There are many skills that you should build within you in order to change the world. In more than two decades of training adults who work in nonprofits, government agencies, schools and communities, I have identified more than 30 different skills that are important for anyone who works with youth, including mentors, tutors, coaches, teachers, counselors and others to possess. I’m going to post a series of articles over the next few weeks exploring these.
When the Stuff Hits the Fan
The first skill I want to call out is called Change Management. Its first on the list because it may be the most important skill for change agents of all kinds. Usually applies to nonprofit leaders, public officials and other figureheads, change management is important to individuals, too, because it applies to all aspects of their work:
- Youth—Given their ages, the lives of young people are inherently transitional and almost never stagnant. While this can be exhilarating and challenge adults to feel alive, it can also be frustrating and feel defeating
- Program—Whether you are on the frontlines all the time or in the back office making the policies, practices and positivity work, program change management affects your daily realities.
- Social—Communities, cultures, societies and our planet are all changing all the time, whether or not we see it. Social change challenges us to stay alert, attentive and aware of the possibilities to change the world.
- Personal—Within yourself, there are countless things changing right now. Making sense of these changes, staying on top of the challenges and opportunities in your life, and being real with yourself are essential.
Being aware of these different types of changes in social change can be the key to successful change management. The next section shows exactly how to manage change, no matter which type you’re facing in your efforts to change the world.
Steps to Manage Change
When you’re working to change the world, there are several steps to manage change. Whether you work in a small community-based charity, large state agency or any other scale, your program, activities or entire organization can benefit from looking at these steps specifically.
- Source: Identify what the source of the change is by looking at whether its youth changing, organizational change, social change, or personal change. After you’ve named that, find the catalyst who is making change happen. Is it a parent, a program director, an executive or is it self-driven? If you can, connect with that catalyst to see if you can support the change, how and whether its your responsibility.
- Buy-in: If it’s your job to implement change, get buy-in for the changes from youth and your co-workers. You can do this directly or indirectly, ensuring success and opportunities for everyone as change happens.
- Meaningful Involvement: Involving the right people in specific ways can make sure the right changes are made in good ways that benefit everyone.
- Readiness: Getting young people ready to implement and adapt to change; working with adults to ensure everyone has the best information; and providing training and assistance along the way is essential.
- Two-Way Communication: Tell everyone about the changes, answer questions and prepare your youth program or organization as effectively as possible.
- Evidence: Look for practical, purposeful evidence of what is happening, and assess how the changes will affect young people and adults.
- Reflection: Change can’t happen in a vacuum, whether its among youth, in our organization, throughout our society or within ourselves. Adults and youth should take responsibility for change management by engaging in conscious critical reflection.
When a program, individual, organization or community has completed these steps, they will have successfully managed change.
Most people working to change the world know that change can’t happen without people—whether young or old! Unfortunately, a lot people get stuck in plans and processes without actually talking with youth, or even other adults. Facing up to changing the world means accepting the emotions, ideas, challenges and criticisms that inevitably come with change intentionally and with grace.
Its not a mystery, and may represent the greatest possibility of changing the world: If we can help young people manage change by conscientiously practicing change management, we can change the world!