how change happens

A 3-fold theory of social change (and some great quotes on complexity, ambiguity and dreaming)

Duncan Green - January 12, 2017

Sometimes a paper is worth blogging about just for the quotes. Here are the best from a 2016 update of Doug Reeler’s ‘A Three-Fold Theory of Social Change’: “I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity. But I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side.” Oliver Wendell Holmes “Whosoever wishes to know about the world …

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‘Odd but Interesting’: Clare Short reviews How Change Happens

Duncan Green - December 20, 2016

Clare Short was DFID’s first minister (1997-2003) and a force of nature (for example she was one of the originators of what became the Millennium Development Goals). Great when she agreed with you, pretty brutal when she didn’t. Which in the case of NGOs, was quite a lot of the time – she had the traditional Labour Left dislike of middle class, self-appointed, self-righteous dogoodery …

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What can Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the Matrix teach us about how change happens?

Duncan Green - December 14, 2016

Chatting to academics in the US last week, we swapped notes on the merits of using shared cultural references to convey some of the key ideas around how change happens. They act as a short cut, allowing subtle, nuanced ideas to be discussed on the basis of a large pool of common knowledge. You need to avoid the pitfalls of cultural imperialism, of course (so …

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What role for local actors in system change? Fighting climate change in the UK

Duncan Green - November 29, 2016

Ruth Mayne, Oxfam’s senior researcher on the effectiveness of influencing, reflects on some personal influencing she was involved with before (re)joining Oxfam. In the development world we often emphasise the importance of strengthening community action but is it really possible for local, rather than national and international, actors to contribute to system change? And if so, why and how does this happen, and under what …

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Some highlights from the first 30 book launches for How Change Happens

Duncan Green - November 17, 2016

I’m about six weeks into launching How Change Happens, and am having a great (if knackering) time. Highlights so far include a Kurdish/Dutch guitar combo warming up the crowd in Nijmegen, conversations with an Islamic finance entrepreneur trying to do financial inclusion in South Wales, a great group of women managing a community-run service station on the M5 motorway and a network of ‘social leaders’ …

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Only (re)Connect. The US elections, How Change Happens and where do we go from here?

Duncan Green - November 11, 2016

This is just me indulging in a little personal therapy as I come to terms with this week’s political earthquake. If you want the official Oxfam response, we’re working on it, but you’ll have to wait (should be out before the 2020 elections). So this is just me. Is that clear? Good. Trexit? Brump? 2016 is proving to be one hell of an annus horribilis …

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Why systems thinking changes everything for activists and reformers

Duncan Green - November 4, 2016

This week, the Guardian ran a very nicely edited ‘long read’ extract from How Change Happens covering some of the book’s central arguments, under the title Radical Thinking Reveals the Secrets of Making Change Happen. Here it is: Political and economic earthquakes are often sudden and unforeseeable, despite the false pundits who pop up later to claim they predicted them all along – take the …

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Can Publishers survive Open Access? We’ll find out when How Change Happens is published today

Duncan Green - October 27, 2016

It’s Open Access Week and How Change Happens is officially published in the UK today, as both a book and an open access pdf. The process has been pretty exciting. The traditional author descends from the mountain of scholarship clutching a rather expensive tablet of stone, in which his/her wisdom is set out to a suitably grateful but largely passive public. Think of force-feeding geese. …

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Sen, Fukuyama, Chambers, Byanyima, Agarwal, Rodrik, Kumar and Robinson on How Change Happens

Duncan Green - October 21, 2016

A week to go til the official How Change Happens publication day (a pretty artificial date, but apparently it helps with chasing up reviews), so time for another book-related post. One of the most heart-warming experiences for any author is when you send off your manuscript to a sprinkling of the great and good, and to your delight and astonishment, some of them send back a …

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Ha-Joon Chang on How Change Happens

Duncan Green - October 18, 2016

October is upon us, and with it the publication of How Change Happens on the 27th. I am already suffering about my levels of authorial self-obsession: I entered the personal shorthand of ‘Narcissistic Peak’ for launch day, unaware that my diary synchs with my wife’s Ipad. Cathy hasn’t let me forget it. But given the surprising results of my precautionary poll (90% of voters not …

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