Social change is more than a buzz word! Social change alters the social order of a society through changes in the nature of its social institutions, social behaviors and social relations.
Proponents of social change focus on underlying causes of critical social problems such as homelessness, discrimination and poverty. Organizations develop processes to address the causes of these issues to foster justice and equality.
Social justice initiatives take place on a local community level or become social movements on a grander scale such as Women’s suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement. A specific social movement is usually composed of many social movement organizations – formal organizations that share movement’s goals.
Social change philanthropy focuses on the root causes of problems, working to improve conditions that lead to inequality. This approach is unlike traditional charity, which works to ameliorate the symptoms of societal problems.
Social indicators provide evidence that helps us assess whether or not an organization is focused on social change. These indicators may be material, such as numbers related to economic growth and/or immaterial, such as values or goals. They are forms of evidence that help us assess a present position and future directions.
I am a trustee with the Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta. We expand opportunities in the lives of Jewish women and girls via effective grant-making, advocacy, and education through a gender lens. Our grants provide sustainable benefits to those we serve. We look to our grantees to focus on solutions to underlying critical social problems that effect Jewish women and girls.
We were introduced to the importance of five indicators for Social Change, developed by the Women’s Funding Network. They help us discern if our grants are going toward social change. In turn these five social change indicators help organizations substantiate their efforts to create awareness and transform community through social change.
- Make New Meaning
- Shift definitions – An issue or idea is given new meaning. A community or society sees the issue differently. For example, rape is understood as an act of violence with legal and civil consequences, not as an act of sexual transgression.
- Empower Different Behavior
- Shift behavior – An individual and/or community does things differently and for the better. This creates empowerment. For example, women seek appropriate healthcare for themselves and their families.
- Life Up Collective Power
- Shift engagement – More people are engaged in an idea of action. When enough people get involved they are noticed, their voices are heard and they create impact.
- Ensure Just Policy
- Shift policy – Policies and practices change to better serve social change ideas.
- Hold the Line
- Maintain gains – Work to not lose ground from previous endeavors. For example, funding for breast cancer research is saved from budget cuts.
Learning 5 indicators of social change guide donors as they work to create significant changes in social order. And, they provide guidelines for organizations to identify and explain their significant social change work.
I would love to hear your thoughts!