cup, but I don’t know where to start. Tell me, how can I really make a difference?”
“Dear Australia reMADE, I love your vision. But what can we doooo about it?”
“Dear Australia reMADE, my organisation is keen to do good in the world, and we love your vision. How can we use it?” (If you most resonate with version C, you’ll find this article useful but you can also click here for more detailed resources written especially for organisations, which we’ll continue to expand on!)
Whatever version of that question you most relate to, we are here for you.
At Australia reMADE we exist to name what we want, map solutions, gather community, bridge divides and spread ideas that uplift us all. Together we’re wrestling with the challenges we face, the opportunities we have and big ideas we need to build an Australia that works for everyone.
We’re committed to a future where people and planet come first. Where the basic values of unity with nature, the equal worth of all people and the importance of community and interdependence are the foundations for how we work, live and play.
And we absolutely believe that no matter who you are, if the Vision of Australia reMADE speaks to you, you have a seat at the table to help make it happen.
That’s not to say it’s simple, or easy, or we have all the answers. But we’ve become pretty passionate about asking the right questions.
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work. But neither are you free to abandon it." - The Talmud
How can you (really) help? What can you really do? If you’re not sure where to start, start here:
Find out what is yours to do
Step 1: Find what is yours to do. If you’re not sure ‘what’ to work on, read the Vision for Australia reMADE, muse on it for a bit. Which lines, which pillars, put a fire in your belly? Also, think about what’s really getting to you? What do you have an emotional connection to, not just an intellectual concern about? That’s your starting point.
Look around. Do your research. Talk to people. Chances are there’s an organisation or group already doing great stuff that you can join. No need to reinvent the wheel. That includes many smaller, local groups who’d welcome a helpful person; and it includes larger groups (including the leaders in organisations that helped to start Australia reMADE).
If you want to start your own thing, don’t worry if you don’t know what on earth to do yet. Don’t worry if you hear the voice of Imposter Syndrome in your head, asking you who on earth you think you are. The best leaders we know still feel like they don’t have all the answers, because no one does. And the truly big, systemic changes are things that none of us can do alone anyway.
Tip: The best groups operate in a holistic way, serving more than one pillar or value at a time. So for example if you were going to run a tree planting day, you might think about how you could do it in a way that honours First Peoples, gets people from different backgrounds and abilities working side by side, or empowers young people.
Decide who you want to do it with
Step 2: Decide who you want to do it with. If you’re not sure who you want to work with, start by making a list or map of your circles of influence and belonging, the people and places you feel most connected to. For example:
People in close physical proximity: your home, apartment block, street, family’s school, university, suburb, men’s shed, community group or church.
People you’re most in touch with: family, colleagues, various friendship circles, mothers’ groups, sporting clubs.
Professional or financial circles: the organisation you work for, your wider network of peers, alumni, universities, boards, companies you own shares in or support as a customer.
Online networks: while trying to just start something with everyone you talk to online is probably too broad, starting something targeted you can invite key people to join is great.
When talking to people, don’t start with the absolute hardest-to-reach audience. Identify some low-hanging, or at least ‘ripe’ fruit.
The more likely you are to enjoy the experience of coming together, the better. The more empowering you think it could be to work towards a bigger goal together, the better.
Take the time to work out where the power of your community lies
Step 3. Take the time to work out where the power of your community lies. What are you known for? What qualities and characteristics define you? Are you young? Authoritative? Ambitious? Wealthy? Retired? Creative? Well-connected in the business or academic world? Experts about something? People with shared life experience? Social media mavens? Musicians? What binds you together?
If you’re choosing your street, neighbourhood or local area, same principle: what is interesting, unique, special about your community? Is it passionate about football? Is it under threat due to industry closure or because of extractive industries? According to ABS statistics is your neighbourhood wealthy? Is it full of lawyers or farmers? Is it full of voices that have power, or does it have hidden and unique stories? What do you love about where you live? What are you for and against?
Have a look at the Australian Bureau of Statistics for your region.
Think about what you know + the people in this community who are most well-connected and influential.
Again, you don’t have to have this all figured out ahead of time, but it helps to come to people with some thinking prepared about where you think your shared interests and power are.
Make a plan
Step 4: Make a plan
For this step, we recommend getting together with at least a few other people from the community you’ve chosen. Go back to step 1 and give everyone the opportunity to really own what it is you care about and want to work on together.
Maybe there’s a natural convergence around one big goal or issue. Or maybe everyone has different issues that speak to them but still want to do something all together. You can look at the vision as a whole, and how you might apply it to your organisation or community. You can form smaller groups to each work with the pillar or project of your choice.
Here are some rock-star questions we recommend to help chart your course:
What do we want? What’s our vision?
What is our vision of what we want? It’s great to start with this because it opens people up to possibility and imagination. (But then, you knew we were going to lead with that, didn’t you?)
What would it look like if this vision of what we want was already a reality everywhere?
What would it mean if this vision was already a reality within our own group/community (whatever group you’re working with)?
What has to change?
What is keeping us where we are now?
What needs to change for us to get where we want to go?
What can we do about it?
What can we do by ourselves?
What can we do to help others?
What do we need outside help from?
What do we need someone else to do entirely?
How can we make our work tap into something bigger?
Is there a model we can replicate?
Can we create a model for others to replicate?
Can our solution provide a domino effect that benefits others?
Can we go about this in a holistic way that supports our other pillars and values?
Are we pruning the problem or helping to dig out the roots?
Tip: The key here is to capture ideas and let people of differing views feel heard. Break up into smaller groups if needed. Go wild with the butcher’s paper and post-it notes. Bring snacks. Enjoy being together and sparking questions about the world you want and your part in creating that world. Report back to people capturing the full range of ideas, even if you disagree or can’t use them all. It’s how you bring people with you, build trust and connection.
Australia reMADE case study: divesting the suburbs!
Our National Coordinator, Millie, is always experimenting within her spheres of influence.
Post-election, she reached out to the local sustainability group. This group has been dormant for a while now as members lost clarity and direction. Once they’d done some bulk buys of solar hot water, solar panels and electric bikes, they faced the same challenge many groups face – how to make systemic change?
Thinking through her Australia reMADE lens, Millie approached the group with a few suggestions and some of the questions we list above:
- What can we do in our community now to create an Australia reMADE?
- What can outsiders help us with?
- Who needs our help?
- What do we need someone else to do entirely?
They began the process by thinking about who they are as a suburb. Millie lives in a location that ranks highly on the ABS socio-economic rankings. It is a suburb that tends to pride itself on caring for people and planet and has a strong community identity. It was recognition of this strong community identity that was Millie’s starting point.
One of her proposed ideas was that the community work out how to move its money out of investments that support the fossil fuel industry. Some back of the envelope calculations suggest that this community can move significant money out of mortgages, superannuation and insurance providers that also invest in fossil fuels and contribute to climate change.
By finding credit unions, banks, mortgage lenders and superannuation companies that don’t fund the fossil fuel industry, residents of Millie’s suburb plan to dramatically reduce local money going to projects that cause climate change; while also looking at how they can reinvest their money with lenders and projects doing good and strengthening communities that need it most.
This project is in its early stages we’ll let you know how they go!
Step 5: Get started!
Where to from here will depend so much on what you decide to do. But there are still a few universal things to keep in mind.
For those of you new to this work, or wondering how anything could ever feel like enough... just remember that hope comes from action, and starting something is important.
Also, learning to make systemic change is a process. It’s like learning to run, you can’t just get off the couch and win the marathon.
So practice! Get it wrong, have a go, share the fails and celebrate the wins with us because we all need to learn. Keep it joyful. Choose progress over perfection. Bring people with you. Remember that the real stuff that changes the world, and changes our lives, is often boring and unsexy. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong, yeah?
No matter what happens, you’re actively contributing to creating Pillar Six: a country of flourishing communities. That alone is a very worthy goal. Ask any social researcher, organiser, psychologist, policy-maker, teacher, pastor or parent. Communities matter.
And you’re going to grow from this experience too. You’ll be wiser, more confident and more empowered to lead from where you are. The best work doesn’t just transform something on the outside, it changes us from the inside.
You got this. And we’re here for you.
Got a story to share? Question to ask? Get in touch with us at Info@AustraliareMADE.org.
Lilian Spencer is a writer and communications advisor for mission-driven organisations. She helped craft the Australia reMADE Vision and now leads Australia reMADE’s ongoing communications strategy and engagement work.
Lily believes that the secret to change is to “focus your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” (-Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman)