When working with complex issues and highly diverse groups, its important to reflect on what you stand for. As we reflect on our work, our views on it change from time to time too. This is our current “manifesto” or set of principles. It is a touchstone, that guides us and represents what we stand for.

  • Collaboration is possible without compromising values: Participants from various sectors do not have to compromise their values or goals (e.g. increasing profits, addressing environmental issues, community needs, policy priorities) in order to work together and bridge differences on an issue.
  • Learning about all perspectives leads to new perspectives: Participants need to learn about each other. They need to step outside of the stereotypes they have of each other and begin to understand the unique barriers, challenges and strengths that each representative/group brings to the table.
  • The way out is different from the way in: Parties in a complex issue all come to the table with different perspectives on what is or is not the problem. This means that participants in the change process need to take the time to analyse the situation thoroughly. They need to practice thinking more systemically and strategically about the situation rather than tackling it with piecemeal or simplistic actions which don’t have lasting impact.
  • New possibilities are found at the margins: It is critical to make space for marginalized voices so they are heard and respected. Complex change processes often fail because groups do not use appropriate strategies and structures to help them understand the needs and concerns of people and organizations who are most impacted by an issue—be they drug addicts, small-scale farmers, or local business owners.
  • Significant change requires a commitment to learning: Those who would like to create lasting change require new skill sets as much as determination and commitment. The majority of successful change initiatives have come about because the individuals involved learned how to collectively and respectfully work through differences, frustrations, and fears while determinedly focusing on their vision for the future.
  • Become the leaders you are longing for: In diverse, cross-cutting situations, especially involving major social problems, there is a need for a kind of leadership that is relationship-based, multidirectional and non-coercive. We call this “bridging” leadership. People in these initiatives need to become active and influential leaders who navigate complex interactions between people and across groups. This means strong skills in listening, consensus-building, risk-taking, partnership-building and networking. Not everyone comes to the table with these strengths. Successful change initiatives allow for opportunities to build these behaviors, often in very informal ways.

Additional Publications
(Click for PDF Files)

The Handbook of Large Group Methods: Creating Systemic Change in Organizations and Communities; Bunker and Alban, JosseyBass, 2006
World Religions Engage Critical Global Issues

The Change Handbook, 2nd Edition; Peggy Holman, Tom Devane Steve Cady; Berrett-Koehler, 2006
Values into Action

Future Search in School District Change: Connection, Community, and Results; Schweitz and Martens (ed), Scarecrow Education, 2005
Influencing Systemwide Change at the Toronto District School Board

Success and System Readiness: The Lester B. Pearson School Board and its Commitment to Educational Excellence

Supporting the Merger of Two School Boards in Ottawa, Ontario: The Ottawa-Carleton Community and Public Education to 2015

3rd International Symposium on Organizational Learning
Lancaster University, England, 1999
Executive Learning and Organizational Learning: Diffuse Power or Dormant Potential?

International Symposium on Organizational Learning
Lancaster University, England, 1996
Individual and Organizational Learning at the Executive Level: Towards a Research Agenda (Management Learning 29 (3):299-316 September 1998)


© Ray Gordezky, Ingrid Richter