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Lesson 1: What is a change agent?

change 101 Aug 31, 2022


Lesson learning objectives

  1. Understand what it means to be a "change agent" or "changemaker"
  2. Decide whether this is a label that fits who you are or want to become

Everyday changemakers

With every passing generation and perhaps even every passing year more of us are motivated and inspired to help build a better world. We not only want a world more aligned with our values and beliefs, we yearn to play a meaningful role in making that world a reality ourselves. We want to “be the change” we wish to see in the world.

This is the era of the change agent.

A 2021 Deloitte report surveying over 14,000 Millennials and over 8,000 Zoomers from across 45 countries found that over 45% of respondents have made choices regarding the type of work they are prepared to do or organizations they will work for based on personal ethics. Over 35% have been volunteers or members of a community organization, charity, or nonprofit. Twenty-six percent of Millennials and a third of Zoomers said they had participated in demonstrations, protests, or marches within the past two years.

A decade-long study of 150,000 Millennials  by the Case Foundation found similar results. In the report, Jean Case (Founder, Millennial Impact Project) says, “We’ve continued to see millennials seek out possibilities across all aspects of their lives to have a positive impact on society and question norms that might pose barriers to implementing their ideas for social impact.” The study found that Millennials are “everyday changemakers,” striving to drive impact not only through their careers but through non-work-related actions: 

  • 72% of Millennials surveyed voted
  • 70% have based purchasing decisions based on social impact
  • 69% have donated to meaningful causes,
  • 69% have shared content regarding social impact, and 
  • 58% have signed petitions.

Boomers and GenXers are no slouches either. According to a 2019 Pew Research survey, millions and millions of Boomers and GenXers around the United States are showing great concern for social and environmental issues. Though it has been less researched and documented, it seems this trend applies to all generations, even those now in their elder years.

 Not just for activists and vocal leaders

In short, now more than ever, we yearn to be change agents (or changemakers, change leaders, or whatever label you want to use). 

And yet, so often that title feels too big, too abstract, or just not quite right for us. We feel we don’t deserve it. We aren’t sure whether we have a meaningful role to play in combating the climate crisis, oppression, poverty, authoritarianism, and all of humanity’s other great challenges. We feel powerless in such an immense, complex, and often ambiguous world. 

We often think of change agents only as those out at the front of the lines with megaphones during protests or the CEOs or leaders of paradigm-shifting organizations or the type of person who gives a TED Talk. Or maybe we even afford that title to that friend of ours who is so informed and provocative on social media.

All these types of people can be and often are wonderful, impactful, much-needed change agents. But there are many different types of change agents who make their impact in a variety of roles, at different scales, and at different levels of visibility and acknowledgment. Some are out in front of millions. Some are radical and provocative. Some are incredible visionaries. And many are none of these things at all. They work in ways that are subtle and often go unseen and underappreciated. Quite often, they have nothing to do with activism. Quite often, they make a change only within small communities or their family of origin.

The low-level employee who inspires and demonstrates new values and norms at the workplace is a change agent. The engineer who builds a website to organize an advocacy event is a change agent. The young adult who goes to therapy to undo damaging messaging and belief systems from their childhood (and thus prevent themselves from perpetuating it further) is a change agent. The parent who goes to great lengths to ensure that their child is seen, nurtured, and validated is a change agent. The artist who through their work expresses their reactions to the world or articulates the world they yearn for is a change agent.

A change agent is anyone who takes action to drive change in themselves or the world, regardless of their employment status, education, social authority, visibility, age, or role. 


The beginning of the path

To become a change agent is not necessarily to become more “activist-y.” It’s not necessarily to become more provocative on social media. It’s not necessarily to create or lead an important organization or project.

To become a change agent is to discover and unleash your own unique gifts and roles in service to the greater good. And yes, everyone has unique gifts and roles to play in change. Everyone has the ability to make meaningful change in the world. Everyone has the capacity to be a change agent, if they desire to.

This course is designed to help you find and unleash those gifts, to help you understand the meaningful roles you can play in change, and to help you articulate to yourself your deepest purpose in life so you can go out and live it in the world.

You are a change agent, if you want to be. 



  1. A change agent is anyone who takes action to drive change in themselves or the world.
  2. Everyone has unique gifts and roles to play in change.



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