Even in a world of instant gratification, adults across the globe are working toward long-term positive social change. According to Walden University’s 2014 Social Change Impact Report, more people believe it is important to contribute to long-term changes than say it is important to contribute to immediate changes. They are also more likely to say their efforts today contribute to positive social change in the future compared with immediate changes. However, while 77% of social change agents, on average, believe they are confident their level of involvement is making a difference, adults are less likely to believe they are impacting systemic change, such as changing social structures and systems that often impact long-term change.
Commissioned by Walden and conducted online by Harris Poll June 1–17 2014, the fourth annual survey about the state of social change around the world includes the perspectives of more than 9,000 adults in Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Jordan, Mexico and the United States. This year’s report builds on the findings from the 2011–2013 reports and was designed to examine people’s perceptions of the impact of their engagement in positive social change.
“The 2014 Social Change Impact Report provides insight as to where social change agents believe they are having the most impact and how that varies with different levels of engagement in positive social change,” said Dr. Cynthia Baum, president of Walden University. “This year’s findings tell us that engagement in social change is highly valued, but that the majority of us feel that we—and others—could be doing more to create an enduring impact.”
The State of Social Change Today
Overall, a majority of adults (79%, on average) agree they can make the world a better place by their actions, and half of adults feel they are having a major or moderate impact on improving the lives of individuals in their community (53%, on average) and on creating a better world for everyone to live in (49%, on average). People also report they are influencing the actions and attitudes of others to improve people’s lives. Half of adults feel they are having a major or moderate impact on changing behaviors of others (53%, on average) and changing attitudes and beliefs of others (52%, on average).
However, people believe they are having less of an impact on systemic changes, where only 40%, on average, feel they are having a major or moderate impact on changing social structures and systems. Adults in Brazil (70%), India (63%) and Mexico (63%) are most likely to feel this way.
Social Change Agents Focus on the Long Term
An average of 73% of adults who have ever engaged in positive social change say it is extremely or very important that a person’s involvement with positive social change today contributes to long-term changes that will improve people’s lives in the future. In contrast, an average of 61% of adults say it is extremely or very important to contribute to immediate changes that improve people’s lives now.
Adults also believe it’s more likely their involvement today contributes to long-term change. Six in 10 adults who have ever engaged in positive social change (58%, on average) say it is extremely or very likely that their involvement with positive social change today contributes to long-term changes that will improve people’s lives in the future compared with slightly less than half (46%, on average) who say their involvement today contributes to immediate changes that improve people’s lives now.
People Feel There Is More Work to be Done
Even though levels of engagement in social change remain steady overall and confidence levels are high, people around the world feel they could be doing more.
- More than three-quarters of social change agents (77%, on average) say they are confident their involvement is making a difference. Adults in Brazil (85%), India (85%) and China (84%) are the most likely to agree.
- Only 27% of adults overall are extremely or very satisfied with how much the lives of individuals are improving, and a similar number (24%, on average) are not at all satisfied.
On average, only 36% of adults are extremely or very satisfied with the frequency they are engaged in positive social change activities and also with how much they are helping to improve the lives of individuals and communities.
- Adults in Brazil and India are the most likely to be extremely or very satisfied with the frequency they are engaged (51% and 47%, respectively) and with how much they are helping (53% and 51%, respectively).
- Adults in Jordan, Canada and Germany are the least likely to be satisfied with the frequency they are engaged (25%, 27% and 29%, respectively) and with how much they are helping improve the lives of individuals and communities (24%, 25% and 26%, respectively).
Even fewer adults are highly satisfied with how much people in their country are involved in positive social change activities or with the availability of opportunities for engagement.
- One-quarter of adults (25%, on average) say they are extremely or very satisfied with how much people in their country are involved in positive social change activities.
- Fewer than four in 10 adults (36%, on average) say they are extremely or very satisfied with the availability of opportunities to be involved.
- Satisfaction with their fellow countrymen’s involvement in positive social change activities (40%) and the availability of opportunities is highest in India (50%).
Involvement in Positive Social Change Remains Widespread and Diverse
As they did in 2013, most adults (82%, on average) in 2014 report they have done something to engage in positive social change in the past six months.
- Adults in Brazil (90%), India (87%) and Mexico (87%) are most likely to have engaged during that time while those in Germany (68%) are least likely to have done so.
- While nearly three in 10 adults (28%, on average) do something at least once a month, adults most likely to engage monthly live in Brazil (39%), Mexico (34%) and Jordan (33%) whereas adults living in China (17%) and Germany (21%) are least likely to engage this frequently.
The most common way adults across the globe engage in social change is using digital technology (48%, on average), which includes those who post a comment on a positive social change issue on a website, text messages related to a positive social change issue or participate in a social networking site dedicated to a positive social change issue. Using digital technology is the top social change activity in Brazil (63%), India (61%), Mexico (60%), China (59%) and Jordan (53%). Donating money, goods or services is the top social change activity in Canada (51%), Germany (38%) and the U.S. (51%).
These are only some of the findings from Walden’s 2014 Social Change Impact Report. For more detailed findings, visit www.WaldenU.edu/impactreport.
Since its founding in 1970, Walden has believed that knowledge is most valuable when put to use for the greater good and that educational institutions have an important role to play in supporting positive social change. As a result of these guiding principles, Walden has attracted a community of students and scholars who are actively engaged in all facets of positive social change—whether it’s through their profession, research aimed at making a difference in their fields or ongoing volunteerism. This report is one of many ways that Walden is leading the conversation and contributing to positive social change worldwide. Visit www.WaldenU.edu/socialchange to learn more.
About the Study
Walden University first commissioned this annual survey in 2011 to discover the current state of social change around the world. Designed to provide a barometer of who is engaged in social change, what is important to them and how they work together to advance social change issues of interest now and in the future, Walden’s Social Change Impact Report includes attitudes, behaviors and motivations from members of the international community.
The 2014 Social Change Impact Report survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Walden University between June 1 and 17, 2014, among a total of 9,138 adults within Brazil (1,009 adults ages 18–64), Canada (1,003 adults ages 18–64), China (1,021 adults ages 18–64), Germany (1,000 adults ages 18–64), India (1,021 adults ages 18–64), Jordan (1,027 adults ages 18 and older), Mexico (1,020 adults ages 18–64), and the U.S. (2,037 adults age 18 and older). Data for each country were weighted to the general or online population within each country. The “Average Result” is the arithmetic average across the countries. This measure does not account for differences in population size and thus is not representative. This online survey is not based on a probability sample, and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. A complete survey methodology is available upon request by contacting Jen Raider at 1-443-627-7452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Walden University
For more than 40 years, Walden University has supported working professionals in achieving their academic goals and making a greater impact in their professions and their communities. Today, more than 50,000 students from all 50 states and more than 150 countries are pursuing their bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees online at Walden. The university provides students with an engaging educational experience that connects them with expert faculty and peers around the world. Walden is the flagship online university in the Laureate International Universities network—a global network of more than 75 campus-based and online universities in 29 countries.
Walden offers more than 80 degree programs with more than 370 specializations and concentrations. Areas of study include health sciences, counseling, human services, management, psychology, social work, education, public health, nursing, public administration and information technology. For more information, visit www.WaldenU.edu. Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association, www.ncahlc.org.