Artisans for the Common Good

I have found a new elegant phrase to describe a class of people whose small daily acts without fanfare, flourish or compensation make the world a better place.

These people are the original change makers, long before it became a profession or designation. They’re not confined by job descriptions or office hours. They spot trouble and adversity years before society’s institutions do. And they develop great proficiency at cobbling together solutions with whatever is close at hand. Why? Because someone or something they love is suffering, vulnerable or in danger and they have no choice but to act. They are proof that when caring meets adversity, innovation is the result.

Without these people the world could not operate.

Without their caring actions you would not recognize the world.

Most social innovations originate with this class of people. Institutionalization, commercialization and professionalization come later.

Describing them as volunteers doesn’t do them justice. Their contributions may be voluntarily but they have well honed technical problem solving skills. And the expression of their caring is often best described as artistic.

In my book Impact I borrowed British writer and innovation authority Charles Leadbeater’s phrase,“passionate amateur” to describe this class of people. I took some liberties with his phrase and expanded its description to fit with my experience.

Then I encountered the American writer Marilynne Robinson’s phrase, “the resurrection of the ordinary.” Ordinary in the Quaker sense of that word i.e. regular folks making extraordinary contributions. Thus passionate amateurs became passionate ordinaries.

Recently a friend sent me a speech Pope Francis gave on New Year’s Eve to the City of Rome. He thanked the thousands of ordinary citizens who ensure that the city functions as well as it does. “The artisans of the common good,” said Pope Francis, are those who through small deeds “express concretely love for the city … without giving speeches, without publicity, but with a style of practical civic education for daily life.”

Artisans of the common good – now that’s a phrase that does justice to the millions of people who practice the traditional crafts of hospitality and caring everyday and everywhere.

It’s my current favourite.


I’ve traveled enough to realize there are brilliant people in every community who know solutions. They don’t need saviours, they need allies. ~ Wab Kinew

Musical accompaniment this post is One Light Shining by Ruth Moody. Support her music.


The Role of Containers, Hacks and Metaphors in Social Change

Mental Fitness Touches a Nerve in Everyone

The World Needs More of You

A Bystanders’s Guide to Civility in a Time of Rage

A Desperado Waiting for a Train

I Felt Your Outrage

First Leap, Bold; Second Leap, Wild

 Share with others

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>