It’s not only charities and philanthropists who can make a difference in the world. Individuals can be even more important. When you consider enacting change, you will no doubt think about the traditional methods. Donating and volunteering are often the first things that spring to mind. But they aren’t always the right option for everyone. Sometimes the less obvious ways to do things can be even more effective.

There are various other ways you can enact change on the world around you, such as creating solutions to common problems, being mindful of what you spend, and taking a stand on important issues. In this article I’ll go over a few ways in which you as an individual can change the world around you.

Innovate, innovate, innovate

Those who change the world for the better are the ones that see a different way of doing things. Whether it’s in politics or technology, if you see a problem that needs to be solved; create a solution. Who knows, you might get rewarded for it. There are even contests and grants that assist those fixing problems in developing countries.

Technology entrepreneur Ewan Kirk launched the Kirk Global Challenge to help students who create new solutions to problems in developing countries. Likewise, the CleanTech Challenge, organised by London Business School and the University of London, has students compete for a £10,000 prize awarded for the best innovative clean technology business ideas. Not only can you create something and improve lives, but you can improve your own life in the process!

While it’s important to give your time and money to causes you believe in, solving a problem like this will help more than you can imagine. A great idea, tool, or solution to advance developing countries in their journey to self-reliance can come from anywhere and anyone. That’s why if this is something you are considering, you should bite the bullet and go for it.

Think about your consumption

Just as it’s important where you give your money, it’s equally important where you don’t. If you have a problem with large corporations, then the best way to get back at them is to speak with your cash. In the UK alone ethical markets were worth over £83 billion as of 2018. At the 1992 ‘Earth Summit’, the UN declared that states should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption “to achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people”.

Being an ethical consumer means purchasing products that are ethically made and do not harm the environment or animals in their production.  What it doesn’t mean is simply boycotting companies that have political or ethical views that you disagree with, but instead being aware of where what you buy comes from, as well as how it’s made. For example, if you have an issue with animal cruelty or greenhouse emissions, then buy free range, look for products without palm oil, or buy from companies that have made carbon neutral pledges.

Take a stand

When it comes to changing public opinion, the buck stops at the individual. If you see something that you believe is wrong and you want it to stop, sitting around and getting worked up will only make you stressed. This is where protesting and volunteering for causes you believe in really can help change the world.

The prevalence of social media means that armchair activism is rampant nowadays. This can also mean misinformation spreads like wildfire. It is important to correct it when you feel it’s appropriate. However, the key to activism is that it must be active. A study from Malte Klar and Tim Kasser found that activism was associated with well-being and that activists were more likely to be ‘flourishing’. Personal benefits aside, even if you change the opinion of just one person, you have still improved the world for the better.

Lead the way

Whether it’s the creation of new technology, mindful spending or taking a stand on important issues, the world needs good leadership. A truly great leader inspires others to act as they do. Leading by example is simple. If you live your life responsibly, while considering how you can make the world better, others around you will feel the need to do the same.

You might feel like being a ‘leader’ is a daunting task. When in reality it can be as simple as teaching others a skill of yours, or volunteering for a local youth group. Any situation where you can teach others or set an example is an opportunity to improve your community, even if it’s only in a minor way.

The ideas laid out here may seem small, but if everyone in society was simultaneously pushing to make it better, rather than doing things for wholly selfish reasons, the effects would be massive. So do your part, however little, and you can help create change.