Learning and Being Social Change

What does it take to be a catalyst for social / global / community change?

The answer is easier than we have been taught to think it is.

We have been taught that social change is hard. Changing whole systems is near to impossible. People won’t agree. It takes forever. If we begin now, we won’t see the effects in our lifetimes. Etc.

What if that is simply not true?

Think back to when you were a tiny baby. When we were first born, none of us knew how to do virtually any of the zillions of things we do as adults every day.  We didn’t know how to read or add a column of figures or walk.

And yet, with practice, those impossible tasks became simple to the point where we don’t even think about doing them; we just do them.

When you came to this blog, did you think, “I must remember what to do when I see the letter B next to the letter L”? Of course not. You’re just reading.

Things that took a lot of effort and concentration when you were first learning take little or none now. Things that took forever take no time at all. Things we had to focus on for every step of the process are now simply part of our being.

Driving. Walking. Reading.

Changing the world.

Yup. It’s all the same. It’s a combination of skill and transformation. And before you start thinking,  “Transformation sounds hard!” consider this: You have become many many things in your life – things you were not before.  You weren’t a reader or a driver or a person who could make a bed.

For each of us, long ago we learned those skills.  And for each of us, after practicing those skills, we long ago stopped focusing on the “doing” part. We just became readers and drivers and people who could make their bed.

The same is true for being a social change agent. We learn skills, we practice the skills, we re-focus and re-aim, and in all that, we become.

We are no longer doing this or that; it is just who we are and how we think and respond to whatever circumstances we are facing.

Once we realize that, and begin incorporating new ways of thinking and being into our daily lives with clients and colleagues and other change agents, we find that things we had thought were immovable are suddenly – almost magically – changing.

Again, it’s like reading or anything else. If I think reading is hard, that I’ll never be able to do it – well then it will be hard, and I will have to work really really hard for every word I manage to put together. And yes, reading a book will take forever!

If we think becoming a catalyst for changing our world is hard, it will be hard. If we think it will take forever for change to happen, it will. If we think it is a pipe dream, it will be nothing more than that.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Just like learning to read or drive or add a column of numbers.

You can learn how social change happens. You can learn what you can do to catalyze that change. You can practice that. Each time you do it, you will feel more and more what it means to “be” the change you want to see.

And it is then you will feel what so many of the graduates of our courses are feeling: that the “transformation” and “being” didn’t take forever for you. It took a surprisingly short time.

From there you will realize something even more powerful: if it didn’t take forever for you, it doesn’t have to take forever for our world.

That is when the words will no longer simply be inspirational; they will be your reality:

Creating visionary community change is not just possible. It is practical and doable. And when we take off the blinders, it happens faster than you ever dreamed.

If you have questions about our Consultants Immersion Course, join our free 1 hour Q&A session next Wednesday, January 13. Course graduates will join Dimitri and me in answering all your questions!

12 Responses to Learning and Being Social Change

  1. Being a community catalyst is absolutely a learned activity. It takes time, effort, and mentoring. The best part is that mentoring spreads and forms the next catalyst. Learn one, do one, teach one! Great post, Hildy. Thanks!

    David Svet
    Spur Communications
    Twitter: @spurdave
    Blog: http://www.spurspectives.com

  2. Dave – I love that thought that mentoring builds upon itself. We are building a movement!

    Bonnie: In every single class students raise that clip. They talk about the fact that there was no fear in Indie’s face was he did it – that life of wisdom-building and knowledge-building had prepared him with just what to do. Rather than sensing a leap of faith, his face shows that he is just (albeit perhaps a bit cautiously) doing what needs to be done.

    And of course once he takes that first step, the path reveals itself.

    If someone were new to everything Indie already knew were doing the exact same “doing” steps as Indie did, they would have shown utter panic – it would have indeed been a leap of faith. For Indie, it was just what his life of experience and learning told him.

    He is a GREAT example of “being” that work. Thank you for that!!!

  3. Hi Hildy-

    I think that all too often, we think that when the social change occurs, we do not remember that is based on what we learned but in addition to our tenacity. Tenacity is one part, but impact takes skills, it takes using your brand and your leadership to shape, persuade and influence. I see too many of my colleagues forgetting that and then fumbling around when they have to recreate the steps to try and strike different change.. I am reflecting on this on in my own life and in the work that I do and i hope that the change i can make is to help other learn and be that change they want to see in the world.

  4. We can also pool “challenge offers” of microgrants, eLearning opportunities, and access to telework jobs to help kindreds around the world who are working for change.

    For more on how concentrated digital catalysts can accelerate grassroots-up transformation, please check the ideas at Openworld.com and Buildership.org .


    Mark Frazier
    @openworld @buildership @peerlearning

  5. Learning to be a catalyst for social change is freeing and exciting. Each step of the learning process reinforces the desire to continue. Thank you for a great post to start the year!

  6. Hildy,

    Participating with you in the reverse engineering process with you and Dimitri has been one of the most exciting starts to a new year I can think of!

    So grateful for your insight… looking forward to witnessing what the future holds…

    In Spirit,
    Tracey L. Sisson

  7. Persistence and perseverance are the rare traits in my social change effort. That, and developing a core group of people all of whom support each other — through days or weeks when it is easy to believe that the effort has failed, we’re done, we should all just go home.

    I’ve been doing some reading here http://www.innonet.org/ on evaluating advocacy efforts. People around us doubt and devalue work to inform changes in attitude and policy constantly. I think it is only when you can look back over a (long) history of small alterations and shifts, that you see that indeed, your work has produced the path toward a particular social change. It is the easiest thing in the world to give up, to lose faith, to despair.

    I believe that the changes I work for, although many people think they are insignificant, will change a lot of attitudes affecting all of us every day, about kindness to one another. I haven’t found a mentor, yet, but I appreciate the reading here and the other comments, very much, as a kind of community of support beyond my local colleagues.

  8. Hello Hilde, yes there is a movement still going on and part of it is to help others in ways that are different from the past.

    I am sharing an idea because you have people there in LA who care about water and have the power to do something about the awareness level that needs to be raised in the public sector. Please look at the website and chart under overview. Thanks! Patti