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February 5, 2016

Book Review: The Power of Positive Deviance

February 5, 2016

You say you want a Revolution? The Beatles on How Change Happens

February 5, 2016
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Blog break over – did you miss me? Thought not. After a month in writing purdah, I sent off the How Change Happens manuscript to OUP last week, so it is now their problem (for a couple of months at least).

So let’s get restarted with a spot of whimsy. One of the ideas that never made it into the final draft of the book was a critique of the lyrics of the Beatles’ ‘Revolution’. That’s partly because it was written (by John Lennon of course, far too intellectual for Macca) during the tumultuous year of 1968, as a response to the debates on violent v non-violent action, and I thought that would probably be ancient history to most of the book’s intended readership. But it seems a shame to waste it, so here you are:

John Lennon How Change Happens commentary
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
We don’t say ‘revolution’ any more – please replace with ‘transformative change’. Good to see reference to evolution and systems thinking – have you read Beinhocker?
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
You need to rethink: destruction clearly important in terms of economic progress (Schumpeter), and more widely, contestation/conflict often essential aspect of social/political change – ask John Gaventa
Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright
Spelling? What is the evidence base for this assertion?
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re all doing what we can
Surely single solutions are implausible, given context specificity? Would certainly be interested in seeing the plan (is it a proper logframe?). ‘Doing what we can’ sounds terribly voluntarist and is only an input – how do you intend to measure results?
But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait
Wouldn’t constructive engagement stand a better chance of success than a boycott, perhaps a multi-stakeholder initiative round changing ‘hate’ norms?
You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You’d better free your mind instead
Changing constitutions is difficult enough, but what about implementation? Changing norms (‘your head’) might be more feasible, but takes decades. In either case, what’s your theory of change?

Norms are themselves an institution (‘rules of the game’) so false distinction in last line

But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
Baffling non sequitur – please explain
Don’t you know know it’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright

Alright, alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright
Alright, alright

Positive framing always welcome, but this seems unnecessarily repetitive

And here’s the song. I’m contemplating a new improved How Change Happens version……

And if you like this kind of thing, check out Bob Marley on the food price crisis

4 comments

  1. Very good and to quote Dylan – from the times they are a changin’ – with commentary

    Come senators, congressmen
    Please heed the call
    Don’t stand in the doorway
    Don’t block up the hall

    (speaking truth to power)

    Your old road is
    Rapidly agin’.
    Please get out of the new one
    If you can’t lend your hand
    For the times they are a-changin’

    (the impact of rapidly emerging disruption and consequential lessening utility of previously high impact methodologies and programme approaches)

    Come writers and critics
    Who prophesize with your pen
    And keep your eyes wide
    The chance won’t come again

    (obviously referencing the importance of the new How Change Happens book)

  2. Dear citizen…

    If economic security

    I mean agency I mean

    justice is not bred to

    move in political realms

    is it because the path is simply

    one of snakes and ladders, spirals

    because we don’t find the right

    balance of love and power,

    between growing trees and

    navigating jungles or we chickegg

    the poor thing into parts until

    it’s stuck or dying

    failed to watch

    how it moved. Is it

    because we miss in it

    the moral power, the

    imagination, intoxication,

    the trust, the critical

    intangible of the

    townhouse, the gathering,

    the dialogue, this dialogue,

    our kite and our stars.

    I love your post. May I add to the whimsy? This was a found poem generated from an Economic and Political Citizenship workshop at the Coady International Institute with John Gaventa (coincidentally when he was Director) and Alison Mathie.

  3. Love this off beat post from you Duncan. Cannot resist adding another “Impact” and “Change” song (below):

    The Output Outcome Downstream Impact Blues

    Don’t look for impact (clap)
    With attribution unhuhnn
    Don’t look for (clap) impact,
    With attribuuuution (Repeat)

    CHORUS

    ‘Cause it’s impact any place
    Impact any time
    You may find it ‘round the corner
    Or much farther down the line.
    If it happens in a way
    That you did not choose
    You get those Output Outcome
    Downstream Impact Blues

    Donors often say, and this is a fact
    Get out there and show us your impact
    You must change peoples’ lives and help us take credit
    Or next time you want funding…you just might not get it.

    Recipients are always eager to please
    When evaluators arrive from overseas
    To search for objectively verifiable indicators of impact
    Surprising the donors, what they bring back

    CHORUS

    ‘Cause it’s impact any place
    Impact any time
    You may find it ‘round the corner
    Or much farther down the line.
    But if you look for attribution
    You are never going to lose
    Those Output Outcome
    Downstream Impact Blues

    Impact, they find, when it does occur
    Comes from many factors and we’re not sure
    Just what we can attribute to who
    ‘Cause impact is the product of what many people do

    So donors wake up from your impossible dream
    You drop in your funding a long way upstream
    Then the waters they flow, they mingle & blend
    How can you take credit for what comes out in the end?

    CHORUS

    ‘Cause it’s impact any place
    Impact any time
    You may find it ‘round the corner
    Or much farther down the line.
    But if you look for attribution
    You are never going to lose
    Those Output Outcome
    Downstream Impact Blues

    Don’t look for impact (clap)
    With attribution unhuhnn
    Don’t look for (clap) impact,
    With attribuuuution (Repeat)

    Terry Smutylo

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