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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »