Worldview and theories of change

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(Activity 2.10)

TU812 study guide (p 67/68) says that individuals will have different understandings or theories of change linked to their different Worldviews.

It goes on to list seven elements of a theory of change.  I am going to use these elements to consider the shift I perceive (or blindly hope!) is happening at the moment – in doing so I am aware of the generalisations but I think it is a useful exercise all the same.

1) What is the nature of human beings?

It is interesting that I immediately think of this question in relation to the attitude we have to the people we ‘serve’ i.e. the people who live in the city I work in.  We seem to be moving away from a deficit model where we fullfilled people’s needs to a much more human rights based ethical stance – creating a society where everyone has the same opportunities.

It is odd that I seem to ignore the fact that colleagues and ‘workers’ are human beings too. i.e. with own motivations for doing what we do – whether these are economic, altruism, intellectual curiosity and so on.

2) What are the nature and sources of power?

The most dominant has been hierarchical authority within an organisational structure.  Democratic legitimacy comes in too.  Then there is power through protests and collective action – the popular voice.  Not sure if we are moving away from this as yet?

3) What are the nature and sources of truth and authority?

Expertise is mostly based on positivist scientific approaches – the ‘evidence base’.  There is a growing tension between this and the growing need to explore community views – what ‘they’ say they need rather than what our evidence tells us they need.  I think there is a growing recognition of a blended approach.

4) What is your analysis of the causes of social problems?

There seems to have been a ‘blame’ on the decisions and choices of those who are ‘deprived’.  Thanks to work like Wilkinson and Pickett of  the Equality Trust and Danny Dorling there is the inkling of a recognition that social problems are the unintended consequence of the way our society is structured. In particular the degree of income inequality within a society is correlated with a range of social problems – fairness is not just an ethical issue it would also create a society with lower ‘costs’ of health problems; crime and so on.

5) What is the role of individuals and organisations in social change?

We’ve been living in an era where we’ve worked on the basis that it is all the state’s responsibility.  When individuals have taken action it is to protest that the ‘state’ is doing it wrong.  I think there is a growing momentum that individuals can take more collective action without state involvement – I guess this is what is behind the political ‘big society’ notion.  I think social movements are now recognised as a legitimate way of creating change.

6) What is your vision of the way it can or should be?

I find it hard to express this one in words.  A society where individually and collectively we think and act systemically – we manage change in ways that avoid unintended consequences.   We recognise that everyone acts purposefully to improve a situation based on their understandings.

7) What do you consider as mechanisms of change?

See question 5 too.  Before it was all about laws and regulation.  I now see social movements, shifting paradigms and meaning as being powerful shapers.

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