We are over eight weeks into our New Year's resolutions. If you've made it this far, you deserve congratulations. Most studies suggest it takes about this long for a new habit to take hold.
If you didn't make it, you're not alone. Almost 90 percent of resolutions remain wishful thinking.
Fortunately, when this time of year rolls around, you have another chance to put your stake in the ground for change. Providing you are Christian and observe Lent. This period of time allows us countless opportunities to give something up to sacrifice something for our better good. Maybe french fries, alcohol or television are on your list.
Our political leaders have not provided great examples for us to follow. Have you heard of anyone giving up filibusters for Lent? Or keeping their resolution to uphold true bi-partisanship? How about a resolution to pass health care legislation?
Granted we live in troubled times, when keeping promises or making sacrifices are made more difficult by our own compromised interests and stations in life.
But in spite of this lack of fertile soil for change, we have seen some resolve. And we have seen some seeds planted that undoubtedly will bear fruit.
While Americans dug deep to help Haitians dig out of the rubble, and neighbors helped neighbors dig each other out of the snow, we have also come across several social entrepreneurs who have traded the shovel for the hoe.
In January, in conjunction with our book, Actions Speak Loudest, and in partnership with the wonderful group Our Future is TBD, we launched a Twitter contest encouraging followers to tweet what action they would take in 2010 that would make a difference for the next generation of Americans. In other words, what would they plant in 2010 that would grow into something meaningful for others into the future?
We were overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and range of the responses we received, and the extent to which they reflected both the severity of the problems we face and the passion that people have to solve them. For example, @BeccaNY said "I resolve to help create awareness about the oppression of women and girls in the developing world," @goodness500 said "I resolve to make Corporate Social Responsibility more accessible in 2010" and @FeelGoodz said "2010 Action: Become the first Fair Trade Certified Rubber Product in America with TransFair USA."
But three in particular stood out in that their ideas had already taken root and have sprouted organizations that create real social change.
Rich Grief of Everybody Wins: "Planting the seeds of a lifetime love or reading through their mentor/literacy program."
Brian Bordainick from 9th Ward Field of Dreams: "Planting seeds of hope for children in New Orleans still recovering 9th Ward."
Our winner, Stacey Murphy from Brooklyn Farm Yards, is literally planting seeds through her program that are not just producing produce but jobs, fossil fuel reductions, biodiversity and stronger connections with our food. Her program and the support it engendered in our contest reflect the power of connecting a simple idea with the issues of our day and the communities they impact.
These are just a small sampling of a burgeoning underground of social entrepreneurs who may represent our best hope for economic and social growth.
Larger contests than ours, sponsored by the public and private sector alike, are drawing more attention to their efforts, increasing their odds for sustainable contributions. Most recently corporate initiatives such as Chase Community Giving and the Pepsi Refresh Project and nonprofits like Change.org's "Ideas for Change in America" are leveraging the power of social networks to draw attention to the amazing work being done in communities across the country. Coupled with ongoing support for social entrepreneurs from organizations like the Skoll Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers, we are creating more fertile soil for these ideas to be nurtured and grow.
More attention can also be found in the media space. The Huffington Post's Impact section now sits alongside outlets like Current TV, GOOD Magazine and Stanford Social Innovation Review as platforms to showcase the incredible work and potential of social entrepreneurs. We know there is still along way to go in this area. Too much time on our news is spent reminding us of the suffering and reinforcing conflicts and not enough space dedicated to shining light on the solutions. Perhaps someday the depressing adage "if it bleeds it leads" can be replaced by "if it seeds, it leads."
In the meantime, don't be discouraged by your resolutions that bit the dust or feel overly satisfied with yourself because you were able to give up donuts for 40 days. And certainly don't become paralyzed into inaction by the gridlock we find in Washington or driven to despair by what you see on the news.
Instead look around and support your local social entrepreneur. Or better yet, become one yourself. It all starts with a seed.