Two books have been on my desk: How To Change The World: Social Entrepreneurs And The Power Of New Ideas and Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide.
They report numerous accounts of individuals (from the past and more recent) who aren't famous but yet are worthy of remembering because of how they worked against immense opposition and deep-rooted resistance to, well, change their world. They've effected changes that remove or reduce discrimination against groups of people like women and disabled people, that provide them the means to survive, that bring a sense of near-normalcy and deliverance to places of oppression and helplessness.
Change starts with...not so much the idea, but with men and women who dare to envision a different, better circumstance. Social change, business change, culture change...whatever it is, they see it and actually live it.
What gives courage to pursue change and to keep pursuing it through one's life? The deep burden to see the lives of loved ones, fellow ones removed from suffering? Anger at the ineffectual institutions that don't seem to care enough to bother? The will to believe that things can get and will get better?
It doesn't have to require a noble, grand cause and a huge effort to get started. Just meet one need at a time, around you and me. Little needs, not-so-little needs... And don't do it for recognition or affirmation, but do it simply knowing that you tried to make a difference.