The Power of Individual Action: How GivingTuesday is Transforming Communities Through Generosity

The Power of Individual Action: How GivingTuesday is Transforming Communities Through Generosity

By Kavita Mathew, GivingTuesday India Hub

In a world full of problems, we tend to get caught up in finding large-scale policy-level solutions. Having spent over a decade in the social development sector, my brain was wired to think this way too. I joined the sector with the passion to create change and very soon started feeling like all solutions needed to happen at scale or it’s not worth pursuing. This took away my power and agency to create change at an individual level and bogged me down with thoughts of hopelessness. I started to believe that my role in influencing the shape of my society and community was limited. 

About a year ago, I joined a global community of leaders – generosity leaders who’ve turned GivingTuesday into a global movement. My initial understanding was that GivingTuesday is a single day that encourages giving and many of you may still think this to be true. However, as I started peeling the layers of this movement, magical flavours started emerging. I’ve now got a glimpse into the world I wish to see in my lifetime and pass on to the next generation – a world built on radical generosity and shared humanity – a world that you and I can play an active role in creating.

So, how is GivingTuesday reimagining this world through a global generosity movement? Here is what I’ve learned in the last one year:

We are all givers and receivers at some point in our lives: The most basic and fundamental belief on which the movement is built is that every one of us is both a giver and a receiver at some point in our lives. Divisive language and terms like ‘haves and have-nots’ are so dangerous because they give power to one section of society and take away agency from another, simply based on the amount of monetary wealth accumulated. Once we realize that we are all givers and receivers and that generosity can be expressed in so many different forms it takes away the burden of giving and replaces it with the joy of giving – this is when we will see the true power of community and shared humanity. 

Small acts of giving may not be life-changing but it is life-saving: The most underestimated thing in the world of philanthropy is the power of small acts of generosity. What hits the news is large funding by big corporations and foundations and that’s important, but what is really ‘saving’ the world are those small acts of kindness – most that often go unnoticed. That hand you held out to help someone cross the road, the extra minute you waited so that someone who was about to miss an interview could get into the elevator, that set of winter clothes you donated to a shelter home – there are a million of such acts that happen every single day that may be saving someone’s life and creating a ripple effect of goodness. 

Co-creation and co-ownership: Every single GivingTuesday stakeholder creates and owns a piece of the movement. I believe that it is these foundational principles of co-creation and co-ownership that has allowed the movement to grow to almost every country in the world. Now imagine taking these values to your everyday life – at work or at home, with your children or your co-workers. If you are looking to build community and bring people along, we’ve seen from the movement that co-creation and co-ownership are tools that won’t fail you. 

Having witnessed the power of these principles and the world that GivingTuesday leaders are working towards building, I’ve found myself feeling hopeful once again. We are about to hit the three-year mark since the beginning of a world and life-altering pandemic. We’ve seen the world shift in ways we never imagined – we’ve seen with that shift, so many examples of how communities came together and how acts of generosity were expressed across borders. Most importantly, we saw how every one of us became living examples of how a single person can be both a receiver and a giver in such a short span of time! 

As we reflect on the last three years, what aspects of it do you wish to carry into ‘your new normal’? How can you shape the world to be a reflection of what you wish to see as the ‘new normal’ for our communities and countries?  The most powerful tool you hold to do this is the power to decide where and how you give – time, treasure, talent, or testimony. Every one of us has access to this tool, and it is up to us how we use it.

While large-scale positive change is important, I’ve learnt that small steps each of us take every day is what will really lead to lasting change and get us closer to the world we co-create and leave behind for future generations.