This was the first project undertaken by We Are What We Do.
In 2002, David Robinson OBE, founder of We Are What We Do and senior advisor to the East London charity Community Links, wrote a research paper called Reconnecting which explored the increasing levels of disaffection and the declining rates of participation in an identifiable community. He noted how, “As society has become more mobile, involvement in and dependence on the local community have become less important but have not been replaced by a commensurate sense of belonging to, or responsibility for, a wider community. Relatively few people, for instance, actively engage with the global environmental issues although our children know more about the wider world than any previous generation.”
But what could be done about this disengagement?
David wrote, “We should not be nostalgic about outmoded structures and we shouldn’t try to rebuild them. We should work on new initiatives which reconnect us in search of common goals.”
He conceived of creating both We Are What We Do and its first project: a product that would “promote awareness, inform debate, stimulate action and ultimately move us closer to a 21st century definition of community and an application of that definition that is both relevant and timely.”
It was important to create something for consumers, something that acted like other consumer products and brands and unlike any other community engagement programme.
We created and published Change the World for a Fiver.
The book is based around a series of Actions, which are simple, practical, almost universally applicable and aim to encourage people to use their everyday behaviour to positively affect the world around them.
It is an aesthetically beautiful and highly tactile product, with many interactive features, such as the a removable postcard for Action 035: Write to someone who inspired you, and a packet of Scots pine seeds for Action 007: Plant a tree. The book also features a removable dust jacket which unfolds to become an A2 poster.
And all for the remarkably reasonable price of just £5.
A group from the creative industries, businesses, voluntary sector and government were brought together to advise on the project and a team of more than 70 creatives contributed, including some of the most talented photographers, illustrators, cartoonists, writers and designers. The book was published by Short books.
The reaction to the book was fantastic. It was featured on TV, in countless newspaper articles and was endorsed by Gordon Brown at number 10.
Sainsbury’s and Coca-Cola GB bought a copy for every member of their staff. An exhibition based on artwork from the book was also held at the Royal Festival Hall and went on to tour the country.
In 2005 it reached the top ten in the best sellers’ list and since its publication has sold over 1.5 million copies.
We went on to create versions of the book for Germany, Spain, Catalan, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, Big Issue vendors around the country were given copies of the book to sell.
All versions of the book are available in our shop.
A series of postcards were also made to accompany the book.
We love this little book.
Change the World for a Fiver is full of great graphics and design quirks.
Time Out Magazine
Change the World for a Fiver is a charming book.
A great idea beautifully executed.
The Bookseller Magazine
Australians have a strong tradition of volunteering. People from all walks of life donate their time, goodwill and skills to the community, whether in times of crisis or to help others through their day-to-day lives. The ‘Change the World for Ten Bucks’ project reminds us that even a seemingly small contribution can make a big difference. I would encourage all Australians to think about the simple things they might be able to do to help others and build a stronger community.
John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia
Our aim was to communicate some very simple actions in a way which was fun, cool and engaging rather than worthy and dull. We didn’t want to preach or point the finger but we did want to move these things into the mainstream and out of the realm of the “do-gooder”.
David Robinson, We Are What We Do
The book is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when lots of people come together to create something far greater than they could have achieved on their own.
Tim Ashton, Antidote