The last few years have seen a crazy world take shape in front of us. Between climate crisis, the pandemic, economic upheaval, wars, racial inequality, gender issues, and political turmoil, it makes one wonder how to best contribute to building a better world for the future.
After all, it feels good when we make a positive impact. It can be a small change such as contributing a few dollars to someone in need, or it can be a larger change such as starting a new program or organization for social justice or community service. And of course our jobs and careers can also contribute to making positive changes, either through donating money or using our time to make inroads to solving issues.
A movement called “Effective Altruism” formed in the late 2000s by Oxford University philosophers uses science and data to determine how people can use their time and skills to do the most good in society. When the movement first began it focused on lucrative careers so as to generate more money to contribute to important causes. But that has morphed into other approaches to doing good with our careers. This has been particularly true in the past few years during the pandemic as workers consider their purpose and meaning of their work.
This led to the nonprofit called “80,000 Hours” which evolved from Effective Altruism to help people design careers where they can do good things in the world. Why 80,000 hours? On average, today’s workers are likely to spend 80,000 hours working over a 40-year period (40 hours/week x 50 weeks/year).
But how does someone find the right career to pursue? What is our best opportunity to have a positive impact in the world? 80,000 Hours gives advice to job-seekers who are looking for high-impact jobs that address the social problems that concern them. Perhaps it is working at a start-up company focused on a new medical intervention, or a technology company focused on climate change.
The four main factors for defining your impact are:
- Help solve a more pressing problem.
- Find a more effective solution.
- Find a path with more leverage.
- Find work that fits you better.
Think about it.
What issues drive you? Where can you do the most good?
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- This is a slightly softer activity that the usual ones about creating a new marketing program. But, it is very relevant to today’s students.
- Discuss the importance impacting local and global issues for the future benefit.
- Poll students: What are their concerns for the future? With what issues would they like to get involved?
- The following two organizations and websites can take some time to review. Set aside some class time to allow teams to review the articles and approaches.
- Show the website for Effective Altruism: https://www.effectivealtruism.org/
- A video explanation: https://youtu.be/nwhoSX9AFXU
- Show the website for 80,000 hours: https://80000hours.org/
- A video for 80,000 hours: https://youtu.be/1xsR0XBwyo4
- Divide students into teams and have each team prepare a summary of what was learned from these websites.
- Consider a discussion board or assignment that focuses students on the topic of how to use their skills.
Sources: Varagur, K. (Oct. 10, 2021). Can your career help change the World? Wall Street Journal.