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Change Comes From You and Me

The truly good news is that, over the nearly 15 years since YES! was founded, the number of positive, community-based initiatives has exploded.

Working on farm photo by Rick Gordon

Photo by Rick Gordon

If you’re like me, you are struggling to see how our country and the world will ever dig out of the multiple messes we’ve made. How will we untangle Wall Street’s outrageous financial shenanigans? Or roll back the levels of CO2 we are pumping into our precious Earth’s atmosphere? Or get out of our unending wars?

I rise above my despair by returning to my profound belief in the power of people like you and me to make change. I see, for example, the local food revolution taking hold in so many communities. That revolution has huge implications for rejuvenating community life, making us healthier, and weaning us all, just a bit, off the global economy. Which reminds me of where change starts—with us.

That’s why in YES! Magazine we give a lot of space to what people are doing in their communities. Our goal is to build the momentum of those actions until the shifts grow from place to place into a whole new way of living.

That goal is based on the strategic premises that motivated the founding of YES! Magazine back in 1996. I found these ideas so powerful that I left my position at the Ford Foundation in New York to join this fledgling organization. Let me share them with you.

Deep change will not come from the top. Economic and political leaders can tweak the system but are too embedded in existing institutions to bring about the level of change that is needed.

The first is that our society is on an unsustainable path. We knew back then what is so clear now—that we are hitting walls environmentally, socially, and economically. We also knew that reforms at the margins will not do the trick. The problems are too big. What we need is deep change.

The second is that deep change will not come from the top. Economic and political leaders can tweak the system but are too embedded in existing institutions to bring about the level of change that is needed. Big shifts must come from people like you and me—ordinary citizens, unencumbered by entrenched interests. We are free to look at problems as they truly are, imagine different ways of doing things, and work together to live them into being.

The third premise is that the needed changes are already happening in communities in this country and around the globe. It is hard to see those actions as a serious force because they are generally ignored in the mainstream press, the dominant political discourse, and nowadays even the blogosphere and social media.

Canned fruit, photo by Wade Courtney
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So what is needed is a way to heighten the visibility of those actions, knit them together to show their significance, and invite others to join. That’s what YES! was founded to do.

The truly good news is that, over the 15 years since YES! was founded, the number of positive, community-based initiatives has exploded. In fact there are so many stories to report that we now post every day on the YES! website and never run out of material.

 The other news that is deeply satisfying is that you, our dear readers, tell us how much encouragement you get from YES!—that it helps you know you are not alone and that your efforts can add up to real change.

So in spite of very real crises on every side, I take heart. Deep change is coming. The work you are doing to build momentum at the grassroots can make all the difference.

P.S. Want to make sure the YES! stories of grassroots change reach millions of people? You can. Go to yesmagazine.org/donate and make a tax-deductible donation. And during this holiday season, give gifts of YES! We are nonprofit, independent, and reader-supported. We depend on you.


Fran KortenFran Korten wrote this article for What Happy Families Know, the Winter 2011 issue of YES! Magazine. Fran is YES! Magazine's publisher.

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