In 2004, my colleague, Ruth Rominger, coauthored a wonderful piece in Reflections: The SoL Journal on Knowledge, Learning, and Change entitled, “Effecting Change in Complex Social Systems” with Hilary Bradbury, Sissel Waage, and David Sibbet. It cited five principles:
In creating social change, effective efforts…
Address immediate needs while linking them to larger, systemic issues. Successful change connects focused efforts with the web of political, economic, cultural, and environmental factors that frame and shape the immediate needs.
Surface discontents, build capacity, and elevate expectations. Successful change emerges from dissatisfaction with current conditions, but also celebrates many small victories as well as personal learning, thereby continually building momentum for innovation toward a preferred future.
Raise awareness of how social systems support and resist change. Successful change invites people working at multiple levels—individual, organizational, national, international, etc.— to experiment in creating new realities and transforming the forces that maintain the status quo.
Engage diverse people in partnering for positive action. Successful change is fueled by a mix of “un-usual” suspects—from those at the periphery of power to those closer to the center—in co-producing alternative futures in a context of mutual respect and relationships of trust.
Become the change, innovate with opportunitites, and persist. Successful change is grounded in personal transformation, encourages experimentation, and eventually evolves the system as a whole.
These words are still relevant, even ten years later.