Here is a new framework for understanding social change by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation in the UK. It is called the Social Change Grid. Here is a short explanation of the grid. To read more download the report below which includes a case study of The Living Wage.
The Social Change Project sought to answer one critical question: what can we learn about how social change is happening today that can strengthen civil society’s future efforts? From our findings emerged a new tool – the Social Change Grid.
It helped us to conceptualise the different kinds of changemaking activity and the quadrants of power they can harness or influence. Using the grid, we could map how successful campaigns managed to ‘pinball’ around the different quadrants, taking advantage of events and embedding change in our social fabric.
Civil society engages in social change in many different ways. To help make sense of this complexity, we developed the Social Change Grid to map the different kinds of activity we encountered.
The grid is used to shine a light on our actions in pursuit of change. It does not offer hard and fast answers but instead prompts us to interrogate our plans, to spot gaps and challenge our decisions.
Since we launched the Social Power report, we know that:
- Campaigners have used the grid to map their activity and ask whether they need to expand into different quadrants (or connect to others operating in them)
- Senior management teams have mapped organisational activity onto the grid in order to consider whether they need to extend out into other quadrants
- Funders have mapped their grants onto the grid to ask whether they are overly concentrated in particular quadrants
- Advocates have used the grid to make the case for funding of lobbying, as well as service provision or awareness raising
- Thought leaders have used the grid to explore and map the activity of whole sectors
- Coalitions have used the grid to map where their members’ activity takes place, and to ask whether they need to collaborate with others in under-represented quadrants
Social change is galvanised by big ideas that change the way we see the world, make ideas into possibilities and inspire us to act. It is where radical thinking takes place and is tested. Community activists, campaigners and other public groups work as early adopters of social change.
Social Change Grid Quadrants
The grid sets out four distinct areas of activity or ‘quadrants’.
Community (top left)
This quadrant is where individuals come together. It includes the activity of community groups and networks, community organising, community development, local businesses and social enterprises. It is the realm of community spaces and facilities, including faith organisations. This quadrant is where grassroots movements begin, as individuals with shared experiences come together in communities of interest (not necessarily geographical) and start to organise.
Much significant change originates with civil society bearing witness to people’s lived experience. This may occur as they interact with the people and places they are serving (service delivery, bottom left) or as people start to organise (community, top left).
Public Space (top right)
This is the realm of public debate and opinion, of social and cultural norms, of civic action. It is heavily influenced by all forms of media, marketing and advertising, the arts, popular culture, celebrity and influencers. It is investigated by market researchers for commercial purposes and pollsters for party political ones. It is the realm of the social sciences – psychology or behavioural economics – seeking to understand why people and societies think and behave as they do.
Service Provision (bottom left)
This quadrant largely encompasses the provision of support. Prior to the foundation of the welfare state, this would be solely the realm of traditional charity, of the giving of alms. Today, it is a mixed economy based increasingly around commissioning. Civil society organisations and private businesses tender on a competitive basis to deliver services. It also includes the work of small, local social enterprises and entirely voluntary entities – local people just helping each other out.
Institutional Power (bottom right)
This is the quadrant we might label ‘formal power’. It includes government (national and local), international institutions, the legal system, big business, and big civil society organisations too (such as very large charities). These are all entities that have either formal powers to do things and/or resources which give them significant influence and responsibility.
The axes move from ‘formal’ to ‘informal’ vertically, and from ‘individual’ to ‘societal’ horizontally. The further to the left, the smaller the number of people involved – from interaction with just one citizen to population-wide. At the bottom, formal activity is planned and measurable (e.g. the provision of a direct service, or the development of a policy). Informal activity at the top is messy, unpredictable, not in the control of one actor, and harder to measure (e.g. social movements).
The clearest pattern that emerged was the importance of working across multiple quadrants. Change originates in one quadrant, but success appears to require activity across many, if not all.
Watch Intro Video
- Social Power: How civil society can ‘Play Big’ and truly create change by Sheila McKechnie Foundation
- It’s All About Power: A Guide to Thinking Differently about Power for Solidarity in Social Change by Shelia McKechnie Foundation
- Power and Power Mapping: Start Here
- Bill Moyer’s Movement Action Plan and Four Roles of Activism
- Frameworks for Winning Change