New Radical Profile #5: Slow Change Is Good, Too

11/27/2010 11:56 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Julia Moulden Speaker, columnist and author, 'RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50'

People are forever telling me that the only men and women interested in becoming New Radicals are those who are at the beginning of their careers (20something) or end (50something). That those in between simply can't afford to make the change.


David Peck decided that he wanted to spend the rest of his life making a difference, not just making money. So, he launched an organization called SoChange (in his previous life he's been all kinds of things, including a stand-up comedian). He's 45, and is married with two kids under five.

I asked him to answer four questions. Here he is, unfiltered.

What are you doing?

Changing the world one action at a time. Sounds crazy -- or lofty -- I know, but I really do believe in slow, incremental steps. SoChange is a small, capacity-building organization working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the world. We write proposals, create and manage large social justice-related events, and help with vision casting and leadership initiatives.

One example: the Mosquitoes Suck Tour. It's a student engagement campaign disguised as a comedy and magic show about malaria. Can something so serious be funny? Yes, if it gets youth involved in the world around them.

How did you get the gig?

I created it. It was all about utility: I asked myself where I could do the most good. And SoChange seemed like the best answer.

"Capacity building" means that we come alongside NGOs when they need us to help them move to the next level, and then move off again until the next critical juncture. For instance, we're working with an NGO in South East Asia that just built a rural maternity clinic in Cambodia; there are only two such facilities in the entire country.

Our work requires insight and patience -- sometimes I think we should re-name the company "Slow Change" because that's how the world really works.

What's the best part of your job?

The people, without a doubt. I meet men, women, and children all over the world. And the more of them I meet, the more I see that we're in this together and that we need to interact to truly understand this. Face to face human connection is a powerful driving force.

Also, the travel -- for the most part. Because there is always a fascinating cross-cultural lesson awaiting me at the end of the runway. This past summer, I visited a reconciliation village in Rwanda where hope, grace, and forgiveness were being practiced. It doesn't get better than that.

What would you tell emerging New Radicals?

It's about freedom, choice, and responsibility. Look back briefly, and then leap. We want to know what will happen when we take a risk, but we can't know that until later. So, take the plunge. Fail miserably, shake it off, and plunge in again.

And changing the world doesn't have to include politics, economics, or huge organizations like the World Bank or the UN. It's about living in a space that isn't as familiar to us: one that allows for the possibility of real, significant change to occur in the simple things we are involved in each and every day.

Also, there are lots of people who really do want to make a difference: find a friend you can talk with, complain to, dream with. You need a support mechanism. Find it and hold on. And remember: no step is too small.

You can reach David Peck through SoChange: