2014 was an incredibly eventful year – in ways both positive and negative.
As grave injustices transpired in Ferguson and New York City; ISIS wreaked havoc on the Middle East; the Israel-Hamas War raged for months; the Ebola virus unnecessarily claimed so many lives, and much more, many of us struggled to find the most effective ways to voice our feelings and stand up in support of our beliefs.
Meanwhile (and thankfully), a number of positive changes also took place last year. To pinpoint a few: activists are calling 2014 a “super banner year” for marriage equality in the U.S., with 35 states now recognizing same-sex marriage; a grassroots movement to raise money for ALS research generated unprecedented awareness in a field that previously lacked visibility; Malala Yousafzai, a fierce advocate for female education, became the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize; and the social enterprise movement continued to gain traction. There is a great amount of good in the world.
As we start a new year, there is always a distinct focus on transformation. So, in looking back on 2014, our advice is this: This year, resolve to speak up. Increase awareness of injustices. Ask questions about things you don’t understand. Promote the good that is happening in the world. And if you’re able, don’t just talk about it – do something.
For inspiration, we’ve compiled some of our favorite TED Talks featuring people who are tackling prevalent social issues. Feel free to add to our list!
The Power of Vulnerability – Brené Brown
“I know that vulnerability is kind of the core of our struggle for worthiness, but it appears it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”
Over the past year, we’ve turned to Brené Brown for inspiration whenever we’re facing self-doubt, as she poignantly addresses the tendency for each of us to succumb to shame and fear. In this TED Talk, she discusses what it means to live a whole-hearted life, be our most authentic selves, dive into the unknown, and let ourselves be vulnerable.
This year, challenge yourself to take chances on things that are not guaranteed.
We Need to Talk About an Injustice – Bryan Stevenson
“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent. Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes. And yet, we seem to be very comfortable. The politics of fear and anger have made us believe that these are problems that are not our problems.”
Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, discusses a plethora of issues within the American justice system, starting with the racial imbalance in incarceration rates. In the United States, a third of our black male population has been incarcerated, and little is being done to change that.
This year, take the time to inform yourself about the injustices affecting every walk of life.
A Guerilla Gardener in South Central LA – Ron Finley
“South Central Los Angeles: Home of the drive-thru and the drive-by. The funny thing is, the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”
To combat the lack of access to healthy food in his LA neighborhood, Ron Finley plants gardens in vacant lots, near curbs, and on traffic medians. It started out as a small side project, and quickly grew into a movement. Gardening seems like a small act; but really, it can completely transform a community. Community gardens bring people together for a common good, offer healthy and affordable food options, and provide people with positive ways to spend their time.
This year, if you see a problem in your community (or beyond), see what you can do to fix it, even if your action may seem small.
The Way We Think About Charity Is Dead Wrong – Dan Pallotta
“The things we’ve been taught to think about giving, and about charity, and about the non-profit sector are actually undermining the causes we love, and our profound yearning to change the world.”
Dan Pallotta, founder of the Charity Defense Council, is a crusader for charities and non-profits. As the concept of doing well by doing good continues to gain traction in the business world, it’s crucial that we also apply it to the non-profit world. The belief that non-profits should operate on as little overhead as possible, funneling all of their money into their programs and services, hinders expansion, compromises talent, and stunts innovation.
This year, don’t be afraid to question your previously held beliefs.
How Great Leaders Inspire Action – Simon Sinek
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And if you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.”
Author Simon Sinek talks about “starting with why” whenever you explain what you do. When you take the time to discuss the origin of your passion, you will inspire action from others. His message is this: The people who pursue their passions clearly and unwaveringly are the ones who will make the greatest impact.
This year, follow your passions, and engage others by sharing your “why.” You’ll be amazed at how it can catch on!
If I Should Have a Daughter... – Sarah Kay
“It’s about gathering up all of the knowledge and experience you’ve collected up til now, to help you dive into the things that you don’t know.”
Sarah Kay is a spoken word poet and the founder of Project VOICE, an organization that uses spoken word poetry as a literacy and empowerment tool. She is a big proponent of using what we know as a way of making sense of the world, finding peace within ourselves, and starting important conversations.
This year, don’t be afraid to talk about the things that matter, and to share your story with others who might benefit from hearing it.
These are just a few of many amazing talks from people who are changing the world.
Get inspired, and use that momentum to help transform your year. There is no greater moment than now to make an impact, and there are so many ways that you can use your unique talents, interests, and passions to do it.
Happy New Year!