Are you aware of the huge wave of progress—well underway in the world—that you may already be a part of? The negative dialogue about our times is not keeping up with reality. We’re going to tell you why, point you to some of the thought leaders that will inspire you about our future, and tell you how you can get your friends similarly inspired!
Why the world isn’t a dumpster fire!
Contrary to what your television, radio, and social media are saying, there is a quiet but powerful movement happening around the globe. In the course of our work here at Ever Widening Circles, we’ve discovered something awe-inspiring: for nearly every major problem our world faces today, there are people going uncelebrated solving them.
Almost daily we find ourselves excitedly telling our coworkers about an inspiring project or are moved to tears by the work of a passionate individual. We are privileged every day to walk into work and shine a spotlight on the people hard at work making our collective future better.
If everything’s so great, why do I feel so much anger and anxiety about the world?
Let’s take a minute to ask ourselves some really important questions: Why do so many of us know the names of mass murderers and many of Hitler’s monstrous generals, but we do not know the names of the people who hid Anne Frank’s family?
Why is it that we know about awful crime rates and the stories of war but not the numbers that point to progress and the magnificent stories of rebuilding?
The Harvard Professor and psychologist, Steven Pinker, has studied some of the reasons for our feelings of collective overwhelm and pessimism even in the face of such incredible human progress. When learning of our #ConspiracyOfGoodnesss movement, he made some wonderful comments on Twitter about it! Take a few minutes to let Professor Pinker transform your worldview in this short video. He has some incredible points worth remembering:
Progress has become “normal.” And “normal” isn’t newsworthy! Think about the last time you shared a neutral story. It’s hard to get excited about a steady decline in poverty when there is a much catchier story that grabs our attention about a massive health crisis.
What if we were to find a way to celebrate these small wins and make them awe-inspiring?
You know the feeling when you see people acting to make lives or the future brighter for others? Or when you smile because you stumble upon a random act of kindness? Have you ever been moved to share a video because it filled you with hope and brought you to tears? Or become excited to volunteer or be a part of a movement you care about?
All of those moments point to a movement we call the Conspiracy of GoodnessTM.
The Conspiracy of GoodnessTM is made up of stories both big and small, of courage, ingenuity, and generosity.
This notion of a Conspiracy of Goodness is powerful. To truly appreciate it, we need to appreciate the awe-inspiring history of that phrase.
Recently, we were speaking to a thought leader for an article and they mentioned the phrase Conspiracy of Goodness, and the ground below our feet shifted. Those three words described exactly what our team at Ever Widening Circles had been observing.
So we dug into the origin of that phrase and heard the following story:
Not many people know that during World War II, the small village of Le Chambon, France saved 3,500 Jewish people from the Nazi Concentration Camps. Without any formal organization and at great risk to their own lives, the villagers managed to hide thousands of strangers (many of them orphaned children) for several years.
In 1987, Rabbi Harold M. Schulwies, was giving a talk in Europe about this chapter of WWII that he called The Conspiracy of Evil, and at the end of his talk, he recalls that an old man stood up to say that he had been a rescuers who had hidden a Jewish family in Holland.
And then the old man added, “Why does everyone focus on the conspiracy of evil that was WWII? Do you think I could have hidden an entire Jewish family in my home without the active cooperation of the mailman, milkman, and the neighbors? No, for every one person saved, there were seven who were ‘rescuers.’
There was a conspiracy of goodness.” 2
“It takes the energy of a community to bring about the most important change.”
We can change our shared future and make the world a better place for us all if we each take part in this wave to celebrate and point to the Conspiracy of GoodnessTM that is all around us. And I suspect that if you have read this far into this article, you already are.
What if we were to make the people and organization moving us steadily towards progress “newsworthy”? What could happen if we were to recognize when we were excited or moved by the actions of others and took time to thank them, recognize them, and share their stories?
Every thought leader we’ve written about has a wonderful group of early adopters. In order to bring their stories of progress and insight to the forefront, it will take many more rescuers. Remember in the story of Le Chambon?
For every one person saved, there were 7 who rescued.
We can share signs of goodness and progress and it would start popping up everywhere!
That same impulse is being followed when people willingly pay more to buy shoes or glasses from places like TOMS or Warby Parker because they know their purchase will support a person in need. That’s the same impulse we follow when we refuse a plastic bag or straw, and when we donate to a Patreon page.
We are at a point in human history where “goodness” is becoming the currency that will carry us forward. The evidence is all around us. There is a Conspiracy of Goodness TM underway. The world’s leading corporations are making social responsibility a huge part of their culture and branding. Now startups often begin “giving back” from day one. I know right now, it seems like our social currency is money and influence. But there is a “gratitude economy” gaining momentum and it needs to override our current “attention economy.”
We have the choice of what we give our attention to!
This is our 1,000th article to publish on Ever Widening Circles. That’s a win for everyone, because 5 years ago we set out to celebrate goodness—writing exclusively about all the insight and innovation getting lost in the chaos of the web… and we never ran out of material.
We’ve learned first hand that there are people across the globe, very often working in obscurity, not for fame or glory, to make the world a better place.
And we’ve noticed something. For ourselves and our readers, knowing about these individuals acting in the Conspiracy of Goodness makes us happier, less stressed, and more likely to see the world for how it really is: in a state of progress.
So, now, here are some of the stories, creators, and organizations we can celebrate and share when we are feeling overwhelmed by the seeming state of the world!
Stories worth sharing!
The Thought Leader Seeing Without Eyes
Let’s start with a close friend of Ever Widening Circles, Daniel Kish. As an infant, he lost both eyes to cancer, and yet he travels the world unaccompanied because he has adapted to seeing with a kind of natural sonar. Dr. Lynda has talked with him as he navigated O’Hare airport and taken long walks through new neighborhoods, all while discussing what possibility could look like for the blind community if we celebrated the remarkability our brains have to navigate even the most seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
We Can All Grow the Wave of Goodness with a Simple Act
Have you heard about the remarkable innovation that turns the problem of litter into a powerful and fun social project that people are coming together around, all around the globe? With a fabulous app that is gaining international traction, brand names and governments will be inspired to collaborate with us collectively! Now here is an ingenious innovator who is taking on one of the world’s most vexing problems and making us each a “thought leader” in our own communities!
Leadership is for Everyone
Want to change the world for others with a sentence or two? Drew Dudley is a thought leader who has mastered the next concept in everyday leadership philosophy. Imagine a world where co-workers, strangers, leaders, and learners were on the same page when it comes to bringing out the best in each other with one simple notion. Here’s our article about Drew’s latest insight. Drop into this wonder from his renowned TED Talk…
Organizations Reframing our Answers
Inventing with “Practical Compassion”
One of the earliest friends to Ever Widening Circles was the founder of an amazing organization called The Shoe That Grows. Their founder, Kenton Lee, has an inspiring story that comes from a simple but powerful observation while on after-college volunteer experience in Africa. From there, a spark ignited a fire and now, in only four years, they have worked with 2400 partners to distribute over 250,000 pairs of The Shoe That Grows to kids in over 100 countries! In fact, the support was so great that there is now a way to buy the shoes for our own kids in an effort called GroFive!
Using Old Cellphones to Save the Rainforest
The Rainforest Connection has found a way to take something we all have laying in a junk drawer – our old cell phones – and ingeniously repurposing them to save Rainforest. We met Topher White, founder of RFCX, at our favorite conference, PopTech. (Check them out if you are passionate about innovative thinking.) Topher is just exactly the kind of person you would entrust to champion this cause: super nice, tireless, well-spoken and always interested in making sure his effort includes local communities in the best possible way.
How You and I Can Become Space Archaeologists!
GlobalXplorer is changing the way we see human history, literally. Sarah Parcak, the founder of GlobalXplorer, pioneered a way to use satellite images to see signs of human intervention in the landscape all over our planet. Many of her discoveries so far will make re-writing the history books a necessity! You can even join their efforts searching for and protecting archeological treasures!
The Creators and Journalists Capturing the Movement
Turning YouTube into a Platform for Learning
It’s not just thought leaders that are making the #ConspiracyofGoodness possible. There is an incredible network of creators, videographers, and reporters hard at work shining a spotlight on under-celebrated insights and innovations. Take, for instance, PBS Digital Studios. With shows like It’s Okay to Be Smart, Eons, BrainCraft, and Physics Girl to name a few, they are making science, culture, and art accessible to the masses through a family of YouTube channels. Their content is an incredible place to find yourself saying “Why didn’t I know this!” And waking through the world feeling more empowered with knowledge!
Catalyzing Buzzfeed Viewers to Action
If you’ve followed BuzzfeedVideo over the past few years you have probably seen Auri before. Auri Jackson has created some of Buzzfeed’s most successful videos covering all angles of sustainability. If racking up tens of millions of viewers wasn’t enough, her work has gone beyond the world of the internet. She has empowered people to ask for change at the government level, given us all practical tips on how we can consume less waste, and has generally made living sustainably approachable for everyone. Visionaries using enormous platforms like Buzzfeed to help educate and empower people from all walks of life are a critical part of changing our shared future for the better!
Telling the Stories the World Needs to Hear
When we first ran into Great Big Story they were just starting out on YouTube. We remember watching their videos early on and thinking to ourselves “how do they only have 10,000 subscribers?! How do people not know about them?!” They reached 3.5 million subscribers and produced some of our favorite content out there! By taking us to corners of the globe we’ve never seen before, and profiling the thought leaders big and small having an enormous impact on their community, they created content that is changing the quality and perspective of media far beyond the web.
Helping us Enjoy the Daily Wonders We Encounter
What about the people who make life possible? The people and the history of food as well as the cultures that surround it? The fabulous creators at True Food TV are shining a spotlight on some unexpected corners of the world… our plates! With episodes covering the history of blueberries (surprise, it’s a remarkably diverse backstory) to the ways in which chickpeas have exploded into a global culture, their work makes us appreciate our food so much more.
Explore more of the articles we’ve published featuring those acting inside the Conspiracy of Goodness by visiting this circle:
Join the conversation over on Facebook!
Become a member of The Conspiracy of Goodness Facebook group to connect with like-minded individuals and learn more about the people, businesses, and organizations working to make the world a better place for everyone!
Know anybody else? It’s time for you to get involved!
We are shining a spotlight on the people, creators, and organizations working to make our future brighter. With #ConspiracyofGoodness we want people to share stories and celebrate the people you think are making the world a better place!
#ConspiracyofGoodness: When we point to others who are making the world a better place for everyone in ways large and small, we all win!
Why use #ConspiracyofGoodness?
This brings us back to the work of Steven Pinker. When we are faced with a consistent storyline that the world is negative, we will believe it to be so. Our brains actually have a quirk that leads us towards believing a probability of an event is higher if it comes to mind easier. 3 So, if we have more mental images of bad than good in front of us and they come to mind easier, we will believe they occur far more frequently.
By mentioning the Conspiracy of Goodness when you hear people starting on a downward spiral in conversation, you generate a new discussion about the state of the world. This gives you and your friends a more accurate outlook on the progress happening!
Your click is your vote!
The web is based on an attention economy. Every single click we make is being counted by someone. It’s a pretty simple system: whatever we click on, we get more of, as individuals and as a global community.
Good or bad, it makes no difference. A click is a vote that says, “Yes, please. Definitely give me more of this!”
If we click on web content that has roots in fear, anger or acrimony — even if it is just out of curiosity or boredom — then we will get more of that. And that’s exactly what’s happened to propagate this negative narrative about our times. But the reverse is true too! And that’s where the magic occurs for growing this Conspiracy of Goodness.
If we share, save, highlight, and click on content from people who are making the world a better place for everyone, we will get more of that and our future will finally turn a corner. It’s just that simple.
Click on their content. Send them a small donation. Choose them when shopping. They are already out there. We just need to support them and everyone in the #ConspiracyofGoodness in any way that we can.
- When you are excited about the good happening in the world, share it.
- If you’re proud of the people in your life making difference, spread the word.
- When you are moved by an act of kindness, share the story.
This is how we will change the dialogue about our future. This is how we will make progress. Our best solutions arise when we see infinite possibility, not we are confronted with a hopeless future.
Celebrating the #ConspiracyofGoodness around us will ensure that those solutions are found.
Conspire for good!
-Dr. Lynda & the Ever Widening Circles Team
- Freethink. “Steven Pinker Makes the Case for Optimism | Freethink.” YouTube, Freethink, 30 Oct. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6JFr7QIkLE. Accessed 19 Apr. 2019. ↩
- Schulweis, Harold M. “Conspiracy of Goodness: An Untold Story.” The Harold M. Shulweis Institute , 2016,
hmsi.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/another-witness-the-conspiracy-of-godness.pdf . Accessed 15 Apr. 2019. ↩
- Pinker, Steven. “The Media Exaggerates Negative News. This Distortion Has Consequences | Steven Pinker.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 17 Feb. 2018, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/17/steven-pinker-media-negative-news. Accessed 19 Apr. 2019. ↩