As the new year kicks off, it's a good time to think about goals for the year. Of course, we all have our own personal aspirations (e.g. exercise more, learn a new language, etc. etc.), but hey, you wouldn't be visiting Youthink! in the first place, if your goals were purely personal...
So, for those of you dreaming of a better world (and Nobel Peace Prizes), here are a few ideas for making a change this year, one small step at a time:
1. Ask More Questions
If Newton had simply picked up the apple and chomped it up, rather than questioning why it fell, he may not have discovered gravity. Point being, it can be quite fruitful (no pun intended) to poke around and question things we see in the world around us, whether you want to go philosophical (e.g. "Why is there so much inequality?"), or have a more specific approach (e.g. "Who Are Charismatic Species?"). In fact, we've asked you before and we're asking again: If you have development-related questions, send them our way and we'll do our best to get you the answers and post them to the site. Emphasis on "development-related"—if you want to know why Tom always loses the fight against Jerry, you probably won't get an answer (though I agree, his constant defeat is unfair).
2. Read More
Books, newspapers, magazines, Youthink!...all can be great sources of info. Even fiction can be enlightening, so don't listen to those bores who tell you to read only non-fiction (believe me, I've met lots of them). Just the other day, while reading a novel, I learned that people in South Asia chew on twigs of the neem tree to clean their teeth and use its leaves to keep insects away. Anyway to change the world, it's a good idea to understand it first, and reading can only help.
3. Do Random Acts of Kindness
This may be a cliché, but it's a meaningful one. We don't often realize the effect that simply smiling and being friendly can have on others, or pausing to let someone pass first, or writing to someone you've been out of touch with. For some great ideas, check out We Are What We Do and Do Something.
4. Spout it Out
Ok, you don't want to become an annoying know-it-all who turns every conversation into a moral lecture, but spreading a little awareness amongst your friends and family can be a good thing. Many people, what with busy schedules or just lack of interest, are unaware of some stark realities in the world today. You might get them thinking about things by dropping some thought-provoking facts every now and then, such as: More than 1 billion people don't have access to clean water and 73 million children around the world are out of school. Maybe you could organize an after-dinner quiz at home.First brush up on your worldly-knowledge by browsing the issues.
Team up with friends, pick a cause and raise some cash. There are plenty of ways you can do this: have a bake sale in your school or neighborhood, or get rid of clutter by organizing a yard sale. Got stage fever? How about putting on a talent show, play, or concert in your school or community? Or, try nagging people you know for their spare change (make sure you let them know it's for a good cause). You can also start a blog, or use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, to get the word out.
6. Spare some Moolah for Microfinance
A great way to make a difference is by donating to poor entrepreneurs and help them get their projects off the ground. Kiva is a fantastic website where you can choose a project to loan money to and monitor its progress. GlobalGiving is another great site where you can donate money to projects in low-income communities.
7. Just Do Some Thinking
Sometimes action has to be preceded by inaction. In other words, introspection can lead to innovation. Get those mental wheels turning and you never know what brilliant ideas and inventions might hit you. When you're ready to take the world by storm with your ideas, you can have your say right here on our blog! You can also join the communities at Changemakers, Ideas4Development, or Conversations For a Better World. Taking some time out to look inward can also help release stress and create inner peace. Moreover, it will make you seem profound and philosophical, thereby impressing your friends. (Well, either that, or getting branded a weirdo, but that's a chance you'll have to take...)
8. Teach Someone Something
It's known as the "noble profession," and there have been many legendary teachers throughout history, from Confucius to Socrates to Annie Sullivan. You can join their ranks (sort of), by imparting your wisdom to willing victims; perhaps a younger sibling or cousin? Or, depending on where you live, you may know people who are illiterate and would appreciate some reading lessons. Word of advice: do not, repeat do not, punish slow (or maybe just more philosophical) learners by jabbing them with pencils the way my sister used to do to me.
9. Plant a Tree, Prepare Compost, Start Recycling, Take Shorter Showers
You didn't really think I'd ignore the environment, did you?! In fact, there is so much to say on this issue that the only option is to lump it all under one heading. I am sure most of you are familiar with the different ways you can care for our Earth, so this is just a quick reminder. There are tons of websites out there that provide concrete tips and ideas for everyday steps you can take. Here are just a few:
10 Simple Steps from Conservation International
12 Steps to Kick the CO2 Habit from UNEP
Live Green! from WWF
10. Don't Worry, Be Happy!
This is my personal favorite, because there's nothing like optimism for making a positive change. True, the world can seem pretty messed up sometimes, but worrying and stressing seldom accomplish much. Instead, let's resolve this year, to be cheerful and to spread the feeling!
What are your ideas for a better world in 2010? Got anything to add here? Share your thoughts in the comment form!