Islander pens guide on how to build skills to change the world

The book also describes skills essential to creating change on a smaller scale — even within a small community.

“World Change-maker: Build Skills in International Development and Social Work,” a new book by islander Ann McLaughlin, takes on the topic of how one person can help make a change in a world seemingly filled with insurmountable problems.

Originally written for people aiming to work or volunteer internationally, the book also describes skills essential to creating change on a smaller scale — even within a small community. According to McLaughlin, the book is “for people who care about what is going on in the world.”

McLaughlin recently answered questions about her book and life.

What inspired you to write World Change-Maker?

McLaughlin: I was invited to write a book about international social work and knew that we did not need one more book about the problems, but a practical, how-to book because so many people coming to me were lost about what to do.

“Coming to you?”

McLaughlin: For the last 20 years, I have directed NGOabroad. I have built skilled, custom-fit (vs. cookie-cutter) placements in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East/ North Africa.

I do international career counseling and training. I could fairly accurately predict, “You have got what it takes; you are going to get an interview.” And conversely, I would say “Your experience and thus your resume is too American….you don’t know the realities on the ground.”

What do you emphasize in “World Change-Maker?”

McLaughlin: The book is full of stories about what opened my eyes – what life is like in a remote village or a peri-urban slum. I emphasize how you work as equal partners in participatory development and that you not only build programs, you build people.

“We build the road and the road builds us.” You build skills. The best preparation that I had for this work was rebuilding my house. As a therapist, I learned how to untangle human problems.

What is your background?

McLaughlin: I was a psychotherapist (MSW) for 20 years then yearned to go into international work. I worked in Yugoslavia as it was crumbling. I was offered a job to do trauma work in Cambodia after the genocide or in Guatemala after their grisly civil war. At the end of that interview, they said, “It helps our programming to know what you would do.”

I said, “I am such a social worker, I have to get the whole lay of the land before I jump in. The only times that I made mistakes as a therapist was when I missed something at the outset. I need to do a global needs assessment.”

I spent years learning everything about everywhere. By the end of it, I realized that rather than work in one place, I wanted to have a multiplier effect. I wanted to create a connecting rod between humanity’s challenges and human talent; thus NGOabroad was born.

Why should people read your book?

McLaughlin: “World Change-Maker” is also about how to create social change in your own community or country. This book helps show the way forward. “World Change-Maker” is for people who care about the world — i.e. most of Vashon.

Purchase “World Change-Maker” directly from or order it from Vashon Bookshop. The book is also available on the usual digital platforms. Hear the podcast of Ann McLaughlin, author of World Change-Maker, on Voice of Vashon’s “Inspired Island.”