Exploring the origins, ethics and future of changemaking

Archive for the ‘Theories of Change’ Category

Why resistance is important

In Culture, Theories of Change on September 2, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Despite my being a supporter of marriage equality, it is vitally important in the long run for there to be resistance to it. I would say that for any social change issue, we need to rethink our tolerance for resistance, because it is in the resistance itself that real change happens.

A number of years ago I was living in Queensland when Pauline Hanson made her famous debut on the political stage. It was a remarkable time to be there. I remember how friends, almost overnight, started to express what was to me the most vile racism. I was shocked by not only what was said but the fact that people I knew, really good people, were all of a sudden speaking in such fearful and hurtful ways

What Pauline Hanson did was dredge up and fuel dormant racism. She exposed a part of Australia’s social consciousness and collective karmic psyche that was to me repulsive. Despite my judgements of it at the time, the fact of the matter is that it was there and it needed to be dealt with.

Of course along with bringing to the surface this previously unacknowledged fear within the society, it also brought to the surface those people and ideas that were pursuing the opposite. I remember 40,000 people showing up for a Reconciliation March in Brisbane, an attendance and purpose that would have been unimaginable only a couple of years earlier.  It was an exciting time in Australia actually, because there was such a surgence in civic activity, social consciousness and the dissolving of outdated views.

Social change requires both the dark and the light.

Despite the discomfort at the time, and the pain that was caused to people through her words and the communities actions, it was all necessary for the social change process. In the end Pauline Hanson lost nor did Read the rest of this entry »

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I know what I know: change through art vs politics

In Theories of Change on June 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm

On Friday I managed to catch an incredible documentary: “Under African Skies”. It followed Paul Simon as he journeyed back to South Africa to reunite with the musicians he collaborated with to produce the Graceland album. The film had such an impact on me, bringing me to tears on a number of occasions.

This album was very special to me. It came out when I was 10 years old and we had a cassette of it that was played almost until it could play no more. The songs have been a soundtrack for my life. My family have jammed the whole album over the years, me picking up piano accordion for renditions of “You Can Call Me Al”, and playing “Diamonds on the Souls of her Shoes” at my brother’s wedding.

It was through Graceland that I first connected to Africa. The rhythms of “Gumboots” and the deep a capella of “Homeless” somehow took me to a place that I had not experienced before. In listening to this music it seemed as if it was part of me. The idea of having a past life in southern Africa is about the only Read the rest of this entry »

The world doesn’t need to be changed

In Theories of Change on May 21, 2012 at 10:48 am

A conversation with my friend Ehon on the weekend prompted this post. I shared with him a story of a girl I recently met in San Francisco who by way of introducing herself, asked me a question: “So what are you doing to save the world?”

This kind of question usually grates on me, and probably because when I was her age I also had this drive in my life to “save the world”. When I hear it spoken I recall my own innocent desire to be of service in the world; a drive that while having good intentions actually came from a very limited perspective. Of course, to cut-some-slack and be a little graceful towards myself and the girl I met in San Francisco, it is not surprising that we came to the view that the world needed to be changed.

The world is currently facing many ‘challenges’ including food security, health crises, climate change and in some parts of the world – war and economic collapse. On top of this, the social consciousness is littered with images, stories and examples of this need ‘to save’. From superhero stories to the modern day samaritan-come-changemaker, we celebrate people who save others from vulnerability. It is no wonder that when we see images of vulnerability and suffering, that our first instinct is to save them.

It is difficult for me to pinpoint the moment that I realised the world doesn’t need to be changed, but it started somewhere around the discovery of the principle of Soul. I discussed this in the post on Ego and Entrepreneurship, Read the rest of this entry »

The rush for change

In Futures, Theories of Change on May 14, 2012 at 9:00 am

This world seems to operate on some kind of speed, with the pace quickening and quickening at such a rate that it gains a momentum all of its own. This ‘speed’ is more than metaphorical, our world is actually operating on stimulant overdrive. Over the past ten years we have seen the rise of coffee consumption in the western world, and the prevalence of both prescriptive and non-prescriptive drugs  that are helping our bodies regulate its pace.

I too succumbed to the binds of coffee. Like so many, at one stage my day wouldn’t be able to start without a ritual flat white (Soy FW actually). We justify it saying we like the taste, or we simply love the ritual, and some even say, but it’s just my one and only vice. I am not actually judging the consumption of coffee here. Clearly we have some kind of need it, and perhaps more than simply because of a physiological addiction. In talking with friends and colleagues, they say that they need it to keep up with the frenetic pace of the world around them.

Some jobs and industries are ‘naturally’ fast-paced, like stock trading and base jumping (and look at the risks in those industries). Slowing down the pace of base jumping may make the sport redundant or in the least unappealing to those seeking the rush. The same could be said of stock trading, as well as the loss of opportunity.

Other industries have also caught up with the need for speed, with this pace infilrating education, health and the environment. We want quick fixes, we want results and we want it now. And yes, this is no more true than in the field of doing good. Read the rest of this entry »

A time for talk, a time for action

In Theories of Change on May 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I have attended many events in the social innovation and changemaking space, and a phrase I have heard a lot is “WE NEED LESS TALK AND MORE ACTION!”

I have heard this said with a lot of gusto and a great dose of frustration, and perhaps for various reasons. For some they have attended so many networking events and seen these as ‘talk-fests’ that never eventuate into anything. For others their drive for action is so much part of who they are that talk-without-action is so genuinely frustrating to them. People even throw in statements like ‘walk-the-walk’ rather than ‘talk-the-talk’, as if integrity is somehow only linked to or expressed by those who are in action.

Do we undervalue the role of talking about change? Or are our ways of talking about change so generally ineffective, disconnected or uninspiring that we are prepared to forget it and march straight into action?

When I think about true dialogue, speaking and listening can be a process that provides connection and deepens understanding of ourselves, others and the world. Perhaps when people denigrate talking, they are denigrating the type of talking that doesn’t allow them to connect with others or enter into a deeper space of meaning. Our binary thinking therefore dismisses one in the favour of the other. What if the process of changemaking requires both talk AND action?

My sense is that action without talk is highly dangerous. Or let me say that another way; Read the rest of this entry »

To solve or not to solve? Is that the question?

In Personal Reflections, Theories of Change on May 3, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Sometimes in exploring the ethical dimensions of changemaking, I get to the point of wondering whether not solving the problem is actually ethically better than solving it. But then I wonder whether that is the right question to ask at all. Perhaps there is a third option to whether to solve or not solve a problem.

A few years back I was heading up a business development team at a mid-sized nonprofit, as we were going through a significant turnaround of the operation. The stakes were high, and the existing business model was by-and-large ineffective. It was not hitting mission spectacularly, and was draining cash. The staff were investing enormous love and energy to make this work.

It was a creative time that required the team to be highly entrepreneurial. We were needing to be quick and agile in identifying problems and coming up with creative solutions. We were up for the challenge, enjoying it and most of the time doing pretty well.

I started to observe though that as soon as we solved a problem, a new one often emerged. We seemed to be on this endless cycle of problem-solution-problem-solution. We got in this rhythm of being ‘fix-it’ people, always on the ready to fix what was not working. We were champions for what the social consciousness was telling the world about the need to be ‘solutions-focused’. Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a hole in my bucket: a theory of change

In Theories of Change on April 24, 2012 at 10:56 am

I have long been fascinated by the theories and principles upon which changemakers or social entrepreneurs build their businesses or programs. Having a ‘theory of change’ has become an expected feature of any social organisation be it part of their marketing or a more fundamental driver of their work.

The common theory of change in the western world has been influenced by rational, linear thinking: if we engage in a certain activity, then it will this short term impact, then this long term impact. This is most readily seen in the logic model form of:

Need/Problem > Activity/Solution> Outputs > Short-term Outcomes > Long-term Outcomes

Articulating a theory of change in this way often assumes that all outcomes are positive or successful. This linear model of change denies the complexity that ‘change-work’ exists within, and almost always excludes new problems that are created by the activity (or solution).

Read the rest of this entry »