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Activism in the Absence of Trust. Why Wait?

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

Article created in collaboration with the podcast participants and AcornOak Tribe.

Pass the Mic Podcast Series is an unscripted group discussion born out of AcornOak’s belief in the power of many voices.

Each episode begins with one expert - an open-minded and passionate individual who has spent a great deal of time investigating and researching a certain topic. During our hour, a small group of 4 to 6 people explores complex and difficult concepts with curiosity, uncertain beliefs and the willingness to objectively listen and learn from the shared insights of others.

Our tenth episode discusses the topic of Activism with an attempt to answer the following question: Is it possible for one person to make a difference in the world?

Starting the Conversation

As the podcast host, Virginie Glaenzer paved the way for this conversation led by Steve Marshall who explored the idea of individual activism and how a lack of trust can compel us to become conscious, self-authoring individuals in our own lives to change our world.

Welcoming Our Guests

We were honored to welcome our panel of special guests eager to discuss activism and change-making.

Dr. Steve Marshall is an academic at Ashridge Executive Education, supervising participants on a radical, action research doctorate in organisational change. Steve is also an organisation consultant and coach, photographer and film-maker using digital media, imagery and dialogue to enable learning, change and creative innovation for individuals, teams and organisations.

Nell Derick Debevoise is the Founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital, which facilitates learning, development and inclusion through impact. By helping people and organizations connect their work to today’s pressing social and environmental challenges, they unlock the resources required to build a more equitable and healthy economy.

Rudy de Waele is a keynote speaker, conscious futurist, personal transformation coach, mentor, and author. He assists global brands, entrepreneurs and start-ups, companies and organizations with cutting-edge, open innovation strategies using new methodologies to re-invent and transform business. Rudy specialises in technology trend forecasts and analysis, transformational methods and insights, and exchanges ideas on how to thrive in the new economy, and how to design a conscious business and meaningful life.

Richard D. Bartlett is the co-founder of Loomio, a digital tool for deliberation and decision-making for groups of 3-300 people. He is the co-founder of The Hum, a consulting company that offers online training & practical guidance for decentralised organisations. Richard writes about how we work together, at any scale, from relationships to organisations, to facilitate social change on He is the author of Patterns for Decentralised Organising, sharing solutions to the most common failure points of collaborative groups.

Listen to the tour de table introduction of our participants.

Key Shared Insights & Perspectives

We opened this conversation with important questions: What would be the impact of becoming truly self-authoring individuals rather than signing up for something? How do we make our own way?

And is it possible for one person to make a difference in the world?

Lack of Trust in Ourselves

Trust is one of the few elemental forces that holds our world together; it’s the glue for our society. Trust in leaders cements relationships by allowing people to live and work together, feel safe, and belong to a group.

Accelerated by technology, Steve points out that our notion of expertise, and therefore hierarchical power, is falling away and isn't really helping us anymore. This might be the reason why we are all struggling with our lack of trust as we witness the collapse of our old systems.

Listen to Rudy De Waele explain how losing trust in ourselves has generated an entire society and economy based on addictions.

Characteristics of Today’s Activists

The notion of activism has evolved from groups of hard-core fighters to powerful individuals and ‘influencers’ consciously taking responsibility and standing up for what is right and living it through their daily choices.

What makes an effective activist?

Individual change-makers possess common personal qualities, such as resilience, courage, curiosity, adaptability, empathy, passion and a strong belief in what they are doing.

Yet, ego management is the first step to being able to think outside of ourselves. Coming to terms with our ego, what it means, and how to get beyond it, is fundamental to linking and building coalitions across differences.

Listen to Nell Derick Debevoise sharing her perspectives as she describes the characteristics of the new activists.

Reframing Activism

The "I-We-World" Framework

The I-We-World is a known framework for expressing a worldview and helping us understand how we can make a positive impact and be consequential in our work.

The “I” starts with individuals who understand the need to transform themselves first, before influencing others. The kindred communities are the “We” who bridge the gap from one-to-many through empathic connections.

Our lack of language to define those kindred relationships from groups of 2 to 50 makes it difficult to feel our way in. We need a new set of vocabulary to describe the changes we are trying to make in the world and new names for activists, such as change makers, conscious leaders, meaning makers, meaningful workers, game changers, or even witnesses.

Listen to Steve Marshall explaining the hurdles that many people are experiencing when making changes and becoming activists themselves.

Making a Difference in the World

How do we find ways to make our individual activism effective?

When we do something meaningful together, it is a form of activism.

Our activism has to be more intentional and collaborative than one person acting alone. For instance, changing detrimental habits is very difficult, so being supported by a group of like-minded people is often the key to long-term changes.

Therefore, in order to make real, impactful change, individuals must find their kindred communities to become accountable and bring changes into the world.

Listen to Richard D. Bartlett sharing his experience being an activist.

Individual Take-aways

As we came to the end of the hour, our group closed the discussion in the same way we started, with a tour de table. Each participant had the opportunity to reflect on what they heard and share their take-aways from the conversation.

Listen to the last 10 minutes of the episode.

Final Thoughts to Consider

To change the world, we must first accept the idea that the world is crumbling. The harsh reality is that we have no one to trust, but ourselves.

When we make a conscious decision to embrace our own power instead of waiting for permission from leaders or from a larger community, we free ourselves to act. We become activists for ourselves, for others, for our communities.

Therefore, having an impact in the world as an individual starts with authenticity and ends with meaning. By dropping our ego and our fearful, competitive mind, we can unlearn limiting thoughts and behaviors which will trigger us to act.

We don’t need to quit our jobs and join the Peace Corps to change the world.

Rather, we can open our eyes to all the levers we have, individually, in our everyday lives as we make choices about what we buy, what we donate, and what we invest in.

We can also make our jobs more impactful by choosing activist employers or finding ways to live and express our values through our roles at more traditional firms, for instance, uncovering gender pay gaps as an accountant.

From there, a new framework emerges with the upward spiraling notion of impact to meaning to purpose, which sets the stage for new activism to appear through communities.

Finally, the future belongs to those who can, like curious children at play, trust themselves, collaborate beautifully, and allow themselves to dream again.

If this short summary resonated with you, go to YouTube to view the entire discussion or listen on iTune, Spotify, Speaker or SoundCloud.

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