Yesterday I attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women. There were 10,000 women in attendance and it was a fascinating day.
As an introvert who listens and observes before jumping into conversations, I was so encouraged to hear many women discussing changing the world. The lawyer who works on issues of eliminating poverty, teachers connecting kids to their passions, the good men of State Street Bank who came to support their female colleagues, the big pavilion in the middle of the exhibit hall collecting donations for those in need (also sponsored by State Street. I think that’s where the guys hung out. That booth was hopping!).
Blake Mycoskie was a great keynote speaker. As the founder of TOMS Shoes, he built his company from the beginning to give back to those in need. TOMS has a unique One for One business model. For each shoe they sell, the donate a pair to a child in need. They have also extended their product line to sunglasses and are giving a pair of corrective glasses to those in need for every pair of sunglasses sold. The cool thing about TOMS is it started with the mission to give shoes away from the beginning. Blake didn’t decide that giving shoes was a nice idea. He started with the idea that kids in third world countries need shoes and he built a business to meet that need.
The Be the Change Award went to Judy Giovagelo, Executive Director of Ben Speaks Louder Than Words. Her son Ben had special mental health needs and was bullied as a child. He took his life at 18 years old. Through her movement, Bigger than Bullying, Judy teaches teens to engage in a mindset of collaboration and contribution, rather than competition, and asks kids to address their inner bully and cultivate a loving heart. Wow.
For all the enthusiasm among the few people I connected with yesterday, I noticed a few things that bring up questions of how many will actually do the work of world changing. For all the energy on the stages, the audience wasn’t all that fired up. Applause was sparse and follow up questions minimal. You would think a room of 10,000 could get loud. It never did.
Psychologists call this phenomena “social loafing.” When we are in a big group, we assume everyone else will do the work, so we can sit back and do nothing.
We social loaf when we don’t clap in a room of 10,000 other people listening to the same speech. We also social loaf when we think people like Blake and Judy will change the world on our behalf. They have a corner of the world. There’s still much more to change.
I’m inspired by all of the beautiful women I met yesterday and hope many of us can take the inspiration we felt and carry it forward into our lives, daily doing the work to change the world.
On a day when we all remember the powerful work of Nelson Mandela, I’ll wrap up with this (and thanks to Lisa D’Alessio for sharing this):
For those that seek to make a change in the world, whether global or local, one lesson of his life is this:
You can make a difference.
You can stand up to insurmountable forces.
You can put up with far more than you think you can.
Your lever is far longer than you imagine it is, if you choose to use it.
If you don’t require the journey to be easy or comfortable or safe, you can change the world.
Are you committed to bring change into your part of the world? How will you start?