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TitleTransforming change
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Table of Contents
                            Box 1: Evidence and change
Box 2: Supermarkets and change
Box 3: Resistance to change
Box 4: Changing healthcare – the example of evidence-based medicine
Figure 1: Changing like an ecosystem
Figure 2: Changing like a mind
Figure 3: Three designs for change
Figure 4: A successful container for change
Abbreviations and Acronyms
What was the meeting about?
	Different types of change
The context
of change – humanitarians, the system, and
the world beyond
	Structure and organisation
	Attitudes and culture
	Relationship to the ‘external’ world
Good or bad at change?
Creating – and understanding – change in the humanitarian system
	A ‘mechanistic’ approach to change
	The humanitarian system today – models of competition
	The market model
	The interests model11
Other models
for understanding change in the humanitarian system
	The system as society
		The importance of politics
		The role of culture
	The system as an ‘ecosystem’
	The system as a mind
How can we support change in humanitarian action?
	Before you start: setting expectations
	Laying the foundations – multi-stakeholder groups
		The benefits of multi-stakeholder groups in change processes
		The nature and functions of multi-stakeholder groups in change processes
		Deciding on an overall approach to design
		Setting boundaries and parameters
	Communication as a two-way process
	What to communicate
	Monitoring and learning from the change process
	Leadership and change
	Resourcing and supporting the change process
	Actions really do speak louder than words
Final thoughts
Annex 1: How this paper was written
Annex 2: Select Bibliography of works on Organisational Development, Change and Change Management
Annex 3: Interviewees
Annex 4: Panels and Panellists
Annex 5: Stories in 5
Document Text Contents
Page 1

Paul Knox Clarke

Transforming change
How change really happens
and what we can do about it


Page 2

ALNAP is a unique system-wide network dedicated to improving
humanitarian performance through increased learning and accountability.

The author would like to thank all of the speakers and participants at the
31st Annual Meeting, many of whom travelled significant distances and
invested much thought and energy in order to share their experiences of
change. He would also like to thank our colleagues in SIDA, who provided
energy and enthusiasm around the topic of the meeting, and who hosted
and financially supported it as a way of commemorating ALNAP’s 20th
anniversary. Thanks are also due to the ALNAP Secretariat team, whose
combined work once again ensured that that content of the meeting, and
the logistics and communications, were of such high quality.

In addition, Chanel Currow conducted the initial stages of the literature
review for the background paper, and Alexandra Warner conducted and
coded the interviews.

Finally, thanks are due to the Centre for Development and Emergency
Practice (CENDEP) at Oxford Brookes University, which kindly provided
office space and access to online databases.

Knox Clarke, P. (2017) Transforming change. ALNAP Study.
London: ALNAP/ODI.

© ALNAP/ODI 2017. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Non Commercial Licence (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Publication and communications management by Maria Gili
Design and typesetting by Soapbox
Edited by Deborah Eade and Renée Goulet
ISBN 978-1-910454-61-9

Page 47

4 5O T H E R M O D E L S F O R U N D E R S T A N D I N G C H A N G E

In Gestalt thinking, the process of change is one in which we take
apart our existing perception of the world, in order to create a new
understanding. This process goes through a series of stages,
outlined in this diagram of the ‘gestalt cycle of experience’:

We can think of these stages like this: imagine you are walking along
a beach. You realise that there is something sparkling in the corner of
your eye (awareness) and decide to go and have a look (mobilisation).
You walk over and pick up the sparking object (action) which turns
out to be an intricate, blue-green shell. You spend some time
investigating the shell, looking at the whorls and cleaning it of sand
(contact). Your interest and energy declines, and you throw the shell
away along the beach (closure). Then you walk away (withdrawal).

Of course, in this example, the change is minor – your understanding
of the world, and the beach, is just as it was before, except for the
fact that this picture now has a blue-green shell in it. But even with
such a small change, there are many ways in which you could have
prevented it from happening: not paying attention to the sparkle, not
walking over to the shell, not picking it up and looking at it. All of
these would have been perfectly reasonable choices, and would have
prevented you from changing your original purpose and interrupting
your walk. This helps us understand why, in many cases, change
doesn’t happen: ‘in many cases, these innovating teams, they were
dealing with a system that wouldn’t even recognise that there was
a problem’ (Innovation panel – describing how the system refused
to move its attention to a situation).

Knowing how change happens, and the types of ‘resistance’
behaviour that preventing it from happening, can help us to design
better processes of change.

Steady state

Contact Action



of attention

Page 48

A L N A P S T U D Y4 6

How can
we Support
change in
Hopefully, the models presented in this study provide additional ways of
thinking about change, and help to explain some of the organisational
behaviours that we often observe when we are involved in change. In
particular, the models remind us that change in any system involves large
numbers of actors, that these actors are related to one another in different
ways, and that their actions are not easily predicted: they are influenced
by a continually changing set of concerns, including relationships of
competition and collaboration; unexamined, and often invisible, cultural
beliefs; and powerful emotions around loss, hope and anxiety. Confusion,
resistance, unexpected events: these are not awkward peripherals around
a change process, they are the very stuff of change itself.

The models, taken together with our experience of change in the humanitarian
system, also call into question the degree to which we can ‘create’ or
‘manage’ change. We have seen that change is continually happening in the
system, and that much of it comes about as a response to external forces,
or as an unexpected consequence of (often seemingly unrelated) changes
happening elsewhere in the system. The models go some way to explaining
why this should be, by recasting the humanitarian system as a dynamic social
and political arena rather than an inert machine – a system which, like our
own societies, is continually changing whether we want it to or not.

But while this may be academically satisfying, it is not – on a practical level
at least – very helpful. Because however difficult it may be for an individual or
a group to make change happen, this is what the majority of the participants
at the meeting (and presumably most of the readers of this paper) aim to do.
They do not have the luxury simply to observe how change happens – they

Page 94

Overseas Development Institute
203 Blackfriars Road
London SE1 8NJ
United Kingdom

[email protected]

Related ALNAP publications

31st Annual Meeting paper:
Changing humanitarian action?

The Global Forum results & analysis

The State of the Humanitarian System 2015

mailto:[email protected]

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