From the Editors

Our Favorite Solutions

Christa Hillstrom, Sarah van Gelder, & Tracy Dunn

If you’re like us, this has been the scariest and most disheartening political season in memory, one that has left many of us questioning the direction of our country and the prospects for future generations.

Cover of YES! Issue 80

But while it does matter who is in the White House and on Capitol Hill, at YES!, we’ve been looking at a different sort of power, one that we believe can transform our families and classrooms, neighborhoods and cities. It’s what we’ve always done. YES! Magazine began 20 years ago with the belief that regular people were the ones creating solutions to address the overwhelming crises of our time—climate change, accelerating inequality, systemic racism, and a democracy broken by money and greed.

That’s why, for our 20th-anniversary issue, we asked a dozen reporters to speak with hundreds of people around the country—activists, entrepreneurs, parents, politicians, religious leaders, scientists, students, workers—to bring you 50 of our favorite inspiring—and doable—solutions. These are the ideas making the places we live more sustainable and inclusive—and they’re bringing communities together.

It turns out that we need each other to make change happen.

Much of the change that has propelled our country forward has grown—often slowly—from the roots of our own communities. Sometimes it’s change stirred by kids, like the Nashville, Tennessee, teenagers who convinced their city to invest in biking infrastructure; sometimes it’s change sparked by parents and grandparents, like those in the Virginia school district who organized to reduce punitive policing of their children. Most often, it’s the energy of diverse groups of people that spark the most brilliant ideas—buying up real estate together to rent to local businesses, starting a school focused on Black history, organizing a neighborhood fix-it shop.

Change at the local level matters because it often ripples outward.

This is what YES! founder and editor at large Sarah van Gelder found during her road trip last year. She went looking for transformative change—and found a lot of it, in innovations small and large, in remote corners of the country, and in the midst of the nation’s largest cities.

Despite this particularly polarizing election, we kept coming back to what we share: a deep-hearted sense that our homes—our lands and neighhorhoods and cities—are worth standing up for. As one woman from the Oglala Lakota tribe on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation told us: “No one’s going to care about our community as much as we do. So we are the ones who have to take ownership.” Through understanding our place and building power together, we can fix what’s broken in our small parts of the world, regardless of who inhabits the White House.