Subversive social communities to drive organisational change

Communities are on my mind this week: we interact with them in so many ways, find them in so many places and achieve so much within and alongside them (which is why they sit at the heart of Social Leadership). Today, i’m reflecting on the role of subversive communities to drive change.

Subversive Communities

Communities don’t just offer challenge and support: they can be engine of change, subverting established routine and process

Communities serve many functions: for challenge, for support, to co-create meaning and for ‘sense making‘, but a central role is to subvert established authority and process. Effectively, they can be bodies for driving change.

I’m particularly interested in this co-creative and co-owned model as it changes the fundamental dynamic of change: instead of it being us against the organisation, it becomes a question of whether you are part of the change community or outside it, which is a totally different decision. Ally this with the supportive and nurturing nature of community, and it’s a powerful model to both drive and support organisational change.

Net Model - Community - Purpose

Social Leaders must understand the purpose of different communities and take an appropriate stance when they engage

Look at NHS Change Day, a move to drive (to co-create) change within the NHS (in the UK and other countries through allied approaches and methods. What i really like about this is it’s truly social nature of change and it’s willingness for the community to shape the story. NHS Change Day (and allied transformation efforts) isn’t about a defined purpose, or at least not a purpose beyond making things better. Instead, it’s about creating a permissive environment to be excellent: it’s about creating a situation where it’s ok to talk about change and to gather momentum behind it.

The use of ‘pledges‘ is powerful: a site where you can make a pledge and share those of others: this isn’t an organisational restructure towards a defined goal, it’s about making your inner desire public, within the safety of a community of change. Like all good communities, there are shared values: around patient care, a desire to be better, a desire to support others in being better. This shared vision leads to momentum. Momentum challenges inertia (and i’ll be forgiven for stating that the NHS, like many organisations, is not short of inertia).

We can reframe the dynamics of change, away from restructuring and budgets towards desire and community. We normalise the conversation about change, making it easy to amplify our messages in a supportive shared space.

It’s a long journey, but a fascinating one.

Communities can subvert process and do so in an inclusive and dynamic way. That’s the reality of change in the Social Age, and you may as well be part of it, because it happens anyway, whether sanctioned or not.

Net Model - community - role

We have to choose our role and recognise that, in the Social Age, it’s dependent on reputation, not hierarchy

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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42 Responses to Subversive social communities to drive organisational change

  1. Terrific post, “subversive” really is the apt term. Subversion doesn’t mean looking to dismantle or undercut something as a means unto itself – it is the natural byproduct of humans questing the status quo as they adapt to shifting contexts. Nothing is “fixed” – we know that in the face of any change “movement” or conversation there will be vocal resistance. Toxic environments deny permission to question – countering this tendency from a cultural (not positional) level is critical.

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  3. David says:

    I love the point you make about reframing the dynamics of change from focusing on the restructuring and budget to desire and community. I think this moves us away from thinking about all the barriers to thinking about what might be. It opens up the imagination instead of constraining it.

  4. GemStGem says:

    Reblogged this on GemStGem and commented:
    This is an interesting article about how subversive social communities are making changes in organisations that was shared on Yammer at work. It’s good to see these thoughts articulated like this, but I think that subversive change by small, passionate groups of people always been the way that cultural shifts have been made, whether these communities are formalised or not and whether or not they’re in an organisation or in society in general.

    I definitely agree with the idea idea that our role in a community is dependent on reputation, not hierarchy.

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