Sen, Fukuyama, Chambers, Byanyima, Agarwal, Rodrik, Kumar and Robinson on How Change Happens

October 21, 2016

     By Duncan Green     

A week to go til the official How Change Happens publication day (a pretty artificial date, but apparently it helps with chasing up reviews), so time for another book-related post. One of the most heart-warming experiences for any author is when you send off your manuscript to a sprinkling of the great and good, and to your delight and astonishment, some of them send back a nice endorsement. Feast your eyes on this lot:

Amartya Sen:

“In this powerfully argued book, Duncan Green shows how we can make major changes in our unequal and unjustamartya-sen world by concerted action, taking full note of the economic and social mechanisms, including established institutions, that sustain the existing order.  If self-confidence is important for the effective agency of deprived communities, so is a reasoned understanding of the difficult barriers that must be faced and overcome.  This is a splendid treatise on how to change the actual world — in reality, not just in our dreams.”

Francis Fukuyama:

francis-fukuyamaIn How Change Happens, Duncan Green points to a simple truth:  that positive social change requires power, and hence attention on the part of reformers to politics and the institutions within which power is exercised.  It is an indispensable guide for activists and change-makers everywhere.

Winnie Byanyima

It was George Orwell who wrote that “The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.”  Well in Duncan’s book How Change Happens I have found something better: A book that made me think differently about winnie-byanyima-197x300something I have been doing for my entire life.

He has captured so much in these pages, drawing on global and national and local change and examples from past and present. But what makes this book so insightful is that at all times we are able to see the world through Duncan’s watchful eyes: From his time as a backpacker in South America to lobbying the WTO in Seattle and his many years with Oxfam, this is someone who has always been watching and always been reflecting.

robert-chambersRobert Chambers:

Duncan has given us a remarkable tour de force, wide-ranging, readable, combining theory and practice, and drawing on his extensive reading and rich and varied experience.  How Change Happens is a wonderful gift to all development professionals and citizens who want to make our world a better place.  Only after reading and reflecting have I been able to see how badly we have needed this book.  It does more than fill a gap.  The evidence, examples, analysis, insights and ideas for action are a quiet but compelling call for reflection on errors and omissions in one’s own mindset and practice.  It is as relevant and important for South as North, for funders as activists, for governments as NGOs, for transnational corporations as campaigning citizens.  We are all in this together.  How Change Happens should stand the test of time.  It is a landmark, a must read book to return to again and again to inform and inspire reflection and action. I know no other book like it.

Bina Agarwal:

This is a gem of a book. Lucidly written and disarmingly frank, it distils the author’s decades of experience in global bina-agarwaldevelopment practice to share what can work and what may not, in changing power relations and complex systems. Again and again I found myself agreeing with him. All of us—practitioners and academics—who want a better world, and are willing to work for it, must read this book.

dani-rodrikDani Rodrik:

This fascinating book should be on the bedside of any activist – and many others besides. Duncan Green is the rare global activist who can explain in clear yet analytical language what it takes to make change happen. Ranging widely from Lake Titicaca in Peru to rural Tajikistan, from shanty towns to the halls of power, this is a book sprinkled with wisdom and insight on every page.

Satish Kumar

How Change Happens is a positive guide to activists. When one feels despondent and disheartened then reading this satish-kumarbook will help to encourage, energise and inspire one to participate in the creation of a better world.  Duncan Green makes the case with vivid examples that significant changes have taken place and continue to take place when social and environmental activists employ skilful means and multiple strategies such as advocacy, campaigning, organising and building movements. It is a wonderful book.  Read it and be enthused to join in the journey of change.

mary_robinsonMary Robinson:

The world committed to global transformative change in 2015, with the 2030 Agenda and targets in the Paris Climate Agreement to stay well below 2°C and achieve carbon neutrality by the second half of the century. We need to understand how change happens in order to accelerate our pathway to a safe future. Duncan Green’s book is a timely and badly needed guide to bringing about the necessary social and political change.

Now I must wait in trepidation to see if the reviews agree, but that’s another post.

October 21, 2016
Duncan Green