Tag Team – Social Change as a Ripple Effect (Act!)

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Purpose & Preparation

The Change Wave: how a new behaviour, idea or technology spreads through a group of people, with
The Change Wave: how a new behaviour, idea or technology spreads through a group of people, with points of “take off” (when suddenly a lot of people start doing it, when it goes viral, etc) and “saturation” (when everyone who’s likely to change has changed).
  • The innovator develops a solution or an alternative that makes a significant difference to that issue. They are somewhat on the fringes of mainstream society, and may be considered ‘radical’ or ‘alternative’ by many.

    Example Action: The first person to propose a new farmers market.

  • Change agents are the “idea brokers” for the Innovator. They look around for good ideas that could be applied across society and are passionate about finding ways to encourage others to take up the new idea, behaviour, or product/technology.

    Example Action: A group of people helping to get a new farmers market up and running.

  • Transformers are concerned about mainstream values, though they have a sense that things could be done in a better way.

    Example Action: Shoppers who are not quite satisfied with the experience or quality of the food at supermarkets and have heard about the farmers market as an alternative where they can get local, organic produce and get to know the farmers.

  • Mainstreamers are the vast majority of society or a particular group. The “noisy majority”, they are not interested in the particular issue of concern, they are more interested in getting on with life as normal and being part of the general community.

    Example Action: Shoppers who come to the farmers market because the produce is of a high quality, reasonable value, they can get most of what they need there, and have a pleasant, social experience.

  • Unwilling laggards don’t like change very much at all and will only adopt something new or change their behaviours if everybody else is doing it.

    Example Action: Shoppers whose neighbours and friends are going to the farmers market, and ask them to meet for coffee there! Once they start shopping at the markets, they realise it’s fine.

 The Change Wave including roles in the Tag Team.
The Change Wave including roles in the Tag Team.

Process

Reflection

Reflection: Take a few minutes to reflect on this experience and write down some insights in your Joyality Journal.

Here are a few things to think about and ask yourself:

  1. Were there any “ahah” moments or insights from doing this?
  2. Can you see that this process of social change is like a tag team, with each role only needing to affect the next?
  3. If you did experience that, imagine using this as a framework to design a strategy to get a whole bunch of people behaving in a new way! Each role is most in touch with the roles on either side of it. They understand what is important to those people on either side of them – what motivates them to change and how to communicate to them. As effective change makers, we realise that the best strategies for social change integrate all these different motivations for different people; and include partnerships with people who understand these different motivations.
  4. So see what you can gather from your experience in the Tag Team exercise to create a change strategy for something you care deeply about.  If there are gaps, that’s okay! Just notice what you don’t know … and start to learn from the people around you … what do they care about? what motivates them to make changes?
[Download MP3s while looking at the diagrams on this page: TagTeam 1 (Purpose & Preparation), TagTeam2 (Process) and TagTeam3 (Reflection) , or you can use the text below if you find it easier, and to guide others.]

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[Transcript Tag Team]
Purpose: It takes a whole society to create the level and extent of change we need to create a sustainable future. This change doesn’t have to happen all at once. But it does need to happen quickly.
Perhaps think of it like a wave at a football stadium, or the ripple effect of a single stone dropped into a pond. The change starts somewhere and reverberates through the whole system, depending on connections and communication, until every particle or member of a system moves or makes a change.
The Change Wave: how a new behaviour, idea or technology spreads through a group of people, with
The Change Wave: how a new behaviour, idea or technology spreads through a group of people, with points of “take off” (when suddenly a lot of people start doing it, when it goes viral, etc) and “saturation” (when everyone who’s likely to change has changed).
The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate how this sort of change can happen, and to show you that the motivation for this change can differ completely between different people in society. Social change operates kind of like a tag team, between different members of a group of people, each acting to influence each other in sometimes surprising ways.
For example, a farmers market might be initiated by someone passionate about addressing climate change and promoting local economics; its first supporters are also motivated by these same issues and are excited about getting the project off the ground and spreading the word through the community. The next people to shop at the markets come because they want to buy local, organic produce and meet the farmers. The next because they can get most of the produce they need there and because its good quality and reasonable value. The last type of people to come to the markets are because it’s simply “the place to be” and most of their friends and neighbours shop there!
Preparation: Before we start the process itself, we’d like to introduce you to the key characters in the “tag team”. (Perhaps keep these descriptions on your screen while you do the process.) These are 5 different roles that people play in the creation of change within a social system or a particular group of people.
The Change Wave including roles in the Tag Team.
The Change Wave including roles in the Tag Team.
  • The innovator: Someone who is really concerned about a particular issue in the world and is really inspired and develops a solution or an alternative that makes a significant difference to that issue. The innovator creates a new idea or an innovation, is somewhat on the fringes of mainstream society, and may be considered ‘radical’ or ‘alternative’ by many. (Eg., the first person to propose a new farmers market.)
  • The change agent: Is also concerned about that same issue and is looking for a solution to a particular problem. They haven’t come up with a solution but they are looking around for good ideas that could be applied across society and are passionate about finding ways encourage others to take up the new idea, behaviour, or product/technology. They are the “ideas broker” for the Innovator. (Eg., a group of people helping to get a new farmers market up and running.)
  • The transformer: More a member of the mainstream community, but is somewhat interested in the same issues as the change agent, and is generally interested in new ideas. They are also concerned about mainstream values, though they have a sense that things could be done in a better way. (Eg., Shoppers who are not quite satisfied with the experience or quality of the food at supermarkets and have heard about the farmers market as an alternative where they can get local, organic produce and get to know the farmers.)
  • The mainstreamer: This is the vast majority of society or a particular group. So you might think of them as the “noisy majority”. And essentially they are not interested in the particular issue of concern, they are more interested in getting on with life as normal and being part of the general community. (Shoppers who come to the farmers market because the produce is of a high quality, reasonable value, they can get most of what they need there, and have a pleasant, social experience.)
  • The unwilling laggard: This is a person who really doesn’t like change very much at all and will only adopt something new or change their behaviours if everybody else is doing it. In other words, if something becomes the new normal, then they will do it because they don’t want to be abnormal. (Eg., Shoppers whose neighbours and friends are going to the farmers market, and ask them to meet for coffee there! Once they start shopping at the markets, they realise it’s fine.)
Please note that we all play different roles depending on the particular “new behaviour” that we’re talking about. For example, I might often be a “change agent” when it comes to finding ways to connect people with nature; but I’m definitely an “unwilling laggard” when it comes to adopting new technologies like social media!
Process: In the Tag Team exercise today, you are actually the Innovator and the Change Agent (because you care about the particular challenge you are finding a solution for). You will be role-playing the other roles too, so see if you can use your imagination to create a specific character for each one (with a few details like their name, what they wear, who they hang out with, how they make a living, etc!)
Follow these instructions as best you can, and use your Joyality Journal to write down the answers to the following questions. This process is an opportunity to refine and develop your Passion Action.
Innovator
Start off imagining yourself as an innovator. Think of an environmental or social issue that you care deeply about. (This could be what you’ve done already in Joyality 101, when you found your issue or your passion.) Identify one change in behaviour that if everyone did it would make a significant difference to that problem or issue and create positive change? That change in behaviour might be a physical behaviour, or the adoption of a new technology or a new concept, or engagement in a new program/business/enterprise. When you’re thinking of that behaviour we suggest you keep it quite simple, though creative, and it could be quite a radical “out there” idea.  Write that new behaviour down in your journal. This is your “innovation”.
Taking an idealistic perspective, who would you like to engage in this behaviour?  Who do you want to attract? Using the language of marketing, who is your “target market”? It could be large enough to make a significant difference to the issue you care about (eg., farmers all over the world, everyone in Australia, all staff of Los Angeles City Council) … or it could be a small group of people you would like to influence (eg.,your family, close friends, college dorm, workmates).  It’s up to you where you set the bar!
Change Agent
Once you have your behaviour and your group of people, switch to the second role. Imagine yourself as a Change Agent. As a Change Agent you too are passionate about the same challenge as the Innovator, in a particular real life situation, and have been wondering about how to solve it. You have heard about the new behaviour suggested by the Innovator, and ask what barriers and benefits this new behaviour has for the people you want to attract/influence? You might want to refer back to your notes from Joyality 101 when you were exploring the barriers and benefits to a new behaviour.
Then think about how you might encourage others with the same environmental and social values as you to make this change. How could you encourage other “people like you” to adopt that new behaviour or get involved in the new program/enterprise? (That way, you can find or create a small team of Change Agents … a very important first step in creating social change!  Even finding one buddy to go on the journey with you makes a huge difference to change making.)
As a Change Agent, you’re interested in making the idea of the Innovator attractive, accessible and easy for people to adopt. Can you suggest any improvements to the new behaviour/innovation that could make it easier and more accessible?
As a Change Agent, you also develop connections with the people you want to influence (who are not necessarily “people like you”). Brainstorm some ideas of more mainstream people, organisations, clubs or companies who are part of, or connected with, your target market. In particular, do you have any connections with forward thinking or open minded members of those groups?
Transformer
Now, imagine yourself as a Transformer. Imagine, you’re a forward thinking member of one of these mainstream groups (eg., the most open-minded member of your family, a football player who cares deeply about the environment, a CEO of a company who embraces sustainability). You’re somewhat interested in the same social or environmental issue as the Innovator and Change Agent, but you’re also very invested in the other values of this group.
Ask yourself what are the other values, the things that are important to this group, organization, club, company etc. What are the other things, apart from the issue that are really important to them (eg., money, status/reputation, being “cool”, popularity, safety/lack of risk)? Then explore this question: Are there some ways that the new behaviour/innovation as adjusted by the Change Agents, can serve these other values? How would “you” as a Transformer communicate with and encourage members of your group to engage in the new behaviour?
One of the ways you might encourage them is to “do it yourself”. However there will be other ways that you could encourage members of your mainstream group to do the new behaviours or adopt the new innovation.
Mainstreamer
Fourthly, as a Mainstreamer, imagine you are an ordinary member of this mainstream group (family, college, university, club, workplace, neighbourhood). You’re not particularly interested in or concerned about the environmental or social issue that’s motivated the other characters. Although you may have heard about that issue, you’re just interested in getting on with your ordinary everyday life. So ask yourself, what you care most about (your family, friends, having a good job, saving money, status/reputation, being “cool”, enjoyment/personal happiness)?
What would inspire you to engage in the new behaviour? How could you be encouraged to adopt this new behaviour?
If you engaged in this behaviour, who do you think you would affect or encourage to engage in it too? Are you a role model to someone else?
Unwilling laggard
Finally imagine yourself in the fifth role. As an Unwilling Laggard, imagine that you don’t like change much at all, but that you are seeing most other members of the group engaging in this new behaviour. You don’t care much about the environmental or social issue at all, and in fact think it’s exaggerated or simply untrue. Ask yourself what you care most about (eg., doing what is considered “normal”, things being simple and easy to do, as well as other mainstream values)?
What would induce you to change your behaviour?
Reflection: Take a few minutes to reflect on this experience and write down some insights in your Joyality Journal.
Here are a few things to think about and ask yourself:
  1. Were there any “ahah” moments or insights from doing this?
  2. Can you see that this process of social change is like a tag team, with each role only needing to affect the next?
  3. If you did experience that, imagine using this as a framework to design a strategy to get a whole bunch of people behaving in a new way! Each role is most in touch with the roles on either side of it. They understand what is important to those people on either side of them – what motivates them to change and how to communicate to them. As effective change makers, we realise that the best strategies for social change integrate all these different motivations for different people; and include partnerships with people who understand these different motivations.
  4. So see what you can gather from your experience in the Tag Team exercise to create a change strategy for something you care deeply about.  If there are gaps, that’s okay! Just notice what you don’t know … and start to learn from the people around you … what do they care about? what motivates them to make changes?
Source: This process is derived from a simplified version of the Amoeba Model of Social Change developed by Alan Atkinson in 1991 and is influenced by innovation diffusion theory.
Other Resources: There are many other psychological theories of social change out there, so feel free to explore and find one, or many that you really connect with. There is no “right” way to create social change, but there are certain principles and strategies that seem to work well. Basically, the more we can understand how change happens, the better we can design effective change strategies. Examples include: social learning theory; stages of change; and community-based social marketing (understanding barriers and benefits).

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