Seth Kahan
Author, consultant

Seth Kahan

Change expert and author who has advised executives in 50-plus organizations, including Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps and NASA. He can be reached at


New days, new ways

Q: Dorothy Height, the longtime leader of the National Council of Negro Women, died recently at age 98, prompting President Obama to honor her as "the only woman at the highest level of the civil rights movement." Do leaders of equal standing and notoriety exist today in any social movements? If so, who are the most successful? Has there been a change in the ways in which people seek social change?

It is a different age and our social action heroes are correspondingly different in their ways and means.

Jane Goodall, the British primatologist, anthropologist, and U.N. Messenger of Peace started her own institute ( dedicated to empowering people to make a difference for all living things.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election, made his mark emerging from prison and successfully leading his nation in the nonviolent transformation of government from white-ruled to a multi-racial democracy through reconciliation and negotiation.

The Dalai Lama, exiled Buddhist leader of Tibet, works globally for world peace and non-violent resolution of political and individual unrest. He is recognized around the Earth for his leadership.

Change is accelerating. Social movement changes do not happen in isolation. There is an ongoing state change in which it is difficult to separate out discrete causes and effects. And there are people who dedicate their lives to championing humanitarian principles and systematically addressing obstacles to the flourishing of the human spirit.

People are going about change differently, using the tools of the 21st century to take up contemporary initiatives. The results will be different as well, bringing people together across boundaries as never before and contributing to whole-cloth solutions.

By Seth Kahan  |  May 6, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Making change Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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