How to succeed at creating change?

Scott Sherman
“Instead of saying ‘fight the power,’ why not transform that power into an energy for good in the world?” said NewDay lecturer Scott Sherman on Wednesday (Oct. 22) at Tulane. (Photo by Guillermo Cabrera-Rojo)

What needs to be in the toolbox of a social innovator? Resilience, optimism, perseverance and even luck. In his talk for the NewDay Lecture Series, activist Scott Sherman encouraged Tulane University students and community members to develop those qualities as they work toward social change.

As a professor, community organizer, attorney and social innovator, Sherman has been seeking out the most successful strategies for making a community impact since his years as an undergraduate student at University of California–Berkeley. There, he became frustrated with the lack of solutions-focused dialogue in his classes and issues of violence and inequality in the city.

Sherman became an attorney and a community organizer, but he noticed that his colleagues were often burned out, and many felt that they were losing their battles. This inspired him to return to school to study “how people succeed at creating change.”

As the founder of the Transformative Action Institute, he went on to develop three principles of transformative action that can be used to guide community organizing.

The first step simply requires speaking the truth.

“Problems thrive in secrecy,” he said, “so if you can shine a light on corruption and injustice, that is the first step in solving it.”

Social innovators also have to carefully consider their approaches to solutions. Sherman’s second principle reflects this in its concept of turning the typical “us vs. them” dynamic into a more inclusive approach.

“Instead of saying ‘fight the power,’ why not transform that power into an energy for good in the world?” he asked.

For the third principle, he recommended that innovators and organizers “offer a better vision for the future” that includes all parties in the implementation of social change, as Martin Luther King Jr. did in his renowned “I Have a Dream Speech” during the height of the civil rights movement.

The NewDay Social Entrepreneurship Distinguished Speakers Series is sponsored by the Tulane Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching (CELT), Social Innovation Engagement program.

Originally posted by The New Wave. Written by Hannah Dean, a sophomore majoring in Latin American studies and political science at Tulane University.