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Agents of Change

Agents of Change: Strategy and Tactics for Social Innovation

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    Agents of Change
    Book Description:

    While governments around the world struggle to maintain service levels amid fiscal crises, social innovators are improving social outcomes for citizens by changing the system from within. InAgents of Change, three cutting-edge thinkers and entrepreneurs present case studies of social innovation that have led to significant social change. Drawing on original empirical research in the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands, they examine how ordinary people accomplished extraordinary results.

    Sanderijn Cels, Jorrit de Jong, and Frans Nauta offer lively illustrations and insightful interpretations of how innovators, social entrepreneurs, and change agents are dealing with powerful opponents, the burdens of bureaucracy, and the challenge of securing resources and support. This book will appeal to anyone who is intrigued by imaginative, cross-boundary thinking and transformative change. It will be of particular interest to those who want to know how exactly innovators pull it off. With practitioners, scholars, and students of public policy and management in mind, the authors dissect the strategies and tactics that social innovators employ to navigate the risky waters of their institutional environments.

    ContentsPart 1: Introduction: Chess Masters and Acrobats1. Strategy and Tactics

    2. Crafting the Case: The Art of Making a Start

    3. Prompting Progress: The Art of Making Things Happen

    4. Managing Meaning: The Art of Making Sense

    Part 2: Front-Line Innovations5. Under the Radar: Medical Informatics in Japan

    6. Relentless Incrementalism: Financial Literacy Training for Newcomers in Canada

    7. Join the Club! Alzheimer Cafés in the Netherlands

    8. Just a Tool? Implementing the Vulnerability Index in New Orleans

    Part 3: Innovations in Governance9. The Sun Kings: Solar Energy in Germany

    10. Change on Steroids: Public Education in New Orleans

    11. The Value of Values: Higher Education in Virginia

    12. A Window of Opportunity: Institutional Reform in Denmark

    Conclusion: Innovating Strategically

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2263-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PART I Chess Masters and Acrobats

    • 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-12)

      Professor Kazuhiro Hara’s idea was as simple to express as it was difficult to realize: improving the quality of perinatal care in Japan while reducing the costs. As a gynecologist, he knew that sharing patient information with professionals in other facilities would significantly reduce child and maternal mortality. But he also knew that getting medical professionals to cooperate was nearly impossible. Japanese society was strongly risk averse when it came to health care innovation. Medical professionals were not keen on experiments; failure could terminate one’s career and even result in litigation. Hara understood this well, but the wariness of his...

    • 2 Strategies and Tactics
      (pp. 13-23)

      Social innovators have ideas about improvement. They envision how certain changes could add public value—how an online platform for data exchange could help doctors avoid medical errors or how a new law could effectively create incentives to modify behavior. They may even have a detailed plan about how to realize their innovation. But they rarely control all the levers that would enable a smooth implementation of their plan. Their major challenge is to bring an idea into practice and gather the approval and resources required to put an innovation into practice in a bureaucratic environment. For that to happen...

    • 3 Crafting the Case: The Art of Making a Start
      (pp. 24-31)

      Social innovators spend a lot of time preparing. The change agents that we studied did not climb out on a shaky limb; rather, they carefully analyzed their challenges and crafted their cases for change.¹ The innovators knew that the burden of proof would be on them; their innovations would not be easily embraced by bureaucrats in favor of the status quo or simply skeptical about change. Innovations are the opposite of evidence-based solutions: the only way to obtain evidence of their effectiveness is to implement them, carefully study whether and how they work, and then systematically evaluate their effectiveness against...

    • 4 Prompting Progress: The Art of Moving Things Forward
      (pp. 32-43)

      Social innovation does not happen overnight. Getting started is a major challenge, but certainly not the last. At some point preparation has to meet opportunity, and that is where strategy and tactics come in. If opportunities do not present themselves quickly enough, innovators may have to help their luck a bit by steering the course of events in the right direction. Innovators like those we studied do not wait for progress to happen; they prompt it. Once an innovation process has been set in motion, many of them spend time keeping it in motion and making sure the progress does...

    • 5 Managing Meaning: The Art of Making Sense
      (pp. 44-54)

      Social innovators do a lot of talking—not necessarily because they want to but because they have to. An innovative idea rarely speaks for itself. It needs to be articulated and polished to appeal to constituents. This involves more than simply selling the idea or crafting a perfect sales pitch. It requires talking with all the key stakeholders in the authorizing environment whose resources and other kinds of support the innovator needs, such as government officials, private donors, leaders of nonprofits, elected politicians, opinion makers, union leaders, members of the public that the innovation aims to address—in short, everyone...

  5. PART II Frontline Innovations

    • 6 Under the Radar: Medical Informatics in Japan
      (pp. 57-74)

      On September 6, 2006, the people of Japan breathed a collective sigh of relief. Princess Kiko had given birth to a healthy baby boy. Although the imperial law dictating that only boys may become emperor had come under scrutiny after forty-one years without a male birth in the imperial family, the people had waited anxiously for the birth of a male heir to the current emperor’s throne. In the case of this important birth, the imperial family had done everything in its power to ensure that nothing would go wrong. The Imperial Household Agency and Princess Kiko had chosen Aiiku...

    • 7 Relentless Incrementalism: Financial Literacy Training for Newcomers in Canada
      (pp. 75-94)

      “Battling poverty,” quipped Peter Nares, “is like being stuck in Dante’s hell; you are doomed to endless tweaking with your screwdriver and it seems that it never gets any better.” Switching tones, becoming serious, he explained, “Poverty is such a complicated problem, and there are no simple solutions. And if you introduce an innovation, you have to hang in there to help it grow to scale within a horizon twenty years.”¹ Nares is a social innovator from Canada who helps people who are dependent on welfare stand on their own feet. In the 1970s he worked with low-income adolescents and...

    • 8 Just a Tool? Implementing the Vulnerability Index in New Orleans
      (pp. 95-114)

      On an early morning in the beginning of 2008, outreach workers roused homeless people sleeping in the makeshift tent city that had sprung up under the Claiborne overpass near the historic French Quarter of New Orleans.¹ The workers offered each of them a five-dollar gift card for a Subway sandwich in exchange for their participation in a medical assessment. The assessment was the vulnerability index—a person-by-person questionnaire about health conditions that often lead to death for those living on the streets. Many of those questioned agreed to have their photograph taken, which would help the outreach workers find and...

    • 9 Join the Club: The Emergence of Alzheimer Cafés in the Netherlands
      (pp. 115-130)
      Marica Crombach

      One day in September 1997, fifteen bright green placards appeared in the hallways of the University of Leiden, Netherlands, bearing a peculiar message: Alzheimer Café. Arrows on the placards pointed in the direction of a lecture hall. Bère Miesen, a psychogerontologist at the university, had hung the signs in an effort to publicize his new idea: a venue designed to focus attention, in an unprecedented way, on the care given to those suffering from dementia. Although Miesen had not received any active support from the university—on the contrary, the institution wanted nothing to do with the initiative—he stubbornly...

  6. PART III Innovations in Governance

    • 10 The Sun Kings: The Emergence of Solar Energy in Germany
      (pp. 133-153)
      Peter Kasbergen

      At the beginning of the year 2000, Hermann Scheer visited Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, in his office. On the desk between them lay the final draft of a new act—the Renewable Energy Act. It had already passed through parliament, and all it needed to come into effect was Schröder’s signature. Schröder knew that his approval would provide significant incentives for renewable energy production, which would fundamentally change the German energy market. And Scheer knew that fossil energy companies had been aggressively lobbying Schröder to prevent this from happening.

      In other circumstances, Schröder may well have refused to sign....

    • 11 Change on Steroids: Public Education in New Orleans
      (pp. 154-172)

      Walking into a classroom at College Prep Charter School in New Orleans, Louisiana, a visitor is immediately aware that this is not a typical American public high school. The first striking thing is the sight of tall, older kids studying alongside their younger classmates. The principal, Ben Kleban, has organized classes around students’ ability, so that they get instruction that responds to their immediate needs. Another striking feature is the quietness of the place. Tennis balls on the legs of the furniture silence the clatter and shuffling of chairs and desks. When students switch classes, they walk in a long...

    • 12 The Value of Values: Higher Education in Virginia
      (pp. 173-192)

      “We wish to establish in the upper country of Virginia, and more centrally for the State, a University on a plan so broad and liberal and modern, as to be worth patronizing with the public support, and be a temptation to the youth of other States to come and drink of the cup of knowledge and fraternize with us.”¹ So wrote Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States (1801–09). Jefferson had a dream of establishing a university for all Americans—even the poorest. According to Jefferson, enlightened, welleducated citizens were essential for the proper functioning of the...

    • 13 The Cat out of the Bag: Institutional Reform in Denmark
      (pp. 193-210)
      Klaartje Peters

      In October 2002 the annual opening session of the Folketing—the Danish parliament—was convened. In his address to the parliamentarians, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen focused more attention on administration problems than on anything else. To the surprise of many, he announced that the government planned a major administrative reform: “The existing municipal structure in Denmark is now more than thirty years old, and the government feels that it is time for a critical review of the current system. Therefore, the government will appoint a Commission on Administrative Structure this week to investigate whether the existing system lives up...

  7. PART IV Conclusion

    • 14 Innovating Strategically
      (pp. 213-222)

      A keen observer of strategy and tactics in sixteenth-century politics, Niccolò Machiavelli, wrote, “There is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to be a leader in the introduction of changes.” This cautionary lesson applies just as well to twenty-first century social innovators. The agents of change featured in the case chapters of this volume faced similar challenges in initiating, managing, and sustaining change in the public sector. Advocates of the status quo pose threats to innovation in a number of ways, and often it seems that...

  8. References
    (pp. 223-230)
  9. Index
    (pp. 231-238)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-239)