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Joanne Fritz

Survey Finds That People Who Want to Change the World Start Young

By February 17, 2014

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Cover of 2013 Social Change Impact Report

Walden University released its 2013 Social Change Impact Report late last year. This is the third annual social change survey that Walden has commissioned. The survey, by Harris Interactive, was done online in the spring of 2013 and included more than 9,000 adults in countries around the world, from Brazil and Canada to China, Mexico and the U.S.

Walden University, based in Minneapolis, is a well-known online university, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees to students around the world. The university serves working professionals and emphasizes not only academics, but also how to make an impact on students' professions and communities.

The 2013 Social Change Impact survey found that wanting to create change starts early and is often ignited through educational experiences.

Nearly half of the social changers surveyed say they first engaged in positive social change activities between the ages of 5 and 17.

Much of that activity was through school, sometimes to fulfill a service requirement or as part of some other activity connected to their school that was voluntary.

The survey found a positive correlation between education and engagement in social change activities, with 70% of adults who attended high school taking on activities that made a difference and volunteer work while they were students.

Seventy-five percent of adults who went to college or university also engaged in volunteering or other social change activities while at college.

One reason people are drawn to social change activities while in school is that they simply have more opportunity to learn about social issues and to engage in organized activities around those issues.

Most of the adults in this survey (88%) agreed that if people knew more about causes, they would become more involved; while 83% agreed that lack of knowledge is the biggest barrier to getting involved in social change.

One interesting aspect of this survey is that the researchers identified profiles of social change agents by teasing out their motivations, interests and levels of involvement. Here are the six different types of social change agents they came up with:

  • The Ultracommitted Change-Maker
  • The Faith-Inspired Giver
  • The Socially Conscious Consumer
  • The Purposeful Participant
  • The Casual Contributor
  • The Social Change Spectator

Then the researchers created a quiz that you can take online to see which of these categories you fit into.

I took it and found that I am a "Socially Conscious Consumer." As such, I support others who support social change by rewarding companies that are responsible toward the people and environment in the communities where they operate. I also have a strong sense of social justice and am particularly drawn to environmental or "green" issues. I like connecting online, educating other people about causes, and social change is a lifelong commitment for me.

It's fun to take the quiz and read the details about each profile.

Do these profiles ring true for the social change agents involved with your cause? Have you developed profiles (often called personas) of your best donors and volunteers?

The report goes way beyond just the profiles of social change agents or the importance of early experiences. It also identifies which social issues are most important to people in the various countries surveyed. For instance, education is number one in the U.S., while India is the only country that rated women's rights among the top five issues. The report also shows just how involved people are in issues. Across countries, less than one in ten people say they never engage in positive social change activities.

The report is well worth checking out in full here.

More Surveys/Research:

Images: Walden University

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