Oftentimes as business and non-profit professionals, many of us seek ways to make a positive impact on our community through the power of business, but at times the task is daunting or can be discouraging when yielded results are low. Arguably, we can counteract how we feel about daunting challenges when we allow ourselves to become empowered by the force behind small victories.
In 2006, I had the honor of meeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a human rights activist who is most well-known for his opposition against the South African apartheid in the 1980s. I asked him something along the lines of: “We all want to change the world, but there are so many issues we could focus on. Where to start?”

He then asked ME – “What is the one thing you are passionate about?” Following my response, he told me that I needed to start small, and “Get cracking!”

Whether we are working on a major business endeavor or community project, there is a lot of wisdom in the advice Archbishop Desmond Tutu gave.

Sometimes we have the tendency to set our goals too high (not saying there’s anything wrong with that!) but oftentimes starting a project on a large-scale without first taking a grassroots approach may leave you feeling overwhelmed and lost.

Naturally, people like to see progress and results to all their hard work, and when activists engage in smaller projects at a community-level, they are able to see results. At times we may not get involved with projects or worldwide relief causes because the fight may seem like a hopeless cause. Many of us do not want to work on something that yields slow results or intangible outcomes, when we can see early wins.

This is not to say working on larger projects and relief efforts is a hopeless cause – sometimes those results are not identified immediately, which can be discouraging. When working on the small victories, we are able to build our confidence up to see that our work – regardless of Industry/Profession- can have an impact. This sense of accomplishment is truly empowering. Through allowing ourselves to acknowledge the small victories, we can build our confidence in knowing that the next challenge is more obtainable.

Change takes time, patience and the realization that you cannot convey change within your business and community if you can’t convey change in yourself, and the way you think about taking action.

Even Desmond Tutu, who is now a recognized global force for good, encourages others to always take a grassroots approach to change. “You don’t want to spread concentrations too thin…focus on issues one by one so you can make a difference—it is important to win small victories,” said Tutu.

Take the time to build a solid foundation, empower yourself with every small victory, and then progress to the next level.

Blog Post by Whitney Ehresman, Business Development Manager at Advanced Technology Recycling

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