Radical Change: engaging communities

It doesn’t have to be ‘them and us‘. With the right type of engagement, it can be ‘us‘ all around. I’m seeing increased interest in the power of socially moderated and driven change models: harnessing the power of community to co-create and co-own the change.

Sustained Subversion

Call it ‘sanctioned subversion‘. It allows a little of the anarchic into the formal organisational space. Creating communities of change who both shape the ideas and take responsibility for execution: recognising that change itself isn’t hard, it’s engagement and momentum that count.

The NHS Healthcare Radicals model is one of the strongest i’ve seen: an officially sanctioned community for change couched in fully social terms. The very language is social and provocative: you study to become a ‘radical‘, not a graduate. It’s a deliberate choice of words: it provides permission to think differently and to align yourself with dramatic change. Radicals don’t do things by halves.

NHS Change day, which occurs in different healthcare systems globally now, is a focal point for change, but the Radicals have a wider remit than one day a year: the movement creates an impetus for introspection (of both ourselves and the systems we inhabit) and provokes momentum.

Momentum is one of the hardest aspects of change: you can easily create disturbance, but like ripples on the water, it soon fades away. True change requires momentum over time, and that can only be generated from within the community, not input from outside. It’s socially created and socially moderated, so almost by definition, it requires engagement from the community. The Healthcare Radicals model achieves this by recognising and amplifying individual momentum. By creating transparency, it builds individual reputation as well as the reputation of the change idea itself.

Crucially, it’s change within a framework, but without a set agenda. It’s a methodology with a devolved roadmap. Change is desired and required, but the micro details of the change are defined and owned by the community, which makes sense because it’s the community that holds the best knowledge at this level and which ultimately has to make the change happen.

The role of the organisation is not necessarily to define the change (although it may define the parameters, such as cost or efficiency). The role of the organisation in a socially moderated change model is to facilitate the change.

We all have our reputation within communities: it’s forged on our behaviour and actions over time. Any formal system that recognises social reputation is onto a winner: it means we are rewarding people for the value they add as recognised by the community itself.

In a social model, the challenge for the organisation is to grant permission to think differently: create the space for disturbance, not the disturbance itself.

I’m starting to evolve a model for this type of social change: think of it as finding the keys to unlock momentum within the organisation.

Social Change Model - four keys

We can view four keys for change, each facilitated by a catalyst

I’m focussing on four key dimensions: permission, pathways, reinforcement and recognition. Within each are key catalysts: amplification, mechanism, narrative and reward.

Permission is about creating space to think differently: amplification enables this by providing social reinforcement and volume to good ideas.

Pathway is about channeling individually created momentum into aligned community efforts. It’s about facilitating technologies and appropriate models of moderation and control. It’s easy to kill change at this stage if we get it wrong.

Reinforcement is where we start to put organisational muscle behind socially created and moderated change. It’s where the amplification really starts to bite and where the roadmap emerges. At this stage, it’s all about stories and narrative.

Recognition means calling out success as well as failure: it’s driven out of storytelling and personal narratives of change. It also includes reward, but recognising that money may not be the primary driver: reputation counts in the Social Age.

Change is not about pushing from the top down: partly because whilst the view from the top is great, it misses the granularity of detail from the floor, but also because true change has to be co-created and co-owned.

Don’t mistake co-ownership for diluted change: think of it as more effective. You still get your say, but you benefit from the wisdom of the community. If we think there is no wisdom in the community, we’re reverting to a ‘them and us‘ mindset, where we ‘do‘ change to people. That’s ok, if you’re ok alienating your community. And bearing in mind that ‘community‘ sits at the heart of the Social Age, that may not be so smart.

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About julianstodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
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