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‘365 Ways to Change the World’: enviro-conscious merchant banker becomes guerilla gardener

Posted by gmarkets on 25 September, 2007

Every night, merchant banker turned activist Michael Norton put all of his spare change into a bowl, reported The Sydney Morning Herald (19/9/2007, p.15).

Changing the world: It added up quickly, he said. And it’s change in more than one sense. The softly spoken Englishman explained: “There’s a website called kiva.org where you can invest in an entrepreneur in Africa to get them started. So if a widow wants to start a small dairy business and needs $500, you can actually lend it to them directly.” Not that he was a stranger to such organisations. In his 20s, Norton was a banker and publisher but he soon turned to altruism. As a hobby, he es­tablished the first language-teaching program for immigrants in Britain and in his 30s devoted himself full-time to changing the world.

Social entrepreneur: For the past three decades he has been involved in setting up projects which, he hoped, would create a brighter future. His organisation gave away about £10 million ($24 million) to such pro­jects each year – hardly spare change. “I set up a foundation for what I call social entrepreneurs – people who have ideas about a better world. It might be ‘I want to build beehives on my roof’ or ‘I want to build a straw-bale house’. But whatever their idea, it has to have a social benefit. And we give them the cost of their materials to make their idea a reality.” That was the inspiration for his book, 365 Ways to Change the World.

Worthy, and entertaining: With so many ideas coming his way, Norton wanted to send these creative notions back into the world to illustrate the array of easy, immediate ways we could change our planet. The tips on offer in ‘365 Ways’ were as entertaining as they were worthy. You could download fake parking tickets from websites to put under four­-wheel-drives’ windscreens, saying “This vehicle is evil.” You could try guerilla gardening on unused vacant lots and nature strips. It’s a process Norton called “everyday activism”. You’re doing it when you decide against using plastic bags at the super­market – and if we all did it …

The Sydney Morning Herald, 19/9/2007, p. 15

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