Whatever industry, profession, community, or culture you are from, we’re certain you have encountered a ‘change agent’ at some time. What is a change agent? A change agent is a person, regardless of age or gender, that lives in the future, is passionate about a purpose or cause; and, can motivate others to believe in and commit to the work of that belief. Change agents usually disagree with current circumstances or maintaining the status quo of any situation. These people never seem to run out of energy, even when they encounter resistance against their vision of what the future could be.
Change agents are often in the public view such as, Cesar Chavez. Cesar was a self-taught rhetorical genius that inspired Latino idealists to organize themselves into the farm workers’ movement. He called on his people to “Make a solemn promise: to enjoy our rightful part of the riches of this land, to throw off the yoke of being considered as agricultural slaves. We are free men and we demand justice.”
In this current decade, Alana Lea is a change agent for the Rainforest, for conservation, and forest renewal in Brazil. In the case of mountain towns, there are naturally heavy rains in summer. “We know that global warming is a settled issue that makes the extreme events more frequent and denser. We know the deep valleys and streams that flow into them. But we don’t listen to the message they send us, which is: do not build houses on the slopes; do not live near the river; and zealously preserve the riparian forest.” Alana is the Founder of Rainforest ECOBank. She is a speaker on the avoidance of mudslides in the mountain counties of Rio de Janeiro, Petropolis and Nova Friburgo.
How do change agents motivate others? They any of the following methods:
• Change agents explain the ‘why’ of their belief. Each change agent has definite beliefs of why the future could be different or better, even if their vision seems colossal in scope. They are able to describe their belief in heartfelt language that all listeners can understand. They appeal to the common denominator of everyone’s life, a place to call home, the love of family, clean drinkable water or even, freedom from neighborhood violence. As stated from C. Otto Schamer, “Connect to the deeper forces of change by opening your heart.”
• Change agents convey their vision in ‘loving service’. They are able to demonstrate their vision as a wholehearted offering, not sacrifice, but fulfillment. Then, others recognize this as a outreach of love and enlist into something that is serving a truth for humanity.
• Change agents deliver their vision in multiple formats. They use professional groups to transport their message to larger audiences; and, often use blogs, or Webcasts to reach those that they may not see on a daily basis. Change agents understand that not everyone will understand their message the first time they hear it. The vision or future change may have to be rephrased so that every ‘gets it’ on their own terms.
• Change agents are flexible in their plans of achieving the final outcome. They know that long term accomplishments can require different talent and major shifts in direction if their vision requires a social change of many years. They do not create unnecessary resistance as the original vision may have to account for political or financial happenstance.
• Change agents recognize when processes need to change in larger social systems such as, working conditions for laborers, health care for the elderly, or emergency response teams for natural disasters. They understand the difference between organizational processes and the sensitivity to changes in key personnel. They recognize the issues of loyalty to founding members of a movement; and, how their departure may impact the goals of the vision.
When you think it’s time to become a change agent, ask yourself:
• How can you help others to tolerate ambiguity in achieving the final outcome, able to function comfortably, effectively in an uncertain environment while the larger vision develops?
• How will you gain the commitment of people for your vision? How will your establish reward structures so a person knows that their contribution to the project is important and valued?
• Have you identified the political coalitions that may aid or stop your vision for future achievement? What are your networking strategies for maintaining appropriate contacts within and outside your organization?
• How are you expressing your vision, as a benefit and value just for yourself, your organization, or on a larger scale for company-wide, total community or social impact?
• What other interpersonal skills so you need to acquire, in personal training, or other personnel to achieve your long term vision? What is the time frame and financial funding will you need?
• What is the conversation you need to have internally to give yourself permission to transport your vision to the greater community?
• What are the exact benefits to the recipients, short term and long term? And, will the benefits contribute to the well being of the next decade even the next generation?
• How are you observing your proposed greater change, “very difficult,” “complicated,” “painful”? How will these interpretations impact your achievement, short term and long term? What will happen if you don’t even attempt your vision? Can you live with the consequences?
• How will you craft your plans for the desirable and challenging vision of the future that you see? How and when will you deliver your vision statement?
• What are your plans for negotiating key talent for resources, possible changes in procedures, and how to resolve conflict?
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” Margaret Mead