I want to share a terrific video with you, but you will need to read the explanation, too.  Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this one…

This video brought tears to my eyes.  Okay, stop laughing at me, hear me out:

One guy can start a dance party.  One person can change the world.

What did this guy do right?  Lots of things that we can replicate in other areas of our work (though, I’d recommend following his lead with dancing, too!):

  • Bring your heart: Your community will know if you aren’t creating opportunities for action or support that are from the heart of your mission.  Had this guy just been “going through the motions” then none of those others would have been inspired to join him.  We all get burnt out, whether we are dancing, canvassing, emailing or speaking for the changes we want to see happen.  If you feel like you need a new jolt of energy to be inspiring others from the heart of your mission, then reconnect with those you are serving, listen to their stories, share their stories, and in the process you’ll be inspired, too.
  • Stay focused:  We all create goals and benchmarks and metrics.  But when we get down in the weeds of our projects and campaigns it is easy to take our eyes off the mission and direction we are headed.  Had this dancer been happy to recruit one or even a handful of other dancers, he may have turned around, talked with them, and maybe even stopped dancing to go hang out with these new friends.  But his eyes were on the mission at hand: dance.  He continued dancing with the same spirit and mission when he had no one with him, when he had one and a handful of others, and when he had a crowd.  Obviously measuring success and evaluating our programs along the way is crucial to reaching our goals, but staying focused on the mission is incredibly important so that we don’t get caught up in thinking we’ve reached the goal when we get a few others to dance with us.
  • Empower the community:  We can’t change the world completely alone.  It will take the collaboration, support, and hard work of many people who will never be listed on your website, included on your payroll, or even meet you in person.  It’s important that your mission, your work, your message be something others can pick up and carry with you to help stretch your reach.  This dancer provided an opportunity for others to join him and in turn inspire others from their networks to join the cause, too.
  • Choose your moments:  Timeliness is important, so is strategy and planning.  But when you nail something, when you give the community what they need, when they need it, you’re going to be successful.  How do you know what they need and when they need it? You listen, you participate, you join the community instead of watching it or trying to manage it.  We’ve all seen folks strike up a dance on a street corner and have witnessed that those people rarely inspire others to join them. Why? Because it isn’t what the passerbys really need or when they need it.  At this concert, out in the sun in a beautiful location (I miss the Pacific Northwest!), some heartfelt dancing is exactly what the community needed and right when they needed it, too.

Dancing my be contagious, but so is social change – go out there and dance with all your heart!

I big, heartfelt thanks to @EngageJoe for sharing the video 🙂

Dancing: It’s Just Like Social Change
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  • It’s an amazingly inspiring video for what it is, isn’t it? So many different things to be pulled from it (it made me think about technology adoption and crowds. I like the social change angle.

    One of the other things that strikes me is the need “to give permission” – there is a big change when the dancing goes from 12 people. You can sense a moment when suddenly it is OK to join – something that seems important in building new communities.

  • Ben –

    Thanks for this terrific addition! I think empowering our communities and giving them permission go hand in hand. As a campaigner, an organization, or an individual working to create change, it’s so important to remember that when you inspire others to take part, you do so publicly and genuinely – then they can really start dancing with you and bring their friends, too!

  • Kyle Reis

    Is there a link between spontaneous dance and social change? Indeed. Thanks Amy!

  • Thanks, Kyle – hope you guys are starting the week off on the right foot with a dance in the office! 🙂

  • He did something else that wasn’t mentioned here – he took a risk! He did something completely different that most people would consider too embarrassing or socially risky to attempt. I think it points to the value in taking a leap into the unknown. Sometimes you’ll fail, but other times it will set you apart to create something entirely new and exciting.

  • Hi Megan-

    I love your addition – taking a risk is so important. And it doesn’t have to be scary! This is a great example of that: it *is* a concert, dancing isn’t unheard of; but no one else was doing it and seemed perfectly okay not doing so. Until he decided he was just going to do it anyway. And inspired so many more to join him. Taking a risk doesn’t have to be doing something entirely crazy, just a little more ahead of the group.

    Thanks for adding to the list!

  • Thanks for your comment, Amy! I agree – it doesn’t have to be a really strange idea to be risky, and it always takes some courage to move in a different direction than others.

  • Bob

    Aloha everyone. I’d like to also point out that the guy was obviously having fun. I believe the desire to celebrate and have fun simmers just below the surface of most of our character representations to the world around us. We must continue to seek ways to allow people to have fun while participating with us. My best to you all.
    Bob Bogle
    Ama, Project Coordinator
    Sustainable Ag and Community Building

  • Hi Bob-

    Thanks for joining the conversation! You make a terrific point! Working for social benefit organizations or social change projects doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom, stress and anxiety – we need to be having fun, too! And this dancer certainly recognized that. Further, we need to be sure we create fun ways for our community, supporters, and those new to our work to join us!

    Has your organization done something truly fun that really furthered your work? Have you found a way to be sure you are having fun at work?

    Thanks again for adding to the conversation

  •  Well, then I feel like our organization is doing something right, we work hard and play hard.  We have so much fun that local djs donate their time to our annual event, and say it’s their favorite party to play.  We have fun and a sense of humor, something that is included in our working agreements.  It was great to see this video, because sometimes we do special dances in the office: “just got a grant”, “good job/go team” , “teach me how to donate” (done to the beat of teach me how to dougie by cali swag) and “met our in-kind donations goal” dances, just to name a few.