Creating Change Wherever You Are: A Review of The Idealist.org Handbook to Building a Better World

Ever since his election, President Obama has emphasized the importance of service.  Many of us can serve and want to serve, but the place where we get stuck is how. How can we serve especially when we have tight schedules, pressing obligations, and don’t know what we could possibly offer?

Image from idealist.org

Image from idealist.org

Enter the Idealist.org Handbook to Building a Better World. A career guide and activist book rolled into one it provides a comprehensive overview of how you can make the world a better place no matter where you are.  The book discusses challenges and issues you may face trying to serve, provides tangible steps and resources, and includes handy activities and charts that help you figure out you how and where you might lend passion and talents.

The book is divided into three sections with three or four chapters in each.  The first section, “An Idealist is Born” asks you to reflect on your own experiences and passion when it comes to making a difference. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by opportunities while also feeling as though you don’t have much to offer to the causes that need so much help.  This section helps you figure out “where you fit in” by breaking down opportunities into small pieces to show you that there really is a place for everyone.

The second section “Taking Action” explores how you can make change on a personal level through volunteering, board service, or personal philanthropy. These three types of personal engagement are discussed in detail so you learn about the pros and the cons of each and get a better handle on what is right for you.  You’re asked to think about your strengths and weaknesses, your schedule and your obligations so you can pick a form of service that is perfect for you.

The final section, “Idealism at Work” addresses how you can make a difference at work. Whether you want to encourage your workplace to engage in service or social responsibility in a meaningful way or are interested in a career in the nonprofit sector, the point is that we can use our work place as a tool for social change.  For those of you interested in a career in the nonprofit sector, there is advice on how to make yourself a competitive candidate and how to find the non-profit that meets your personal and professional goals.

The book is an easy read and full of useful information and stories of people who have made service an integral part of their lives.  Its hand on approach to getting you to help your community, plus the conversational way in which it is written make it easy to share with high school students and adults alike so I strongly recommend it for those new to service and interested exploring possibilities.

There is one drawback though: there is no longer an excuse NOT to help others. By giving you the information and tools necessary to make a difference we can no longer hide behind lack of time, lack of money, or perceived lack of skill.  We can create change wherever we are.

So, how did you change the world today?

Read excerpts here and here and check out the idealist.org handbook blog.