Stories of Modern Changemakers


Understanding the role and influence of the people making a difference in today’s world.

Teacher talking to a student at a chalkboard while they write on the board

What is a Changemaker

Changemakers—or changemaking—is a term that has grown in popularity over the last few years. It refers to anyone working to solve a problem by tackling the root cause rather than just treating the symptoms. These problems are usually social, but the term can equally apply to any change that is transformational in nature and impacts organizations, the environment, society, economics, politics, etc.

Changemaking is not an activity reserved for a privileged few. Anyone who wants to create change can become a changemaker. Many people become changemakers because they are very close to a problem they are passionate about solving—having been impacted by it personally or witnessing it impact others close to them. So, even when a changemaker isn’t an expert in a particular problem area, their first-hand experience provides an intimate understanding of the issue and its impact on people’s lives.

Of course, changemaking isn’t a solo project. It’s a team sport. This is because change is a messy process that often requires collaboration between many contributors, including those who are impacted most by the issue at hand. Additionally, creating change can require different kinds of changemakers and approaches throughout the process.

Types of Changemakers

According to Ashoka, an organization that identifies and supports the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, there are six common types of changemakers1. Most fall into one or two roles based on their personality and skillset. However, the change process may require several or all of these types. When diving into a changemaking journey, it’s helpful to know what is needed, what you naturally bring to the table, and which of these you might need to gain through collaboration with other changemakers.

Social Architects

Examples: Designers, policymakers, and leaders who modify social structures through roles and the flow of resources.


Examples: Educators, researchers, journalists, and parents influencing ideas and decisions.

Skills Catalyzers

Examples: Accountants, lawyers, mediators, and programmers lending expert skills and resources.


Examples: Impact investors and philanthropists contributing funding and in-kind support.


Examples: Engineers, scientists, and designers creating new technologies and tools.


Examples: Conveners and community organizers building relationships.

Spotlight: Women of Change

Changemaker stories, like those found below, can illuminate the many ways change happens in our world, inspiring many would-be bystanders toward awareness and action. These profiles—condensed versions of those found through sources like Ashoka—shine a spotlight on three inspiring women changemakers who noticed a need for something better and started on a new path toward making a real difference.

Priti Krishtel: I-MAK

Providing a blueprint to restore the integrity of the pharma patent system to incentivize progress and improve affordability2.

In the early 2000s, Priti Krishtel, a lawyer in India, was working with low-income communities and began to witness her clients struggling to afford lifesaving medicines. As a daughter of a former pharmaceutical scientist, she was surprised to discover that the medical patent system was at the center of the issue.

Looking deeper, Priti found that incentivized “over-patenting” led to monopolies and blocked access to medicines. So, along with fellow changemakers, she pressed the Indian government to pass a new, health-friendly patent law. From there, she co-founded I-MAK, a collective of experts dedicated to solving the patent problem and improving drug affordability. Over the past few years, I-MAK has impacted health systems in nearly 50 countries, increasing access to treatment for millions and saving the healthcare systems over 2 billion dollars.

The central focus of Priti’s career has been fighting for equitable treatment access. This focus and her belief in the power of open dialog and systemic change (over one-off solutions) have helped her get to the root of issues and drive change on a more sustainable level.

Learn more about Priti’s work >

Mary Gordon: Roots of Empathy

Delivering a hands-on approach to fostering empathy in early childhood development3.

Mary Gordon began her career as a kindergarten teacher in 1969. From the beginning, she understood that empathy was a foundational skill for children, and she set out to show how empathy might be learned.

Mary would achieve this through her Roots of Empathy program—launched in public schools in the 1990s, to help students to gain insight into others’ feelings and develop a sense of social responsibility for one another. The program approaches empathy as a skill that can be “caught, not taught” and involves having mothers bring their babies into classrooms. A guide helps the children read the baby’s emotional cues and take the baby’s perspective. The experience also allows them to connect and express their feelings better.

The Roots of Empathy program has significantly reduced bullying and aggression while increasing pro-social behaviors. According to Mary, “empathy is a pathway to better relationships in childhood that feeds resiliency, happiness and progress towards a more just and kinder world.”

Mary’s focus on spreading and nurturing empathy has earned her widespread recognition and led to her book, “Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child.”

Learn more about Mary and her program >

Simona Sinesi: Never Give Up

Transforms how young people, families and communities understand and respond to eating disorders4.

Simona Sinesi was raised in an Italian middle-class family in the 1980s and ’90s. During adolescence, a close friend of hers suffered from an eating disorder but refused to get help. Being a witness to this struggle impacted Simona deeply.

After many years as a successful marketing and communications professional, Simona was reintroduced to the widespread issue of eating disorders through her health-professional sister. Since Simona had long previously discovered her drive to be a changemaker and realized that being one is primarily a matter of will—she set forth on a path to reach teens and young adults with eating disorders, struggling to ask for help due to issues of stigma, incomprehension, and limited access to support.

Simon created Never Give Up, an organization transforming how young people, families, and communities understand and respond to eating disorders. It has generated new networks of health professionals and improved how treatment is accessed and provided.

According to data, the organization has served several thousand people—and helped to encourage and facilitate treatment for many people suffering from eating disorders.

Learn more about Simona and her work >






Go Deeper

Take a deep-dive into this topic and gain expert, working knowledge by joining us for the program that inspired it!

The Berkeley Changemaker is an inclusive leadership training founded on UC Berkeley's core values, like questioning the status quo and serving others, and its longstanding union with innovation. Throughout the three-day in-person program, you will discover how to be a changemaker for a positive impact, regardless of your industry, as well as lead with purpose. Faculty Director, Alex Budak, will guide you through the importance of visionary leadership, how to find your purpose, and how each impact your ability to effectively lead change.