Summary of How Change Happens

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9 Overall

9 Applicability

9 Innovation

8 Style


Economist Duncan Green, the author of From Poverty to Power, proposes a new path to change for activists, nonprofits and aid agencies. His “Power and Systems” approach can help advocates and development agencies engage more flexibly with communities in need of change. Green, a senior strategic adviser at Oxfam and a professor of International Development at the London School of Economics, addresses the theoretical underpinnings of his concept of change, examines how change affects institutions involved in aid or development work, considers the people who embrace activism and examines the implications of his approach to bringing about change. getAbstract believes that government aid workers and development and aid officers in local and international agencies can benefit from learning about this approach to creating change.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How activists, nonprofits and aid agencies can bring about change with a “Power and Systems Approach”;
  • How governments and social norms can change;
  • Why change requires following complex, multifaceted strategies; and
  • Why change efforts are more effective if they stem from the community agencies are trying to serve.

About the Author

Duncan Green is senior strategic adviser at Oxfam and a professor of International Development at the London School of Economics. His blog on international development, From Poverty to Power, was the basis for his earlier book of that name. 



“Power and Systems Approach”   

A successful community change effort requires understanding how power works beyond the obvious political and economic structures. Activists can produce a better strategy by first conducting a “power analysis” to identify which people hold what kind of authority in a given situation and what might allow change to occur. Make sure you have partnerships, connections and relationships with people who can and will help implement change. Consider how to sway the people you’re targeting for change, whether through “laws and policies, or in social norms, attitudes and beliefs.” Consider what could happen to instigate change: a political event, an environmental catastrophe or some economic disaster.

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    Ashish Agarwal 10 months ago
    This is the first summary in several months of my membership with getAbstract after reading which I felt the need to actually read the book and I am wondering if it is the book or the summary?

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