This article was originally published in 2019 but we have expanded and updated this article because we believe it is even more relevant to our times now.
Are you aware of the enormous wave of progress and goodness, well underway in the world? We call this wave the Conspiracy of GoodnessTM , and if you are reading this article, you may already be a part of it. Now more than ever we have an opportunity to turn that wave into a rising tide.
The negative dialogue about our times is not keeping up with reality. We’re going to tell you why, point you to some of the thought leaders that will inspire you about our future, and tell you how you can get good people in your circles similarly inspired!
Why the world isn’t a dumpster fire!
Contrary to what the news and social media are saying, there is a quiet but powerful movement happening around the globe. So humble and quiet are its members that we’re calling this expansion a “Conspiracy of Goodness.”
In the course of our work here at the Goodness Exchange over almost a decade, we’ve discovered something awe-inspiring: for nearly every major problem our world faces today, there are people going uncelebrated who are solving them.
Almost daily we find ourselves excitedly telling our coworkers about an inspiring project or are moved to tears by the work of a passionate individual.
Our greatest problem is that we can’t do enough to celebrate this wave. It’s so big we can’t keep up!
If everything’s so great, why do I feel so much anger and anxiety about the world?
The answer to that question is all about how our minds have evolved to keep us safe. Not a bad thing, but an awareness that we can use to find more joy and less fear.
Here’s a little context: Every one of us comes from “survivors” whose brains were supercharged to discover signs of danger and disorder before disaster struck. It worked very well in a world full of saber-toothed tigers and constantly battling rivals. But now most of us don’t face nearly that same degree of threat and yet our brains are still on the same constant level of alert.
We can’t take our eyes off the suspicious person in the subway, or avoid looking at a car crash, because our minds are prioritizing threats and fear… not opportunity or joy.
It’s just that simple, but there is a better way forward. To break free of the system, read on!
Start with a Thought Experiment:
Let’s take a minute to ask ourselves some really important questions: why do so many of us know the names of mass murderers and many of Hitler’s monstrous generals, but we do not know the names of the people who hid Anne Frank’s family?
Why is it that we know about awful crime rates and the stories of war but not the numbers that point to progress and the magnificent stories of rebuilding?
The Harvard Professor and psychologist, Steven Pinker, has studied some of the reasons for our feelings of collective overwhelm and pessimism even in the face of such incredible human progress. When learning of our #ConspiracyOfGoodnesss movement, he made some wonderful comments on Twitter about it! Take a few minutes to let Professor Pinker transform your worldview in this short video. He has some incredible points worth remembering:
We want to give a big thank you to professor Pinker for so perfectly putting the great tension of our times into words. When we first launched the #ConspriacyofGoodness movement in 2019 and published this article in it’s first edition he was one of the many thought leaders to share our work with his community on twitter!
Bottom Line: progress has become “normal.” And “normal” isn’t newsworthy!
Think about the last time you shared a neutral story. It’s hard to get excited about a steady decline in poverty when there is a much catchier story that grabs our attention about a massive health crisis.
What if we were to find a way to celebrate these small wins and make them awe-inspiring?
You know the feeling when you see people acting to make lives or the future brighter for others? Or when you smile because you stumble upon a random act of kindness? Have you ever been moved to share a video because it filled you with hope and brought you to tears? Or become excited to volunteer or be a part of a movement you care about?
All of those moments point to this movement we are calling the quiet Conspiracy of GoodnessTM of our times.
The Conspiracy of GoodnessTM is made up of stories both big and small, of courage, ingenuity, and generosity.
This notion of a Conspiracy of Goodness is powerful. To truly appreciate it, we need to appreciate the awe-inspiring history of that phrase.
So we dug into the origin of that phrase and discovered the following historical reference:
Not many people know that during World War II, the small village of Le Chambon, France saved 3,500 Jewish people from the Nazi Concentration Camps. Without any formal organization and at great risk to their own lives, the villagers managed to hide thousands of strangers (many of them orphaned children) for several years.
In 1987, Rabbi Harold M. Schulwies, was giving a talk in Europe about this chapter of WWII that he called The Conspiracy of Evil, and at the end of his talk, he recalls that an old man stood up to say that he had been a rescuers who had hidden a Jewish family in Holland.
And then the old man added, “Why does everyone focus on the conspiracy of evil that was WWII? Do you think I could have hidden an entire Jewish family in my home without the active cooperation of the mailman, milkman, and the neighbors? No, for every one person saved, there were seven who were ‘rescuers.’
“There was..” he said, “a conspiracy of goodness.” 2
Ah… when I heard that phrase, it felt as if the ground had shifted below my feet!
THIS phrase explained all that wave we had been seeing in society: the quiet, humble people just doing what they can do in their circles to make life better for others AND the amazing innovators solving our most vexing problems. All of them, with no fanfare or self-promotion.
This is who we are. By far the vast majority of people are caring, kind and ingenious helpers. The advent of the 24-hour news cycle and social media did not change that.
So, what do we do next?
We can make the world a better place for us all if we each do what we can to share this wave with others: help it rise to the top of the internet where darkness is winning our attention. Celebrate and point to the Conspiracy of GoodnessTM that is all around us when you see it.
What if we were to make the people and organization moving us steadily towards progress “newsworthy”? What could happen if we were to recognize when we were excited or moved by the actions of others and took time to thank them, recognize them, and share their stories?
Every thought leader we’ve written about has a wonderful group of early adopters. In order to bring their stories of progress and insight to the forefront, it will take many more rescuers. Remember in the story of Le Chambon? “For every one person saved, there were 7 who rescuers.“
If we each shared signs of goodness and progress regularly, it would start popping up everywhere!
The evidence is all around us. There is a Conspiracy of Goodness TM underway and it is influencing some of the world’s leading corporations are making social responsibility a huge part of their culture and branding. Now startups often begin “giving back” from day one. I know right now, it seems like our social currency is money and influence. But there is a “gratitude economy” gaining momentum and it needs to override our current “attention economy.”
Become a “Values Driven” consumer.
We are at a point in human history where “goodness” is becoming the currency that will carry us forward in business and industry too. We can support companies that are finding a way to do good business while making the world a better place. If possible, we can be willingly to pay a little more to buy shoes or glasses from places like TOMS or Warby Parker because we know our purchase will support a person in need.
That’s the same impulse we follow when we refuse a plastic bag or straw, and when we donate to a Patreon page.
All those are the same impulses that the really kind, ingenious people followed in WWII and other challenging chapters in history when we needed to make a leap.
We have the choice of what we give our attention to!
So, now, here are some of the stories, creators, and organizations we can celebrate and share when we are feeling overwhelmed by the seeming state of the world!
Stories worth sharing!
The Thought Leader Seeing Without Eyes
Let’s start with a close friend of the Goodness Exchange, Daniel Kish. As an infant, he lost both eyes to cancer, and yet he travels the world unaccompanied because he has adapted to seeing with a kind of natural sonar. Dr. Lynda has talked with him as he navigated O’Hare airport and taken long walks through new neighborhoods, all while discussing what possibility could look like for the blind community if we celebrated the remarkability our brains have to navigate even the most seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Living Beyond Expectations: Daniel Kish
Despite not having eyes, Daniel Kish has taught himself to “see” with human “echo-location” and he is teaching others. His story is a remarkable testament to what happens when we never get the memo about things that are “impossible” and instead make what we have work for us!Read More
Changing the Narrative About Our World by Celebrating Progress
The common ratio of progress to negativity would have us believing the world is in a persistent state of decline. And while the news is vitally important and we need to know what’s going on on this planet we call home, we can’t talk about the world purely in negative terms if we want to make it a better place for ourselves and those who come after us. We need to see the whole picture.
In this time when it’s so easy to feel like the world is one big dumpster fire – it’s important to hear about the many measures of true, real progress that are out there. Things are getting better. Join us for a look at these remarkable statistics through the eyes of Stefan Sagmeister, an artist on a mission to prove this very point.
Extreme Poverty is at an All-Time Low and Other Remarkable Stats About Our Improving World
Rates of poverty, hunger, and sickness, and many more are all falling. Here are the uplifting facts about our world that will restore your confidence in humanity and show you that despite the rampant doom and gloom, many things ARE getting better.Read More
Stepping-in Where You Can: A Veteran Fighting PTSD with Beekeeping
Here is a simple recipe for living with more joy and sharing abundance with others. After serving 20 years in combat, US Army veteran Eric Grandon has found a new purpose in life: bees. After suffering from PTSD in isolation for years, bees not only helped save his life but gave him a way to help other veterans like him.
This bee-autiful tale of how Eric has created a healing community through sharing the work he loves is sure to inspire you to find the activities that can help you, too! Thought leaders like him show us that making a big difference in people’s lives—and our own—comes in many different forms, even honey.
How Astronauts are Teaching us to Live with more Empathy
What can we learn from the people who have spent life OUTSIDE of our planet? The remarkable experiment that is the International Space Station (ISS) has not only changed the lives of the astronauts who have been fortunate enough to spend time there. It also has the power to help all of us down here on Earth tap into our fullest human potential, too!
What Astronauts Bring Back to Earth for Us!
What can we learn from the people who have spent life OUTSIDE of our planet? The International Space Station is one of the most incredible feats of human engineering, and the secret to making it all possible is a lesson that could help us solve our biggest problems down here on Earth!Read More
Turning Ocean Garbage into Sought-After Fashion
What if the next hat you bought cleaned the ocean? By connecting the dots to a life-threatening problem, some of the planet’s most dangerous ocean pollution is getting a new life in some unexpected places. From hats to Jenga sets, fishing nets are being repurposed to save communities, both marine and human, and it’s easier than ever to support this cause!
From Fish to Fashion: When A Fishing Net Becomes A Hat!
What if we looked at the life cycle of every item we purchased and thought “Where did this come from? What will happen when I’m done with it?” This company has figured out how to solve a problem for a community of fishermen and save wildlife by giving some of the ocean’s most harmful pollution a new, more fashionable, life.Read More
Innovators Treating Spinal Cord Injuries with Asparagus
Could asparagus be the key to treating spinal cord injuries? Yes, the solution to one of the most difficult-to-treat injuries in the human body is sitting on your plate as a delicious side dish! The remarkable innovators at the Pelling Lab have made a breakthrough discovery that could change the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people who are impacted every year by spinal cord injuries. However, this isn’t just a story of an incredible discovery. The process that brought this innovation on its way into medicine is probably very familiar to anybody who has ever felt the twinge of self-doubt!
Asparagus: A New Treatment for Spinal Cord Injuries?
A feeling very familiar to most of us almost kept this life-changing treatment for spinal cord injuries from making it to testing! Here’s how Andrew Pelling and his fellow researchers overcame self-doubt to create this breakthrough innovation.Read More
Using the Internet for Good: How a Viral Movement Planted Over 20 Million Trees!
There is endless debate over the capacity for good (or bad) that the internet has. Younger generations are often criticized for “retweet activism”—that is, sharing something on social media but not doing anything to spur change in real life. But in this case, a single, joking Reddit post prompted a YouTuber to start a movement that brought thousands of internet creators and hundreds of thousands of others together to plant more than—wait for it—over 20 million trees.
How #TeamTrees Proves the Internet Can Do Good
20. Million. NEW. Trees. You read that right! When fans of YouTuber MrBeast sparked a lofty goal of planting 20 million trees in 2019, the mission spread like wildfire, exploding to include thousands of content creators and hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Check this story out for proof that when people come together for good, there’s no end to their impact.Read More
Organizations Reframing our Answers
Inventing with “Practical Compassion”
One of the earliest friends to the Goodness Exchange is Kenton Lee, the founder of an amazing organization called The Shoe That Grows. Kenton has an inspiring story that comes from a simple but powerful observation while on after-college volunteer experience in Africa. From there, a spark ignited a fire and now, in only four years, they have worked with 2400 partners to distribute over 250,000 pairs of The Shoe That Grows to kids in over 100 countries! In fact, the support was so great that there is now a way to buy the shoes for our own kids in an effort called GroFive!
Solving Big Problems with Simple Solutions: Practical Compassion and The Shoe That Grows
Have you seen The Shoe That Grows? This genius idea is changing lives across the globe and it didn’t come from a millionaire or a world-renowned inventor but a real person just like us! Here’s his story!Read More
Using Old Cellphones to Save the Rainforest
The Rainforest Connection has found a way to take something we all have laying in a junk drawer – our old cell phones – and ingeniously repurposing them to save Rainforest. We met Topher White, founder of RFCX, at our favorite conference, PopTech. (Check them out if you are passionate about innovative thinking.) Topher is just exactly the kind of person you would entrust to champion this cause: super nice, tireless, well-spoken and always interested in making sure his effort includes local communities in the best possible way.
Saving the Rainforest with Old Cell Phones
How can we police large swaths of endangered rainforest with something we all have at home? The incredible startup Rainforest Connection is taking our old cell phones and giving them a second life as protectors of some of the most at-risk habitat on the planet!Read More
Making Communities healthier and safer with the power of walking!
Could something as simple as taking a walk around the block save millions of lives? That’s the premise behind the health non-profit, GirlTrek, who is harnessing the power of mothers to create safer, healthier communities all across the world! It’s a global solution to an endless number of problems—and it all begins with this first step.
Does Walking Have the Power to Save Lives and Uplift Communities?
Have you noticed that the first steps to solving our biggest problems are often right there in front of us, so clear that they’re invisible? GirlTrek is turning the simple act of walking around the block into a revolutionary way to save lives and improve the safety of communities! Here’s how.Read More
Empowering Single Mothers to Defend Nature & Community
Thanks to some counter-intuitive thinking by the remarkable thought leader, Damien Mander, women are turning out to be the wildlife rangers we need—facing some of the harshest realities in conservation. Their perseverance and commitment to community have turned out to be a new recipe for success in the first major improvement in anti-poaching tactics in decades. Best of all, they bring it all back to the community, where all the best problem-solving takes place.
The New Model to Defend Nature & Community: Empower Women with Damien Mander (Episode #57)
You would never initially think that women would make some of the best game wardens in all of Africa and lead to complete social reform within the community! There is a lot to learn here, and today we’re going to dive head first into a world of social entrepreneurship with Damien Mander.Read More
Getting 7 Million Pairs of Pajamas to Kids in Need
Genevieve’s life changed forever the day she made it her mission to get children in emergency shelters across New York City a pair of pajamas. When you help wherever you can, even the simplest gestures can have a massive impact. Genevieve Piturro is the founder of the Pajama Program, an initiative that helps kids in need get the clothes they need.
7 Million Pajamas to Kids in Need: Helping Where You Can with Genevieve Piturro (Episode #66)
Genevieve’s life changed forever the day she made it her mission to get children in emergency shelters across New York City a pair of pajamas. When you help wherever you can, even the simplest gestures can have a massive impact. Genevieve Piturro is the founder of the Pajama Program, an initiative that helps kids in need get the clothes they need.Read More
Explore more of the articles we’ve published featuring those acting inside the Conspiracy of Goodness by clicking here.
Know anybody else? It’s time for you to get involved!
We are shining a spotlight on the people, creators, and organizations working to make our future brighter. With #ConspiracyofGoodness we want people to share stories and celebrate the people you think are making the world a better place!
#ConspiracyofGoodness: When we point to others who are making the world a better place for everyone in ways large and small, we all win!
Why use #ConspiracyofGoodness?
This brings us back to the work of Steven Pinker. When we are faced with a consistent storyline that the world is negative, we will believe it to be so. Our brains actually have a quirk that leads us towards believing a probability of an event is higher if it comes to mind easier. 3 So, if we have more mental images of bad than good in front of us and they come to mind easier, we will believe they occur far more frequently.
By mentioning the Conspiracy of Goodness when you hear people starting on a downward spiral in conversation, you generate a new discussion about the state of the world. This gives you and your friends a more accurate outlook on the progress happening!
Your click is your vote!
The web is based on an attention economy. Every single click we make is being counted by someone. It’s a pretty simple system: whatever we click on, we get more of, as individuals and as a global community.
Good or bad, it makes no difference. A click is a vote that says, “Yes, please. Definitely give me more of this!”
If we click on web content that has roots in fear, anger or acrimony — even if it is just out of curiosity or boredom — then we will get more of that. And that’s exactly what’s happened to propagate this negative narrative about our times. But the reverse is true too! And that’s where the magic occurs for growing this Conspiracy of Goodness.
If we share, save, highlight, and click on content from people who are making the world a better place for everyone, we will get more of that and our future will finally turn a corner. It’s just that simple.
Click on their content. Send them a small donation. Choose them when shopping. They are already out there. We just need to support them and everyone in the #ConspiracyofGoodness in any way that we can.
- When you are excited about the good happening in the world, share it.
- If you’re proud of the people in your life making difference, spread the word.
- When you are moved by an act of kindness, share the story.
This is how we will change the dialogue about our future. This is how we will make progress. Our best solutions arise when we see infinite possibility, not we are confronted with a hopeless future.
Celebrating the #ConspiracyofGoodness around us will ensure that those solutions are found.
Conspire for good!
-Dr. Lynda & the Goodness Exchange Team
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- Freethink. “Steven Pinker Makes the Case for Optimism | Freethink.” YouTube, Freethink, 30 Oct. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6JFr7QIkLE. Accessed 19 Apr. 2019. ↩
- Schulweis, Harold M. “Conspiracy of Goodness: An Untold Story.” The Harold M. Schulweis Institute, 2016, <span style=”color:#000000;”>hsmi.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/another-witness-the-conspiracy-of-goodness.pdf. Accessed 15 Apr. 2019. ↩
- Pinker, Steven. “The Media Exaggerates Negative News. This Distortion Has Consequences | Steven Pinker.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 17 Feb. 2018, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/17/steven-pinker-media-negative-news. Accessed 19 Apr. 2019. ↩