Language emerges, morphs and gains new meaning, as it seeks to describe how one might think, feel or act in any given space. Changemaking is no different, and is currently creating, borrowing and bastardising words from all over the world; flipping them, twisting them, giving meaning, destroying their origins. Language is creative and subversive. It gives life and takes away.

The goal here is to capture the emerging global lexicon of doing good. Please comment to this post to offer words, ideas or add your own. There is a key at the bottom.


animateur (French) – original meaning or translation is compare or leader in the field of entertainment. In the social change field, the word animateur has taken on new meaning, which is a shortening of socio-cultural animateuring. Animateuring refers to a process of often working with groups of people using creative mediums like performance, to devise and tell stories of change. These stories are most often born out of the participants experiences.

animation – derives of Latin to mean – ‘breathe life into’.

architecture – refers to the planning, designing and construction of buildings. Has been co-opted by changemakers to refer to the design of change processes, new systems and organisations – examples of usage include change architects or organisational architecture


Baraka Bashad (Sanskrit) – translates as “may the blessings be”.

benign anarchy – a term used by Bill Wilson to describe the deliberate way that Alcoholics Anonymous was not structured in a political or business sense. Although it still today remains a grass-roots movement with no top-down leadership, the scale of its growth made it not so benign after all.

Bucky Fuller– Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller was a 20th Century American systems theorist, architect, engineer, author, designer, inventor, and futurist. His thinking and writing has over more recent years gained traction in the changemaking field. You will know a legitimate changemaker because they will refer to him as just “Bucky”, as if they were besties, even though they never met him.


channel (or. Sri Francis of Assisi) – often used by people working towards change from a spiritual perspective. First known reference is in Peace Prayer of Sri Francis – “make me a channel for your peace”. People say they are channeling change from a higher source.

core (as in ‘the Core’) – a metaphoric term referring to existing systems or thinking. Used in contrast to ‘the Edge’

crowd sorcerer – come on, please?! seemingly a play on crowd sourcing by a Potter fan in withdrawals.

crowd sourcing – the process of sourcing input, ideas, resources and support from a group of people


dobročinnosť (Slovak) – dobro = good; činnosť = activity, action, doing. Translates to philanthropy or doing good. Dobročinnost in Czech.


edge (as in ‘the Edge’) – a contemporary term referring to the space on the periphery of existing organisations, systems and thinking. It is used in contrast to ‘the Core’.

edgeworker – referring to someone who works at ‘the edge’ or periphery of a system or thinking. Often involved in what is new or emergent.

entrepreneur (or. French, bastardised by the English) – a term originally meaning to undertake, came to be synonymous with people starting new business ventures. Has more recently been co-opted and given new meaning by connecting with seeming opposites to make – social entrepreneur, movement entrepreneur, sacred entrepreneur

entrepreneurial integrity – the conscious alignment of mission, strategy, investment and communication. See post “The ethical alignment of mission, strategy and investment”


Feline:NFP Ratio Theory– whenever a cat dies in Denver, a non-profit is born. The diminishing feline and growing not-for-profit population differential is known as the Feline:NFP Ratio Theory. There is a point in the future where this reaches a kind of feline-singularity (or a ‘felingularity’), where cats reincarnate to lead non-profits an towards their gradual demise, thus saving the cat from extinction.


gacaca (Or. Rwanda) – a grassroots community justice process led by “People of Integrity” to enable a community to deal with conflict, and to move through pain and find forgiveness.

game changer – generally refers to a pivotal moment in the development of a movement, organisation, market or idea. From that point, there is no going back. Well, that was probably the meaning the first three times it was used. If you use it in every sentence, the term somehow loses its impact. Be aware of the Ancient Law of Diminishing Impact.  The current social consciousness seems to have an obsession is around technology as a game changer.


k/no(w)mad – a term that has emerged in the 21st Century to describe nomadic knowledge workers, or people who utilise their creative and intellectual talents while living and working nomadically. A key to this term is using the forward slash and brackets – if you don’t use them, you aren’t really a legitimate changemaker.

knowledge designer – co-designs new methods and practices taking into account the today’s knowledge & new ways of being, thinking and doing (definition from Richard Hames)


moral re-armament – a term coined by Lutheran Minister Frank Buchman, who founded an organisation of the same name, which grew out of the Oxford Group. The Oxford Group has also taken credit for the inspiration and development of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is quite contentious but do your own research on that. It was renamed to Initiatives of Change in 2001, and nowadays as a more international and interfaith orientation.

movement entrepreneur – an entrepreneur who utilizes people as the main vehicle for creating change. Examples include Bill Wilson and Kurt Hahn.


nir aakankshar – a Sanskrit word that means ‘no expectation’. aakankshar (sometimes spelt with one ‘a’) means desire or wish. This meaning was first adopted at SIX Summer School 2012 in response to the tendency of innovators and changemakers to build high expectations in the work they do, often leading to disappointment. It could also be thought of as a way of keeping neutral and open to possibilities in the innovation process, rather than directing the outcome through firmly held expectation.


querent (or. Latin) – one who seeks.


R.E.S.U.L.T.S – international poverty alleviation organisation named Responsibility for Ending Starvation Using Lobbying TrimTabbing and Support. While developing a strong following and reputation over a number of years, they are really only included in this lexicon for their ridiculously long name and that they managed to create an acronym that credibly uses the word “trimtabbing” – kudos RESULTS!


sacred entrepreneur – okay, now this is starting to get painfully ludicrous. I actually first used this term to describe a friend who was working ‘spiritually’ to bring about change in the world. It was a creative low point of my life, and I have hopefully picked myself up out of the linguistic bucket since.

schlimmbesserung (German) – an attempt at improvement that makes things worse.

social entrepreneur – an entrepreneur who seeks to place social outcomes or benefit ahead of financial ones. Social entrepreneurs are often said to span a spectrum from highly social to highly entrepreneurial – some placing higher aspects on business as a vehicle, while others place higher value on social processes to achieve change. It really is a ridiculously wanky term, but useful in helping one feel legitimate and be heard in certain audiences.

socio-cultural animateuring – see animateur

systems diplomacy – the art of facilitating systems to move to better outcomes, facilitated by systems diplomatsclick here for a more detailed overview of systems diplomacy and the role of a systems diplomat.


techno-seduction – to be seduced by and over-estimating the potential of technology as a force for change

Trim Tab (Or. Maritime; TAC: Bucky Fuller) – a small rudder (or surface) attached to a ship or aircraft’s larger control surface (or rudder) that aids the controlling, stabilizing or turning of the rudder and therefore the ship/aircraft.

Trim Tabber – one who works with the Law of Economy to make a maximum impact with minimum effort; or Trim Tabbing – the art of maximising output.


viral (Or. health/disease term) – virus first translated across to the computer world to describe computer diseases and their spread. This was then adopted by the changemaker space to describe the rapid way in which an idea spreads.


CCV – Common Changemaker Vernacular

Or. – Origin

TAC – Translated Across Contexts

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