Creative Thoughts

Change and influencing folk

Mercifully we are no longer what we eat, which must come as a relief to what was fast becoming a nation of paninis. In 2006, Eugenie Harvey says, we are what we do. That is the title of the movment Harvey co-founded with David Robinson in London.

Judging by sales of the associated book, Change the World for a Fiver, it is a message that huge numbers of people are buying into. The movement was inspired by a famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

The book is a kind of idiot's guide to putting that theory into practice. It contains 50 simple actions that each of us can perform in our daily lives, which put together will make the world a better place. Happy clappy, hippy dippy, wishy washy?

Maybe, but in its first 100 days, the book sold 100,000 copies. In the 400 or so days since, it has been adapted for publication across Europe and in such places as Canada, Australia and, most recently of all, in far-flung China.

The movement has been blessed (cursed?) by such luminaries as British Chancellor Gordon Brown and the Swiss entrants in this year's Eurovision. Its inventiveness was hailed by the D&AD awards and the Financial Times Creative Business 50.

ICAD had a number of good reasons for inviting Harvey to address members in Dublin.

Design-wise, Change the World for a Fiver is remarkably inventive and engaging, transforming what could have been a dull and worthy list of dos and don'ts into a treasury of lively surprises. Each action is communicated clearly and brought to life in an inspiring, useful way (No.7 comes with its own packet of Scots pine seeds).

The book was produced with the help of many people from the creative, entertainment and publishing industries in the UK, people who obviously took item number 50 to heart.

The project is instructive, providing insights into the many ways in which curiosity and word-of-mouth can be fostered and harnessed locally, nationally and globally.

Harvey and Robinson are so unselfish with their 'brand properties', preferring to see the list of 50 actions borrowed, adapted and disseminated further, rather than stubbornly keeping control. You cannot help thinking that if more conventional brand owners were a little less litigious and trademark-bound, their brands might prosper all the more.

But on the night, it was not really the design, advertising or marketing lessons of We Are What We Do that struck the most resonant chord. More so, it was the air of inspiration that surrounds the whole movement and fuels its growth.

In these industries more than most, it is always encouraging to see a simple idea, intelligently nurtured, doing so amazingly well. Inspired? What follows is the full unabridged list of 50. Noel Dempsey got as far as No.1…


  1. Decline plastic bags wherever possible
  2. Read a story with a child
  3. Fit at least one energy-saving light bulb
  4. Learn basic first aid
  5. Smile and smile back
  6. Take public transport when you can
  7. Plant a tree
  8. Have a bath with someone you love
  9. If it says 30mph, do 30mph
  10. Turn your thermostat down by one degree C
  11. Get fitter, feel better
  12. Turn off appliances at the mains
  13. Recycle your mobile phone
  14. Spend time with someone from a different generation
  15. Register online as an organ donor
  16. Give your change to charity
  17. Try watching less TV
  18. Learn to be friendly in another language
  19. Learn one good joke
  20. Find out how your money is invested
  21. Turn off unnecessary lights
  22. Use your will to good effect
  23. Have more meals together
  24. Put your gum in the bin
  25. Use a mug not a plastic cup
  26. Give blood
  27. Pay more when you buy at charity shops
  28. Seize the moment
  29. Recycle your computer
  30. Bake something for a friend
  31. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth
  32. Do something you think you are unable to do
  33. Recycle your books
  34. Buy fairly traded products
  35. Write to someone who inspired you
  36. Take time to listen
  37. Let at least one car in on every journey
  38. Don't overfill your kettle
  39. Shop locally
  40. Join something
  41. Hug someone
  42. Recycle your specs
  43. Grow something with a child
  44. Report dumped rubbish to your council
  45. Give your phone number to five people in your street
  46. Use both sides of every piece of paper
  47. Buy a copy of this book for a friend
  48. Send us an action
  49. Learn more, do more
  50. Do something for nothing

    More details can be found at

    Dylan Cotter is vice president of ICAD and a copywriter at Irish International BBDO

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