As I discussed in Part 1 of The Accomplishments of Public Figures and Celebrities as Change Agents, Steve Jobs demonstrated his abilities as a change agent by initiating, leading and supporting a monumental change effort at Apple that led them from near bankruptcy to one of the most valuable companies in the world. Another celebrity that has demonstrated his ability to make positive change throughout his career is Matt Damon. Matt Damon has established himself as a well-renowned actor and producer; however, he demonstrates his change agent "chops" through his philanthropy work. Matt is a supporter of more than 30 charities and 25 causes; most notably, he is the founder of H20 Africa (which later merged with WaterPartners to form Water.org), a non-governmental organization that raises awareness about clean water initiatives in Africa. In the ensuring segments, I will discuss how Matt initiated change through the foundation of H20 Africa and how he continues to lead and support the change movement through the Water.org organization. I have aligned Matt's change agent work to the ADKAR® phases below to demonstrate how this model can be applied outside of the normal project construct.
Matt Damon: Actor, Founder of H20 Africa
Initiate the Change: In 2007, Matt Damon was part of a group filming Running the Sahara, a documentary film that featured three men as they attempted to run across the entire Sahara desert. As work on the documentary started, Matt became increasingly aware of the water crisis across Africa and the need for change. As a result, he decided to create H20 Africa in order to educate people worldwide and implement solutions that would provide widespread help. While you might think this is just another actor donating money to a cause, it's not. Matt displayed extreme disgust that the issue was still this widespread in the 21st century and desired to be a part of implementing a sustainable solution to fix the crisis. In short, to initiate the change, he became invested.
Lead the Change: As H20 Africa began gaining attention and growing, Matt decided to merge with entrepreneur Gary White of WaterPartners to create Water.org with the goal of expanding awareness to generate capital to fund the implementation of solutions. In a Q&A interview for the site, Matt displayed his knowledge about the water crisis and the immediate need for change considering it affects over 2 billion people worldwide. Matt summarized the water crisis in the Interview when he stated: "It's the enormity of the problem and the availability of the solutions," again, displaying his knowledge of the current situation and its need to change. Matt also discussed Water.org's solutions, which do not focus on just going into a slum, digging a well or pump system and leaving. The approach comprises four key components, which generate what Matt calls "Smart Solutions. These smart solutions involve utilizing appropriate technology, forging partnerships with local partner organizations, providing education and most importantly, engaging the local community, giving them the ability to understand and eventually lead the change on their own. Change on a massive scale such as this cannot be done alone- in fact change on a smaller scale shouldn't be done alone either.
Support the Change: Any large project that has significant change requires constant leadership and support, especially from individuals in management positions. Support is even more crucial when projects have a global factor, such as Water.org, where the participants of the change are generally under educated and living in difficult conditions. Matt, along with his business partner Gary White have done a tremendous job providing continuous leadership and support through reinforcement of goals and objectives, especially considering Matt's job as an actor/writer/producer keeps him busy. Matt held a press conference on February 12, 2013 where he announced he would be going on a toilet strike to protest that 2.5 billion people lack access to toilet or basic sanitation. On March 22, 2013 (National Water Day) Matt launched a Youtube Video on a Water.org microsite Strikewithme.org in order to gain additional support while providing additional information on the water crisis. While the video is scripted and includes some humor, it is designed to make people aware of the crisis, inspire greater involvement, and collective ownership. Operating as a non-profit, Water.org relies heavily on donations and contributions. While the water crisis is far from solved, Water.org is a step in the right direction and Matt's efforts continue to keep this issue on the minds of many. It just goes to show you that with dedicated leaders and ongoing support, change can effectively implemented.
What are your thoughts on Matt Damon as a change agent?