Year Of The Innovator: Meaningful Work That Helps Save The World

04/08/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Julia Moulden Speaker, columnist and author, 'RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50'

Over the past few years, I've met hundreds of people who are reinventing their work so that it's more meaningful and a way to make a difference in the world.

As regular readers of this column know, I call them New Radicals: people like you and me who've discovered how to put skills acquired in their careers to work on the world's greatest challenges (for more, please see archived articles).

Each week I learn about new examples. There's a fantastic - and growing - range of ways to become a New Radical, which fall into three categories.

Activists are those who actively serve the less fortunate. Often, these New Radicals are people who move from a job in the corporate world to the nonprofit sector. They're people like John Rafferty, who left a private sector post to lead the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

Entrepreneurs are those who start new ventures whose mission is to make a difference. People like Laura Howard, who created the world's first premium goat's milk ice cream, Laloo's. Read a post I wrote about Laura and the company she keeps.

When I first started tracking this movement, I focused on Activists and Entrepreneurs. Because, well, they were the ones that caught my eye - they're doing big, splashy things. They're headline worthy.

But there's a third kind of New Radical that I'm going to focus on in 2010. I call them Innovators - that is, people who stay inside their field or organization and drive change from within. They're the ones to watch.

Why? If you think about it, we can't all work for Doctors Without Borders or the Gates Foundation. We can't all become organic farmers or solar energy salespeople. The world needs bus drivers and ballerinas, waiters and plumbers, IT specialists and people to do payroll. Yet each of these people (well, most of us, including you, since you're reading this post...) wants to do good.

Imagine what it would be like if employees of the world's largest organizations - whether public or private - knew that they could become Innovators and help drive their institution to world-saving heights? What if "good" wasn't what we did after hours, but integrated into what we do each day? It's starting to happen.

I'll be writing about Innovators inside major employers - like Coca Cola, Proctor and Gamble, General Electric, and Cisco Systems. And not just private sector firms, but public sector organizations, too.

And I'll share insights from these pioneers about what's driving this trend, including the financial crisis (yes, there's a silver lining), and you and me (we have more influence over the workplace than most of us realize).

The world of work is changing. Stay tuned.

What's your experience? Are you a New Radical? Is your workplace changing? Are you a Human Resources professional who's heard things like "what's your environmental program?" from young recruits - as many of my HR contacts report they have? Please share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below. Or send me an email.

Julia Moulden is on tour, talking about the New Radicals. She can be reached at Julia (that familiar symbol) wearethenewradicals (punctuation) (standard suffix).