How many people does it take to change the world?

Nathan Winograd worked at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in San Francisco. What most people don’t understand is that SPCA wasn’t designed to help animals but to get rid of them. Every year, they would euthanize over four million animals.

Fed up with how things were, Winograd attempted to start the first no-kill shelter. When Winograd went to the city council to plead his case, people flew from all over the country to testify against him. His critics said it couldn’t be done, it would be inhumane and it would be financially irresponsible.

Winograd persisted. He went to the few who cared enough to join his cause. And it worked. After a few years, San Francisco became the first no-kill city. Winograd went on to do it again in other places like North Carolina and Reno.

It turns out, the best way to change the minds of the majority, to challenge the status quo, is to enroll 25% of the population. The challenge in our day is figuring out how to get 25% of the population to support your movement.

It’s a common misconception though to think we must change the minds of everyone in the entire world. This isn’t true.

Winograd didn’t have to change everyone’s mind. Most people don’t care about animal shelters. He went to the tribe of those who did care about animal treatment first. And then pleaded his case to the ones who might care next.

The world is divided into tribes. Tribes are defined as an assembled group with common interests and goals (insiders).

Rockers who prefer Van Hagar over Van Halen is a tribe. Skiers who enjoy riding $60,000 gold plated skis is a tribe. Apple has a tribe. So is Samsung, Nike, and REI.

When we are talking about changing the world, we are not actually talking about changing the entire world—we are talking about changing a segment of the world.

Another way to think about this is the Presidential election.

If the Presidential election has taught us anything, it’s that you don’t aim your message to everyone who can vote. No, you target those who do vote. Specifically, the swing voters, the ones who are not sure who they want to vote for yet.

Social change starts at the edges. A small group of people that are eager and ready to be assembled.

Slowly, over time, as your movement grows, once you hit the tipping point, you have an opportunity to cross the chasm. And maybe, just maybe, make the change you are seeking to make.