Breaking the Bad: Self-motivation & Collective Agency


Apr 10, 2017

What Motivates you?

In this time of uncertainty, it is so easy to become misguided and lost as you navigate the controlled chaos of transitioning from student to professional. When you are faced with tough life decisions compounded with constant news that challenges your moral compass, these barriers can suck the wind right out of your sails.

 We get it, we’ve all been there, cramming late nights for exams to get good grades, hustling to get an internship for the summer, and managing personal relationships with friends and family. All the while, we have to be thinking about your own future. And did we mention the state of the world? The threat of climate change, rising sea levels, dying ecosystems, deteriorating air and water quality, resource depletion, disease and famine, political unrest and the global refugee crisis; the list goes on and on. The question comes to mind when we analyze everything:

How do we juggle it all, manage anxiety of the unknown, and get motivated to keep pushing forward? 

There are a million different answers to the above question, but ultimately it all comes down to what works best for you.  As a leader, a lot is going to be asked of you throughout your life journey, and you won’t always have the answers, and that’s okay. You just have to get used to getting comfortable with uncertainty and motivate yourself to get started on the journey to find solutions. Below are a few great videos to help you set your mind right. Watch them all and come back to them when you need a breath of fresh inspiration and motivation. 

“Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started” – Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist 

Self-motivation is a fundamental shift in mind-set that is critical for an individual eager to break down barriers and tackle complex challenges (ya, that’s you!). This shift helps you transition from thinking about your work in isolation to seeing your work in the context of a broader system and paving the way to amplify impact with large-scale change. What we are talking about here is called collective action. 


Collective Agency: The Power of Numbers

“The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.” – Malcolm Gladwell 

As we peer into the future and fantasize about how we can play an important role in shaping it, it is important to reflect on the past, and the accomplishments that have brought us to where we are today.  Martin Luther King Jr., Rachel Carson, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, Mahatma Gandhi, Elon Musk, Malala Yousafzai, Paul Farmer, and Jeffrey Sachs are just a select few pioneers who are celebrated for their world-shifting ideas. While these minds may have spearheaded social change, it is their community and following that helped drive their initiatives forward. Like-mindedness, community, and conviction is what propels positive change forward; This describes the theory of collective agency.    

Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book, The Tipping Point, that there are “five characteristics & personality traits that attract these collective agents of change:”

  • Clear vision
  • Patience yet persistence
  • Asking tough and critical questions
  • Knowledge and leading by example
  • Strong relationships built on trust

As an agent of change, you are on a mission. You are joining a community of people that share the same vision for the future and are motivated to helping us all get there. This is the Collective Impact approach, premised on the belief that: no single policy, government department, organization or program, can tackle or solve the increasingly complex social problems we face as a society. It was made popular by John Kania & Mark Kramer at the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2011, and when asked about it, they responded:

“We believe that there is no other way society will achieve large-scale progress against the urgent and complex problems of our time, unless a collective impact approach becomes the accepted way of doing business.

Below is a breakdown of the framework:

All participants have a common agenda for change including a shared understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions.

Collecting data and measuring results consistently across all the participants ensures shared measurement for alignment and accountability.

A plan of action that outlines and coordinates mutually reinforcing activities for each participant.

Open and continuous communication is needed across the many players to build trust, assure mutual objectives, and create common motivation.

backbone organisation(s) with staff and a specific set of skills to serve the entire initiative and coordinate participating organizations and agencies. 

cj1f405v417jdvfi57yslwu3g collective agency

At this point, you may be thinking: what does this all mean, and what does it have to do with me? EXACTLY, you are starting to get it!

But seriously, we start with this topic because throughout our journey together, we want you to think critically about the status quo, reflect on what moves you, what is the state of your home community, and to not fret the unknown. We are all in this together and by embarking on this adventure with us, you are now an essential part of our community. Together, we can amplify our collective impact.

We are here to push you beyond your limits, share new enlightening experiences together, learn from one another, pick you up when you are down, act as friends and mentors, and hopefully together we can leave this planet better off than when we got here…that’s the goal. Let’s get started.


Stanford Social Innovation Review – Collective Impact

Collaboration for Impact

Steal like an Artist – Austin Kleon

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