Essential Advice For Changemakers

All social entrepreneurial ventures involve transformation of some kind. From changing attitudes and adjusting behaviors to ensuring acceptance of novel solutions, getting people comfortable with any sort of change can be a daunting task.  It is one of the major stumbling blocks encountered by social innovators, who frequently underestimate this challenge. Yet with methodical and thoughtful planning, the process can be made more manageable and less taxing for all concerned.

Offered below are five key pieces of advice for aspiring changemakers:

1. Believe!

You need to believe strongly in the change you seek to bring about, not just at a visceral level, but also intellectually. This means cataloging its pros and cons to truly understand its ramifications. This will make you doubly certain of your mission and can help erase any self-doubt you might have regarding the project – your heart and mind are now aligned. Your heightened enthusiasm will rub off on those around you and attract them to your cause. It will also sustain you through the inevitable ups and downs along the way.

2. Measure the right things

It is important to choose the appropriate metrics to evaluate the success of your project. They should show a clear correspondence to the overall goals of your venture, and ideally should be quantifiable.

Creating change is a process, and it can be long and arduous. By breaking the steps into manageable & measurable or observable chunks, with measurable mini-goals (and mini-rewards) along the way, you can assess your progress at any moment. This is important for keeping you and your organization motivated and accountable.

It is equally important to realize that there may be different paths to achieving your goals. You may be required to modify your path if new information or circumstances warrant. Having clarity regarding what constitutes success for your project or venture can help keep you on track.

3. Appreciate that change is difficult and engage all stakeholders

The larger the change you wish to bring about, the more people it will impact. One of the primary tasks of the social innovator is to identify all stakeholders, recognizing that the proposed change will benefit some and disadvantage others. You need to acknowledge that those disadvantaged by the change may suffer, and work to minimize the negative impact on them. Ideally, you should figure out a way for them to share in the benefits. If that is not possible, work hard to ensure that they are not worse off than before.

There are many reasons why people may be resistant to the change you seek. This is especially true for those who might be adversely impacted by the proposed change. Occasionally, you may even encounter pushback from those who would ostensibly benefit from it. By understanding peoples’ hesitation, reluctance, or outright hostility to the desired change, you can empathize with their position and hence better address their concerns.

Even after you have assuaged the concerns of all identified stakeholders, you may still face organizational or systemic opposition. This is because organizations frequently take on a life of their own, with priorities and interests that can at times be at odds with those of its members.

4. Realize that there are two types of solutions to every problem

Every problem or issue has two distinct solutions – a proximate solution, and an enduring solution.

Proximate solution. This is the immediate fix. It is relatively quick and easy and is great for optics. This is the one that most people see and experience. It gives the appearance of the problem being addressed, makes well-intentioned people feel better, and looks great politically. Yet its effects wear off quickly and the affected population is no better off in the long run.

Enduring solution. This is the long-term solution to the problem. It requires a deep dive into the causes of the issue, ideally using field work, the Five Whys methodology, and the Theory of Change. It involves evaluating alternative solutions, and implementing the best one. This can require considerable work behind the scenes, and its efficacy is usually only visible in retrospect,

5. Co-Opt Others to Help

“Change” is a huge industry, with diverse groups of people involved in its every step. To maximize the impact of your (usually limited) resources and save yourself a ton of frustration, you can engage professionals to aid in your quest.

This includes people who are involved in

  • Creating change (g., entrepreneurs)
  • Understanding and explaining change (g., demographers, forecasters, sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, historians)
  • Helping people and organizations adapt to change (g., planners, life coaches, psychologists, consultants)
  • Marketing and selling change (g., publicists, community leaders, consultants)

Incorporating members from some or all of the above groups in your change strategy can greatly increase the odds of your mission’s success.

At Novamaya, we believe that the creation and management of change is a vital part of every successful social venture.