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How Social Impact Grows from Dreams to Global Movements

Social impact starts with an idea. It begins gradually — dreams become actions, which grow into bona fide movements that alter the course of history. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton relied on a rock-solid friendship to build a movement that brought American women the vote.

A man of unrelenting faith, Martin Luther King, Jr., had a dream before he mobilized like-minded activists and spearheaded the civil rights movement. Trace these and other landmark crusades to their starting points and you’ll see, they spring from the minds of thankful people.

Thankful minds are the fertile ground in which revolutionary ideas take root, flourish and become global movements. This week during the Sundance Film Festival, Thankful founder Kim McDonnell highlighted the role of thankfulness in social impact.

“The USA needs Thankful right now,” she said. “The whole world needs Thankful. We need to come together with thankful hearts for the diversity around us. That’s at the core of social change.”

We hosted a smattering of thankful tête-à-têtes during the film festival festivities, bringing together everyone from rock legends to panty mavens to discuss the ways thankfulness paves the way for social change. (Read about them here and here.) Some were thankful for their blessings — others were thankful for the challenges that gave them a chance to grow. As these thankful people shared their trials and triumphs, others got an important reminder: We all have reasons to be thankful. While it isn’t always easy, it always pays off.

How Thankfulness Makes Hard Times Easier

“Often times when we are in the midst of our greatest storm we don’t know what’s on the other side…having gratitude is difficult but paramount.” - Alexis Jones, I Am That Girl

When to Have Faith in Yourself

“When you know you’ve got something good. Hang with it. Because we’re too easily influenced by others’ opinions.” - Kenny Loggins, to the Thankful Sessions crowd at Sundance

How Strength Grows from Adversity

“Because I was born deaf and have had to work so hard to communicate… I’m most grateful for the gift of being able to finally communicate.” - Lance Allred, Former NBA Player, Author and Motivational Speaker

“I’m thankful for tragedy, we are primarily defined by our tragedies. The gift you never wished on anybody, but it’s the thing that propels you forward.” - Tom Chi, Google Glass

How Gratitude Can Grow a Movement

“We have heard from all our panelists about their loss, trials and heartbreak and it’s incredible to hear that you each use those things to inspire the work you do to be people pushing for social impact.” - Freddy Bosche, panel moderator, actor and activist

“I was a part of the march this morning and the energy that I was feeling was reminiscent of the 60s. And there was a level of activism that we all kind of stumbled into then.” - Kenny Loggins

What we heard from our discussions this week at Sundance is that thankfulness is a tool, a stepping stone on the path to turning thoughts into actions and dreams into realities.

We ourselves are thankful for the insights from people who have been there — people who struggled, lost and overcame — people who created opportunities that they and others can be truly grateful for.

We’re going to be following these folks on their social impact journeys, so stay tuned…this is only the beginning.


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