One thing similar about people who successfully make a difference in the world is that they play to their best natural talents or strengths. They might be great with people or good at making an argument or great at conceptual thinking. They find a place in the world they can make a difference by using their natural strengths. Because creating change is by its nature challenging, those who are enjoy their work the most and therefore preserver through the struggles are those who work on something they are naturally passionate about. Where your natural talents and natural strengths come together is your niche as a change agent. And it is likely you will have many potential niches.
Below are ten categories of niches to get you thinking about yours. But remember these are just 10 broad categories to get you thinking; there are six billion different niches for creating change.
1. Social Entrepreneurs
Description: Social Entrepreneurs are people who see a social or environmental problem and decide to fix it by starting an initiative, organisation or business. They take an idea and make it exist in the real world.
Qualities: Social entrepreneurs are people who are very determined and bulldoze through obstacles. They are often the “jack of all trades” being able to work across all aspects of the initiative from funding to marketing, program delivery.
Description: In a well functioning democracy to change the ways things happen you need a significant number of people to believe in that change and voice the belief to decision makers. Organisers mobilise large groups of people around a vision or outcome and help them make their voice heard. This involves anything from a letter writing campaign to a conference to a protest on the streets.
Qualities: Organisers are people who have a clear vision for the world they want to see and inspire others to that vision. They have incredible people skills and are the type of change agent other want to follow. They are also strategic in focusing people’s energy to achieve a specific outcome.
3. Political Movers and Shakers
Description: Political movers and shakers are people who leverage power and influence to change things in politics, business and their community. They talk to the right people in the right way at the right time to get the change they seek. They may have any job title from lobbyists to board members to even technical experts, but they understand power structures and how to leverage them.
Qualities: Political movers and shakers are very strategic. They understand power and influence as well as how to leverage it. This might be anything from understanding what motivates their boss’s decision making to being across the sociology of voters in a marginal electorate seat.
4. Thought Leaders
Description: Thought Leaders are people come up with new ways of thinking that create change. It might be a new way of doing business or a new way of getting our energy. They think of new ways of doing things and open up new possibilities. They often spend a lot of time thinking alone and are always thinking. They think through why old ways haven’t worked and see the opportunity not the blockage.
Qualities: Though Leaders are strong conceptual and critical thinkers and have a passion for understanding how things work. They are always coming up with ideas. They are intellectual.
Description: One of the biggest challenges of action on sustainability is not lack of information, but being able to present that information in a way motivates people to act. Communicators translate the science and solutions to the public and decision makers. They might be journalists, filmmakers, public speakers, writers or advertisers.
Qualities: Communicators are people who have a natural gift for taking the complex and cutting through to what their audience needs to hear. They are engaging and often entertaining. They have a strong understanding of what makes people tick; why people act like they do and how to influence their behaviour.
6. Sector Greeners
Description: Sector greeners are people who have a vision for making a sector of society sustainable and are passionate about making it happen. It would be any sector of society from fashion to finance to fishing. It may be the person’s local community from their workplace, their school or their town.
Qualities: They are people who are respected by others and have credibility in the chosen sector. They also have a clear vision for making their sector green and are passionate about doing it.
7. Business Entrepreneurs
Description: Business Entrepreneurs are people who are passionate about changing the world through markets. They create products and services that lead us towards a sustainable planet.
Qualities: Business Entrepreneurs have vision for how business can drive sustainability and prove this through their own business success.
Description: Catalysers bring out the best in other types of change makers. They work behind the scenes so you don’t hear about them in the papers. The may be teachers, mentors or project team members.
Qualities: Catalysers have a passion to help others. They are highly emotionally intelligent.
Description: Modellers are people who are sick of waiting for government of big business to redesign the way we live; so they do it themself. Like all change makers they are ahead of their time. Modellers create a “proof of concept” by taking on the burden of making an idea work in the real world for the first time. These are often small scale projects which after their demonstration governments or big business see the success and roll out on a larger scale.
Qualities: Modellers are visionary people with a strong determination to make things happen. Like social and business entrepreneur they use their focus on their goal to cut through obstacles.
10. Designers and Problem Solvers
Description: Designers create things which lead us towards a more sustainable world. This could be anything from a lunch box which encourages healthy eating, to low emission cars or a manufacturing process that produces no waste.
Qualities: Designers can often be found in their offices thinking or their workshops pull things apart and putting them back together. They have an engineering mind and are obsessive about understanding how things work.