Drick's Reviews > Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed

Getting to Maybe by Frances R. Westley
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's review
Sep 03, 11

it was amazing
bookshelves: community-work, leadership
Read from August 28 to September 03, 2011

This may be one of the most enlightening books on social change I have read in a long time. The authors are long time activists and students of what they call "social innovation" which they describe in numerous ways are efforts to bring about significant transformation in commonly established practices. In the preface it says: "this book is for flawed people.... who are not happy with the way things are and would like to make a difference". The preface begins by describing former Czech president Vaclav Havel's concept of hope as "...a dimension of the spirit...[and]not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."

The authors go on to explain the basic concepts and tenets of complexity theory and how it relates to social innovation. Their basic thesis is that people who want to make a positive difference in the world must be grounded in a strong sense of ethics and values, and be willing to enter into arenas of uncertainty where they neither control nor know all the forces at play in a given situation. What they control is their conviction to make a difference and what they know is that they are often dealing with systemic issues that react and respond in non-rational and surprising ways. They use real life examples of significant change like the 10 Point Coalition in Boston (which addressed gun violence) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (which led the way in toughening drunk driving laws). Each chapter is prefaced with a poem that in some way illuminates the concepts they are trying to convey and illustrate.

One does not come away with a step by step plan for social change, but one does come away with something of what it takes to be a social innovator and the forces one must be aware of. I certainly come away with a desire to learn more about complexity/chaos theory and how it relates to leadership in general but also the causes and concerns that I care most deeply about.

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