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A Theory of Social Change and Implications for Practice, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation

Author(s): Reeler, D. (Community Development Resource Association)
Publication date: 2007

A theory of social change is proposed through this paper as one small contribution to a larger body of theorising.  This paper can be seen as an observational map to help practitioners, whether field practitioners or donors, including the people they are attempting to assist, to read and thus navigate processes of social change.  

Reeler provides a critical perspective on globalisation and more specifically on development practices where he finds little understanding about how change really happens and little interest in the wider and deeper reality than the often shallowly perceived needs specific projects deal with. As change cannot be engineered, practitioners are challenged to keep reading the situation, to recognize how change processes already shape the situation, and to adjust practice accordingly.

In the different sections of this paper, Reeler reviews different theories of social change (emergent, transformative and projectable change) and seeks to bring them together into something that is more integrated, recognising the diversity of social change. He makes the leading ideas, values and purposes behind his thinking explicit and reflects upon the challenges of reading change processes. At the end, the implications of different approaches on social change for development practices as well as for PME&R systems are given attention.