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Be the Change You Wish to See

The quote “BE the change you wish to see in the world” is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, an Indian lawyer, anti-colonialist, and political ethicist.

Changemakers are people who spot an opportunity or a need to be fulfilled that will benefit others and the broader society.

They then innovatively and creatively do something to start the process of change.

In search of solutions to fulfil a need or effect a change, changemakers do things differently, which includes reinventing rules, processes and procedures.

As they make changes that benefit others, changemakers influence and inspire others to join them.

The one thing changemakers have in common is a deep-rooted sense of empathy for others.

Other characteristics include being visionary, committed, resilient and of high integrity.

Although the term ‘changemaker’ has been used for years to describe these unique people, it was popularised by former United States president Bill Clinton.

He routinely recognised and acknowledged his wife Hillary to be a changemaker, citing her pioneering role in many spheres of life.

Ask anyone to name changemakers of contemporary times, and an immediate response is likely to be the tech billionaire entrepreneur and investor Elon Musk, the young Swedish girl and climate change activist Greta Thunberg, or the computer geeks who led the digital revolution – Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs.

Other notable changemakers from the annals of history include the English poet and playwright William Shakespeare, civil rights activists Martin Luther King, Junior and Rosa Parks, scientists Marie Curie, Alexander Fleming and liberation struggle icon-turned-statesmen Nelson Mandela.

However, there are so many others who are lesser known and resultantly are not acknowledged for the changes they make or have made.

For those changemakers there was never international fame and acclaim, yet their changes made a difference in their community and country.

And if you cast your mind back you will in all likelihood even remember people for the changes they made to your life.

Attending the Franschhoek Literary Festival in South Africa in May, I met two changemakers who made a difference in that country’s business arena.

The annual event brings together book writers and book lovers at Franschhoek.

Two writers who, in my view, should be recognised as changemakers are Jeff van Rooyen and Lincoln Mali.

The books they penned are excellent and recommended reads.

Born into poverty in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township, from such humble beginnings and against all odds Van Rooyen became one of South Africa’s first black chartered accountants.

He established an association that did wonderful work encouraging young black people to enter accounting and auditing professions.

Van Rooyen’s book is titled ‘Unshackled: My Journey from the Township to the Boardroom’, and his legacy is that the work of the association he founded continues to this day.

As for Mali: His changes resulted in a shake-up in South Africa’s corporate world.

Jailed as a student activist, Mali heeded his father’s advice after being incarcerated and resumed his studies, and then used his education as a powerful weapon against apartheid.

Read Mali’s book, ‘Blazing A Trail: Lessons for African Leadership’, and you will see why he, like Van Rooyen, are indeed changemakers.

It is never too late to be a changemaker by being the change you wish to see.