How Change Happens is divided into four sections. The first sets out the conceptual underpinning of the book, an effort to understand change through the prism of complex systems, power and social norms. Perhaps it is the legacy of a long-distant physics degree, but at times in the last few years, it has felt something like a unified field theory of development is emerging from these discussions. Section One also wrestles with the fact that books are inevitably linear creations: you start at the beginning and (if it’s any good) read through to the end. That seems terribly inappropriate for a discussion of non-linear complex systems, and runs the risk that readers give up before getting to the ‘so what’ conclusion. I have therefore tried to boil down the final message of the book into a one-page ‘power and systems approach’ in Section One, which gives a taste of what is to come.
Section Two discusses some of the main institutions that are both the object and subject of most change processes: central government, legal systems, political parties and other channels of accountability, the international system and large transnational corporations. Some of this may feel like hard work, and certainly a long way from a feel-good celebration of activism. I suspect many activists could use a quick refresher on the history, politics and internal structures of the institutions they wish to influence if we are to find new ideas and possibilities for promoting change and seizing moments of opportunity.
Section Three discusses some of activism’s main players: citizen activists, advocacy organizations and the role of leadership. And the final section explores the implications of my analysis for individual activists and their organizations, fleshing out the power and systems approach.
The book is not a manual. Indeed one of its conclusions is that reliance on checklist toolkits is one of the things that is holding us back. Instead it offers a combination of analysis, questions and case studies, with the aim of helping readers look afresh at both the obstacles and the enthralling processes of change going on all around them, and to gain some new energy and ideas about how to contribute.
Like most change processes, this book emerged rather than being decided in advance. Hundreds of people contributed their ideas and experiences; when we posted a draft version for comment, more than 600 people downloaded it. I have made every effort to incorporate a range of voices and opinions, but in the end, this is a……..
The post How Change Happens is divided into four sections.
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