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Action, In Words and Pictures

by Joe Ippolito

November 17, 2009
A new book looks at the surprising and inspiring ways people of all stripes can affect social change.
With his new book Actions Speak Loudest, Bob McKinnon has brought together some disparate names to explain how change is fueled by action-not just talk. From Newt Gingrich to Donovan McNabb, Jeffrey Sachs to Jimmy Carter, the book illustrates the many ways in which changemakers leave their mark. McKinnon also heads up Yellowbrickroad, a communications and marketing company that promotes social change through programming, communications, advocacy, and action. We sat down with him to talk about his new book.GOOD: What inspired the book?Bob McKinnon: We all have this implicit promise to leave the world a better place for our children. Generally, over the course of previous generations, we've been able to keep good on that promise-but what the data now points to is that we may not make good on that promise. We may actually be creating the first generation of children to lead shorter, unhappier, unhealthier lives than their parents, which, in a country with the resources, ingenuity, and the brainpower that we have, is sort of an unacceptable outcome. So the thought was "What do we need to do to draw a little more attention to this promise and the issues that affect it?"G: And what did you come up with?BM: We have a short attention span in terms of being able to deal with multiple issues at one time; we've got an "issue of the month" mentality. We talk about childhood obesity for a while or maybe climate change gets a lot of attention. We don't treat them holistically. Our point was to talk about these issues in one project and for us to show how connected they really are. We then wanted to give people some very specific things to act on in the hopes that small actions can accumulate into something much bigger and more powerful.G: The book has a lot of contributors. How did you pick what to include?BM: We wanted to select contributors who had demonstrated an action-oriented approach. There's a wonderful Helen Keller quote we use in the book: "All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming." That's what these people represent. So, our contributors range from Jeffrey Sachs to Jimmy Carter, Rachel Ray to Dave Eggers. Some of them are household names, but there are also people who have experienced the issues that we're talking about and have a very firsthand knowledge. For example, there's one written by Richard Castaldo, who was paralyzed at Columbine. I think those are some of the best essays in the book.
When you look at the contributors and what they share in common, these are people who reached into the muck and mire of life and made something more beautiful-a better outcome.
G: The book also has a companion website where you're encouraging user-generated content. BM: We wanted it to be a resource, so if people are interested in the work of our contributors or the organizations that are listed in the book, they get more information about what these organizations are doing and how you can get involved directly. We also created a widget, which scrolls through the different actions that are encompassed within the book so every time you visit the site, you can be inspired to do something very immediate. People can tell us about their own actions, about what they've done to make the world a better place. It's been a great way to allow people to demonstrate how their actions are speaking loudest.G: Who are you hoping to reach with the book?BM: People who love social change and have an interest in a broad variety of issues. Juan Williams, who contributed both a chapter and the foreword, said two really cool things about the book: One is that a person who has this book in their hands is a dangerous American because they're empowered to make change. The other thing that he said is that when you look at the contributors and what they share in common, these are people who reached into the muck and mire of life and made something more beautiful-a better outcome.Buy Actions Speak Loudest here.
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Action, In Words and Pictures