5 things we learned about 'How Change Happens'

24 february 2017

How Change Happens

On Wednesday 15th February, we were delighted to be joined by Duncan Green (Oxfam GB), Senator Lynn Ruane, Justine McCarthy (The Sunday Times) and Tony Daly (80:20 - Development in an Unequal World) to discuss their thoughts on the topic of “How Change Happens.”

It was a broad and wide-ranging discussion bringing us from the Chiquitano people of Bolivia, to drug services in Bluebell, and even to the difference between baking a cake and rearing a child.  

These are our five key takeaways from the discussion:

1.       Change is complex

But we shouldn’t let that scare us off!

In his book, How Change Happens, Duncan Green likens change to being much more like rearing a child than following a recipe to bake a cake. There is no step by step guide for how to make change. You will need to figure it out as you go—by making mistakes and then adapting. It can be messy, complicated and hard but we should allow that to liberate us rather than to hold us back.

2.       Change is always happening

Change can be good. But it can also be bad.  Change can happen fast. But it can also be slow. And no matter what type of change it is, it is always happening.

We need to design our work around identifying the critical junctures—the lightbulb moments—for change. And we need to be more agile at getting to work while these windows are open. It can take organisations, large and small, too long to react to these moments and when action is finally taken, it is too late to achieve real change.

But we also need to be patient.  We can’t expect to change the world over night. To be really effective, we must build a long-term vision for change.

3.       We have to stop “othering” people and simply connect with them

As the political environment around us becomes more fraught and divided, we need to work to connect with the people around us. We must stop talking only to ourselves. We need to see through other people’s eyes and stop putting everyone into boxes. Stereotyping inhibits change.

It is vital for change that we bridge the gap between people with privilege and those who have been disadvantaged. We need to acknowledge the lack of social and cultural capital that some people experience and work to bring people who been kept separate together to meet on the same level.

Everyone can be an activist. If we stop separating people from each other, we can unleash the social campaigners that are already there. Activism isn't just the traditional image of the protestor on the street. It can happen in many different ways—through being informed, reading, sharing ideas, educating others and even by donating. By bringing our different skills and viewpoints together, we can achieve great change.

4.       Change can be painful

Change is hard. It can be very isolating. We need to be cognisant of this. Often we only hear of the difficulties that working for change has had on people once it is over. We need to listen to people and provide support when things get tough.

In order to make change, we must believe that change can be made and we must believe that change must be made. We need to support and encourage each other to do the good things necessary to get there.

5.       We need to tell our stories

Stories are powerful. They help to bring us together. They can shed much needed light on issues, situations and problems that might otherwise seem too complex or too monolithic to change. We need to embrace this power and use our stories to make change. By personalising and humanising the changes we wish to make, we can achieve great things. 

And we need to tell our stories simply. Jargon hinders understanding, and keeps people apart. If we want to make change, we must abandon it and focus on simply communicating and connecting with those around us.   



Photo credit: Blake Richard Verdoon on Unsplash.com