Review: Making Good: Finding meaning, money and community in a changing world


It feels like we live in a time of unprecedented celebration of youth. Not since the early 70s has the under-35 demographic been so prominent. From launching IPOs and becoming instant billionaires to fighting for political and human rights, and everything in between. My generation seems to be divided between party mode and political struggle.

This is surely not unique; people have been choosing different paths throughout history. It’s just that the divides have never been more apparent and stark. The same advances in communications technology that have served to alert us to atrocities and abuse around the world have also given us a sharper lens with which to examine ourselves – and each other – like never before. Scroll through photos of drunken escapades on Facebook and those who fret about the future could be forgiven for despairing.

Dev AujlaBilly Parish

Authors Dev Aujla and Billy Parish

In their new book, Making Good, Dev Aujla and Billy Parish are determined to change that narrative to highlight that which unites us: the desire to do good. Of course, most people recognize that the world is facing deep-rooted, wicked problems and are concerned about what Planet Earth will look like in 2050. What’s more, they are stepping up to be counted and are actively trying to combat these problems through activism, engagement, charitable work, and social enterprise.

Making Good is about supporting these people – the Rebuilders, as they are called in the book – and helping them make the most of their potential. And there is no shortage of Rebuilders.

Anecdotally, we all know dozens interested in making change happen everywhere we go. The artist who wants to use his creativity to support worthy causes, the banker who chafes at a single-minded pursuit of money, the students who want to spend their lives doing social work. These are common enough to be cliche now.

Dev and Billy identify three factors that enable this unprecedented mass movement for positive change: the existence of “global empathy,” or an increased sense of shared identity and humanity around the world; a platform for global collaboration in the form of the Internet; and breakthrough technologies such as cleantech due to innovation. The authors confidently state that a global movement is underway to address humanity’s challenges. (If they feel a sense of irony in globalization being both a cause of, and a way of addressing, these challenges, they do not mention it.)

The first part of Making Good is devoted to a call for action, appealing to the reader’s desire to do good and join a community where they are accepted with open arms. The last line of page 18 neatly sums up this message: “You are not alone.”

The authors also establish that a non-linear career path is a sensible choice, and that changing the world and making a living are not mutually exclusive. “There’s this pervasive societal myth that linear career paths lead to stability. In fact, it’s people who are on the cutting edge that have job security. That’s why it’s so exciting to be in this age and generation.”

In other words, there are opportunities ripe for the picking, if one knows where to look.

Part 2 of the book then unfolds like a how-to guide, walking the reader through a six-stage process that can be used to launch any initiative. You could be thinking about how to address homelessness or a dysfunctional democracy, and choose to launch a social enterprise or a political campaign. Either way, it is safe to assume that at some point you will go through the stages identified by the authors: reflect, adapt, connect, design, launch and organize.

Each stage has a chapter devoted to it, along with specific tips and a handy list of further reading material appended to each chapter. “We wanted to give people the skills to succeed right now…tangible practices and exercises that they can follow,” says Dev.

Beyond the tips, the book is peppered with examples from the lives of the authors or others they know. This was a conscious decision; as Dev mentions, it reinforces the argument that successfully “finding meaning, money and community” is possible. Each example serves as more evidence to the existence of a community of Rebuilders.

Making Good succeeds as a manual for helping people establish themselves in the business of doing good, and is sure to be an invaluable resource for the millions of young people who are wondering how they can help. It’s appeared on a number of reading lists for people in the nonprofit and social sector, but it’s aimed at a broader audience, and the world will probably be a better place if millions embrace its message and apply the daily practices and exercises in it.

That isn’t a promise, however. Making Good can seem to suffer from a kind of cinematic optimism at times, a subtly communicated belief that if you just follow the steps, you’ll succeed. Recite your mantra. Listen to others. Launch fast. Looking for funds? Make the ask. Everything will turn out for the best.

Real life, as we know, doesn’t work that way. And the authors are conscious about making this clear in the very first chapter. “This book is not a quick fix.” They offer questions, not answers; the answers will be different for every individual. They demand engagement, not mere agreement, for only action will make a difference.

As Dev points out, “There are jobs in every spectrum, in every area. It’s not just for the urban crowd, or about being part of an ideas economy. You could be installing solar panels or retooling the way factories are built. It’s about reapplying skills.”

While at times it feels like this book is preaching to the converted, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As Dev explained to me, this is by design: “There are tens of thousands of people that already get it, that want to do good, that want more purpose and meaning in their work. These are the people that I want to connect, empower and help find jobs that make money and change the world.”

That’s fair. Indeed, the idea of a “good” job has expanded to include more than just financial compensation, and it’s a wave that we should all be surfing.


Nabeel Ahmed

Nabeel is the Managing Editor of SocialFinance.ca at the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and an Associate at SiG@MaRS. He also manages media and online marketing for the Association for the Development of Pakistan, a microphilanthropy organization that identifies and funds sustainable development initiatives in Pakistan. He can be reached at: nabeel@socialfinance.ca.

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