It’s never too late to enter the field of social activism. What’s more, it’s never too late to take  activism to the next level – make it your full-time job. There are various streams of revenue for change-makers and all you need to get started is a thorough research to find out what suits you best. So, shall we begin?

Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” It is similar to the French phrase “raison d’être”. Everyone, according to Japanese culture, has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. One finds Ikigai by answering the following questions:

  1. What do you love?
  2. What are you good at?
  3. What can you be paid for?
  4. What does the world need

Where these concepts overlap you find your Ikigai.



We all need our ikigai. Wondering what this has to do with being a full-time activist? Let’s imagine that you are one of the lucky ones who has managed to clarify what you love (making a difference, helping people and the planet), what you are good at (connecting to people and raising awareness about what concerns you) and what the world needs (your talents). In fact, many creatives have no trouble identifying what makes their life meaningful. Yet, finding out what you can be paid for, which is one of the four key areas of the ikigai concept, seems to be more challenging. Don’t be discouraged though, challenging doesn’t mean impossible. As a matter of fact, you may just need a starting point and a couple of real-life examples of activists who successfully turned their passion into their profession.

Let’s take a look at what your options are.


Career ideas for social activism

social activists

If you find yourself passionate about making a difference, then studying activism as a major at college sounds like a great idea. With that said, activism is an overly broad, unspecified and unfocused concept. Are you deeply concerned about racial inequality, gender inequality, climate change, environmental protection or eliminating poverty? The thing is, there are very few careers that can be defined as “activism” careers. Yet, “just about any career choice can incorporate an element of activism if you are working towards societal change”. Here’s some examples of careers for socially-conscious students, provided by Amherst College:

  • Law and Public Policy – within the legal profession, areas such as human rights law and public interest law are obvious activist careers. In fact, many areas of law could include aspects of activism.
  • Social Work – social workers work in different capacities in both public and private sectors to lobby governments, provide counseling and participate in research, development and evaluation projects that all work to make changes in the larger system.
  • Government and International – lobbying the government to bring about change, both domestically and internationally, is another form of social activism. One of the clearest paths is working for the UN on peacemaking efforts.
  • Environmental – working for environmental sustainability is crucial in maintaining the world for ourselves and future generations. Any work that aims to protect the environment can be seen as the work of an activist.
  • Community Organizing – the goal of organizing is to empower and develop local community leadership and to help build a community’s capacity to meet its own needs. Organizers help by forming groups to increase political power and to create a voice in improving the conditions of communities. Tactics include media campaigns, boycotts, class action suits. Organizing is about gaining access to more power.

If you are particularly interested in fighting inequality, then this comprehensive digital guide to finding your career in social justice by Affordable College Online can come in handy.

careers in social justice

social justice careers


Internship is another great way to start your social activism career.

  • United Nations internships – first-hand experience of what working for the UN is really like
  • Human Rights Watch – offers jobs and internships
  • – a community on a mission to connect people, organizations, ideas, and resources. It has a non-profit career center with job and internship listings

Rob Greenfield’s guide to starting an environmental activism campaign

Caribbean Environment Programme

The WikiHow article on How to Become a 21st Century Social Activist gives the following definition of a 21st-century social activist: “a person who uses modern communication technology, like text messaging, blogging, Twitter, and Facebook, to help bring about social change. It is also someone who uses the traditional means, such as writing a book, giving speeches, holding a protest rally, etc. In the 21st century, you have the opportunity to use the many means at your disposal to get the message across more broadly.”

Gone are the times when activists were limited in their ways to get themselves heard. While joining protests and demonstrations remains a powerful tool of making a statement, there are countless other ways of spreading your message. One of them is starting your own campaign. Rob Greenfield, an environmental activist, adventurer and entrepreneur is here to share his experience on how to create and monetize one.

  1. Figure out you cause. Something you deeply care about and want to affect a positive change within.
  2. Be well-informed so you could inform other people and be able to answer their questions. Do your research.
  3. Create an online platform. Creating a website and a Facebook page is utterly important because they will “serve as your resume to anyone that you reach out to whether it is media, sponsors, potential volunteers, or just people in general.”
  4. Have great visuals. Something visually appealing that will catch people’s eyes and draw attention to your cause. Example by Rob Greenfield: food from grocery store dumpsters.

wasting food5.  Do something interesting and be creative. Creativity is always a plus. Brain storm with friends and make it fun!

6. Do something new. “It’s probably never going to hurt to come up with something new. New seems to be more exciting”, says Rob.

7. Start with the people around you to gain some momentum. Connect to people, get them excited about what you are working on. Create meaningful content worth viewing and sharing. As Rob puts it, “that’s the best way to get your word out online.”

Advice on how to approach media 

  1. Start small and build up your resume brick by brick
  2. “Build yourself up from little blogs, to a little bit bigger online publications, to local newspapers and news stations, to larger news outlets, and eventually to nationwide major media.”
  3. Contact any local news stations, newspapers, blogs, etc. Facebook them, tweet them, and email them. Include a press release.
  4. Contact the individual reporters, journalists, bloggers
  5. “I’ve found my greatest success by providing the media with an intriguing and visually captivating story for their viewers. I’m always backed by facts and I have become well spoken because I practiced so much.”

How to get sponsors

  1. First, do your research and find companies and organizations that match up with your mission. Find the companies that inspire you and that you truly believe in. These are the companies that would be likely to believe in what you are doing as well.” Look for companies and organizations that would mutually benefit from a partnership with you. Find the companies that have the products or services that you need to complete your mission.
  2. Contact those companies via multiple methods.
  3. When you reach out to them let them know how you can be of service to them and how they can help you on your mission. Rather than just saying what you need, tell them what you can give them. You can blog about them, organically promote them via social media and to the people that you meet in your activism, review their products, refer others to them, and get media attention.

Becoming a full-time activist in a developing country

#taxpays for our education

So far we’ve looked into what can be done if you live in a developed country and can afford a university degree or an unpaid internship. But what about developing countries? In poor regions there tend to be fewer funding opportunities for those who aspire to become activists. The unemployment rates are high, the non-profits are less numerous and the funding opportunities are scarce. Yet, if your mission is to bring about a positive change by committing yourself to activism, there are clear steps you can take.

Nathan Ketsdever, an education entrepreneur, social entrepreneur & researcher, offers the following:

Funding Methods:

  2. Grants
  3. Donors
  4. Friends & family
  5. Government
  6. Already existing nonprofits (as an employee or agent)
  7. Teaching activism.
  8. Build a cooperative or association with membership fees.  The value has to be incredibly clear to the members.  Ask around to see if you can justify this and also calculate how many members you would need.  If its protective in nature, people pay decent money for police and info in the forms of newspapers, books, education, and events.  Helping people protect themselves is a real service to them.  Its an exercise in self-defense. (7 and 8 can obviously go together and perhaps even complement each other)

worldreader nonprofit

Additional Career & Fundraising Enhancing Activities

  1. Look at how other activist organizations are funding their employees.  Most are probably volunteers, but I imagine the leaders are paid.  The biggest reason to do this is to see what types of activities, resources, strategies they are using to replicate and adjust in your own activism.  This in turn will help provide you with the knowledge and foresight to make better decisions as well as to in turn provide benefits more effectively (which in turn could boost your ability to justify your need for funding by clearly explaining your social impact and your tactical and success modeled methodology).
  2. Volunteer to learn, build credibility, and build your network

The truth is, citizens of poor countries are very limited in their ways to make a social or politic change. When your basic needs are not met and security is something unheard of, you simply cannot think global. You struggle every single day just to get by. This is precisely why nearly 3 billion people who live on less than $2.50 a day are voiceless. The world needs more activists to speak for them. It needs driven, passionate and compassionate people who realize that this is a shared planet and living in isolation will not do us any good.

No one said that becoming a full-time activist is going to be easy. Neither is it easy to be a social activist. Yet, nothing is as inspiring as real-life examples of those who made social activism their career. If they did, why can’t you?

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