Pioneering change from within
  • Check out this thought-provoking theory of social change that Debbie Frieze of the Berkana Exchange describes in this 7-minute video clip.

    I particularly appreciate the question that Debbie raises towards the end, one that she says has been an important point of debate and exploration for her organization: Is it possible to create pioneering change within the institutions that we deem to be destructive?

    Based on our experience and observations, the answer to this question is ‘yes’, but only if we are seeing the dynamics of social change unfold at two levels simultaneously- form and spirit.

    We have come across social change initiatives that are conventional in form, yet incredibly pioneering in spirit. They heal destructive social patterns by moving in the world in a way that is more compassionate, more reflective, more inclusive. People who pass through them are transformed.  And although a shift in organizational form could be helpful in further unleashing their potential for even deeper change, the fact that they wear a more conventional jacket in no way lessens their impact on the world.

    From this perspective, I think it is also helpful to take a closer look at the organizations we’re quick to label as social pioneers. How much of their pioneering work is happening at the form level (reflected in their structure, their model, or their guiding philosophy). And how much is taking place at the every-day experiential level? To what extent is the organization expressing the change it’s seeking to create in the world? Or is it mostly just manifesting the unhealthy social patterns it is working so hard to change?


    March 30th, 2011 | Tana Paddock | 3 Comments

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3 Responses and Counting...

  • Aerin Dunford 03.30.2011

    super interesting commentary on this video, Tana (which, as you may guess, I am familiar with). part of why i love the idea (and practices) associated with Organization Unbound is that I believe deeply in the power of people and organizations living the values and beliefs that they wish to manifest in the world. i that this kind of shift is actually necessary if we want to create truly transformative change. i think that these kind of subtle shifts in the way that we act within our organizations and communities (even if they are within “institutions we deem to be destructive”) can emerge in ways that show up somewhat “under the radar” of the power structures and bureaucracy of an organization. this is also a role that we have toyed with in our discussions of the two-loops theory at Berkana – the role of “protector” – those with position and power in an organization that create “cover” for those working in pioneering ways, so that they are not crushed by the dominant system trying to preserve itself and its ways.

  • It’s one of the best text about social change I´ve read. Keep up the good work!
    Love you as always.

  • Hi Aerin, I like that such a role becomes more recognized and valued. I’m also interested in how the pioneering can happen in a way that is more dialogue-based, so as not to cause such defensiveness in the dominant system, and thus need such a secret covering. Our friend Jonathan is a good example of such an approach for me:

    I’m keen on digging up more examples in case any come to your mind…

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