Four lessons to change the world

“Each and every one of us has the power to change the world. No matter the issue, and no matter how hard the fight, civil society is central to the blueprint of change.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement from Ilona Szabó de Carvalho, coordinator of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

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Through her personal journey, fighting against the war on drugs, and advocating for gun control and police reform in Latin America, Ilona has learned what it takes for citizen diplomats to create change in the world. In the TedX Global talk below she presents us with four key insights.

Change and control the narrative:

If we can change the story, we can change the outcome. As Ilona explains, we need to be strategic in the narrative we use and the conversations we create. When looking to catalyse change to end the failing war on drugs, the Global Commission on Drug Policy – which I’m proud to be a member of – changed the conversation from prosecuting a war on drugs, to putting people’s health and safety first. Slowly but surely, as civil society diplomats we are breaking the taboo and seeing positive change throughout the world.

 Never underestimate your opponents:

“If you want to succeed in changing the world, you need to know who you’re up against.” Those on the opposition – who are benefiting from the problem or blinded by its downfalls – generally have the incentive and resources to fight a long, and often dirty, fight. It’s therefore important to know their points of view and motivations, so that you can make reasoned, informed and strategic arguments to combat anything they throw at you.

Image from Global Commission on Drug Policy

Use data to drive your argument:

“Sometimes it’s impossible to cut through the emotions and get to the facts, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try.” Emotive issues drive emotional responses, which can blind the world from the truth. Ilona explains: in order to undermine the fear and prejudice that surround the issues, it’s important to report data that shows the results and damage. Data, if used to give true context, can be the catalyst needed to spark change.

Don’t be afraid to bring together odd bed-fellows:

“If you want to change the world, it helps to have a good cross-section of society on your side.” This is something we’ve come to realise through our work at Virgin Unite, where we have incubated groups like the B TeamThe Elders and The Ocean Elders. By leveraging the collective power of diverse and eclectic voices, we have been able to shine a spotlight on a number of global challenges that desperately need addressing. If voices from different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures and political standpoints can agree that something needs to be done, others will listen.

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Citizens are the most important and influential collective mass on Earth. If we raise our voices, start discussions, and campaign for what’s right and just, we can influence and shape national and global policy, and therefore change the world.


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