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How Change Happens By Duncan Green (Senior Strategic Adviser, Oxfam Great Britain and Professor in Practice, London School of Economics)


Drawing on the global experience of Oxfam, one of the world's largest social justice INGOs, this book tests ideas on 'How Change Happens' and sets out the latest thinking on how citizens and others can drive progressive change.

How Change Happens Summary

How Change Happens by Duncan Green (Senior Strategic Adviser, Oxfam Great Britain and Professor in Practice, London School of Economics)

Society is full of would-be 'change agents'-campaigners, government officials, enlightened business people, engaged intellectuals-set on improving public services, reforming laws and regulations, guaranteeing human rights, achieving a fairer deal for those on the sharp end, and greater recognition for any number of issues. Drawing on many first-hand examples and numerous new case studies and interviews with grassroots activists and organizations around the world, as well as Oxfam's unrivalled global experience, this important book answers the question: how does change happen and how can we-governments, organizations, businesses, leaders, campaigners, employees, and ordinary citizens-make a difference?

How Change Happens Reviews

I can see How Change Happens being a book I come back to over the years and that's where the value will be for me. * Jamie Petit, in Development *
This book is hugely ambitious... Maybe now is a good time to read How Change Happens, to reflect on how we got to the state we are in and to prepare some alternative ideas, so that when the next crisis comes we will be able to use them to build a more generous and equitable future. * Clare Short, The Tablet *
It's an engaging overview with lots of good examples. * Jeremy Williams *
The book is ideas-packed, often exhilarating. * Stephen Cook *
In this powerfully argued book, Duncan Green shows how we can make major changes in our unequal and unjust world by concerted action, taking full note of the economic and social mechanisms, including established institutions, that sustain the existing order. If self-confidence is important for the effective agency of deprived communities, so is a reasoned understanding of the difficult barriers that must be faced and overcome. This is a splendid treatise on how to change the actual world - in reality, not just in our dreams. * Amartya Sen, Thomas W. Lamont University Professor, and Professor of Economics and Philosophy, Harvard University *
In How Change Happens, Duncan Green points to a simple truth: that positive social change requires power, and hence attention on the part of reformers to politics and the institutions within which power is exercised. It is an indispensable guide for activists and change-makers everywhere. * Francis Fukuyama, Senior Fellow at Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies *
It was George Orwell who wrote that The best books... are those that tell you what you know already. Well in Duncan's book How Change Happens I have found something better: A book that made me think differently about something I have been doing for my entire life. He has captured so much in these pages, drawing on global and national and local change and examples from past and present. But what makes this book so insightful is that at all times we are able to see the world through Duncan's watchful eyes: From his time as a backpacker in South America to lobbying the WTO in Seattle and his many years with Oxfam, this is someone who has always been watching and always been reflecting. * Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International *
Duncan has given us a remarkable tour de force, wide-ranging, readable, combining theory and practice, and drawing on his extensive reading and rich and varied experience. How Change Happens is a wonderful gift to all development professionals and citizens who want to make our world a better place. Only after reading and reflecting have I been able to see how badly we have needed this book. The evidence, examples, analysis, insights and ideas for action are a quiet but compelling call for reflection on errors and omissions in ones own mindset and practice. It is as relevant and important for South as North, for funders as activists, for governments as NGOs, for transnational corporations as campaigning citizens. We are all in this together. How Change Happens should stand the test of time. It is a landmark, a must read book to return to again and again to inform and inspire reflection and action. * Robert Chambers, Research Associate, Institute of Development Studies *
This is a gem of a book. Lucidly written and disarmingly frank, it distils the authors decades of experience in global development practice to share what can work and what may not, in changing power relations and complex systems. Again and again I found myself agreeing with him. All of us-practitioners and academics-who want a better world, and are willing to work for it, must read this book. * Bina Agarwal, Professor of Development Economics and Environment, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester *
This fascinating book should be on the bedside of any activist and many others besides. Duncan Green is the rare global activist who can explain in clear yet analytical language what it takes to make change happen. Ranging widely from Lake Titicaca in Peru to rural Tajikistan, from shanty towns to the halls of power, this is a book sprinkled with wisdom and insight on every page. * Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University *
How Change Happens is a positive guide to activists. When one feels despondent and disheartened then reading this book will help to encourage, energise and inspire one to participate in the creation of a better world. Duncan Green makes the case with vivid examples that significant changes have taken place and continue to take place when social and environmental activists employ skilful means and multiple strategies such as advocacy, campaigning, organising and building movements. It is a wonderful book. Read it and be enthused to join in the journey of change. * Satish Kumar, Founder of Schumacher College and Editor Emeritus, Resurgence & Ecologist magazine *
(from the foreword) Those who are purely interested in understanding better how societies change will find a treasure trove of theoretical insights and empirical evidence. Those who want to change the world through formal politics will learn a lot. Civil servants who want to make things better for citizens, or business leaders who want to do more than simply maximise profits will also find plenty of lessons. * Ha-Joon Chang, author of 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, and Economics: the User's Guide *
The world committed to global transformative change in 2015, with the 2030 Agenda and targets in the Paris Climate Agreement to stay well below 2 DegreesC and achieve carbon neutrality by the second half of the century. We need to understand how change happens in order to accelerate our pathway to a safe future. Duncan Green's book is a timely and badly needed guide to bringing about the necessary social and political change. * Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland *

About Duncan Green (Senior Strategic Adviser, Oxfam Great Britain and Professor in Practice, London School of Economics)

Duncan Green is Oxfam GB's Senior Strategic Adviser. He also teaches on international development at the London School of Economics, where he is a Professor in Practice. His blog is one of the most widely read on international development, and is named after his book From Poverty to Power (2nd ed., 2012). How Change Happens contains the accumulated experience of years spent engaged in the field, researching and writing about reducing poverty and combating injustice and, as the author says, trying to, do justice to the complexity of the world, while still believing there is a story about how it can be changed for the better.

Table of Contents

Ha-Joon Chang: Foreword IntroductionPart I: A Power and Systems Approach 1: Systems Thinking Changes Everything 2: Power Lies at the Heart of Change 3: Shifts in Social Norms often Underpin Change Case Study: The Chiquitanos of BoliviaPart II: Institutions and the Importance of History 4: How States Evolve 5: The Machinery of Law 6: Accountability, Political Parties, and the Media 7: How the International System Shapes Change 8: Transnational Transnational Corporations as Drivers and Targets of Change Case Study: The December 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate ChangePart III: What Activists Can (and Can't) Do 9: Citizen Activism and Civil Society 10: Leaders and Leadership 11: The Power of AdvocacyPart IV: Pulling it All Together 12: A Power and Systems Approach to Making Change Happen Conclusion Index

Additional information

How Change Happens by Duncan Green (Senior Strategic Adviser, Oxfam Great Britain and Professor in Practice, London School of Economics)
Oxford University Press
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