Milken Institute
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How do you turn good intentions into a movement?
By: Milken Institute
May 03, 2011
Social action can be driven by the same forces that can successfully market a product or service: a powerful narrative, a positive message, an emotional connection, and the activation of social and human networks.

Four groundbreaking innovators gathered at the 2011 Global Conference to discuss how they've been able to build and sustain movements to effect positive change. (Don't miss this inspirational video.)

As Participant Media's Jim Berk explained, "A story well told can empower and direct movements." Participant's mission is to create content - in the form of films, books, blogs and more - that inspires and compels social change.

Movember co-founder Adam Garone has also leveraged the power of a story to drive social change. "By changing your appearance, you can generate so much conversation," he said. After growing a mustache as part of a social experiment with 30 of his friends, he realized that the attention could be channeled for a good cause.

At the time, there was no real campaign promoting prostate cancer awareness. Movember - which encourages men to grow mustaches as a conversation starter to raise prostate cancer awareness - is now in nine countries with the message "Changing the face of men's health." As Garone emphasized, the message is positive and fun - it isn't about "fighting" something, but about changing it.

The founder of charity: water, Scott Harrison, knows what networks can do when mobilized around a compelling message. After spending a decade as a club promoter, Harrison traveled to Liberia, where he saw 7,000 patients waiting for 1,500 surgery slots outside of a stadium. When he learned that 80 percent of global disease is caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation, he decided to do something.

Harrison gave up his birthday - asking his 15,000 friends from his club promoter days to instead donate $20 to build wells. His ask worked. Now people around the world are giving up their birthdays and asking their friends to donate to charity: water. In the month of September alone, charity: water raised almost $1 million.

The veteran activist on the panel was Dolores Huerta. She originally coined the phrase "Yes, we can" ("Si, se puede!") to get farm workers to come together and stand up for their rights. In Huerta's words: "You have to tell people that they have power." If they can come together and work together, they can build an organization - they can make change. United Farm Workers trained organizers and then sent them into communities where they had to meet with 200 people in their homes to build a movement. "People have power," said Huerta. "They have to know how to use it."


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