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How Change Happens by Duncan Green

With stories spanning the globe, Green shows you how change happens.

Stephanie Wong | 09 Jun 2017

Book cover of "How Change Happens" by Duncan Green

Image credit: Act Build Change.

This book is for activists who want to change the world.

— Duncan Green

Three Takeaways

  1. We must learn to dance in the system
  2. Check your assumptions about power: Always
  3. There is no one-way of making change: All of us can create a better world

Whether youre trying to save a community centre or influence the World Bank, you must get into the guts of the place. Who has power over it, who cares about your issue and who doesnt that can harm your work? Once you know how power is flowing, you know how much you must build and who with, to make change happen.

Young Zapatistas. Image credit: Raúl Ortega.

I started to see complexity and unpredictable emergent change everywhere.

— Duncan Green

Every system is full of people interacting with each other over power. Because people are not robots, these interactions are unpredictable and changing. It makes the whole mapping process that bit harder. Our role as activists is to understand how power moves, be prepared for challenges and get our dancing shoes on.

Life is not a star wars movie (unfortunately) there is no one right way to make a difference. This thinking often holds us back and slows positive change down. Green argues it will take heat from the top and bottom to make change happen. We also need to get more playful and have a critical eye to influence these spaces for the greater good. When we do this we can find unexpected allies in often ignored places. Making unchecked assumptions and dividing people into square boxes when they are in-fact rare diamonds, costs all of us in the end.

It takes time to understand how power works and even longer to make change. What does that mean for activists who are impatient with the slow pace of justice? Well, Green wants you to slow the fudge down!

Take a deep breath, put your sense of urgency to one side for a moment, and become a reflective.

— Duncan Green

We are also going to make a lot of mistakes:

You and your colleagues have to be ready to discuss and learn from failure.

— Duncan Green

In the end, it is not necessarily the committed and proud activists Green is endorsing, but the thoughtful and flexible ones that make change happen.

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