Theory of Social Change

In defining SOCM’s Theory of Social Change (TOSC), SOCM leaders looked for lessons and insights from other social change movements of the past one hundred + years.  SOCM also drew from its own experiences with addressing economic and environmental issues impacting its communities.  SOCM’s TOSC describes its beliefs as to how change happens and defines the role and unique contributions SOCM makes in bringing about change. SOCM’s TOSC also speaks to its methods, core strategies and defines its core constituency.

Elements of SOCM’s Theory of Social Change:

Struggle – Significant change does not happen without resistance or struggle.  Powerful forces do not simply concede when challenged.

Root Causes – It is necessary to analyze, identify and address the root causes of problems in order to know what we are dealing with and to determine how best to achieve true change and not just tinker with symptoms.

Long Haul – Significant change takes time, consistency, and persistence. Change is not an event but a process that involves many small and sometimes big steps along the way.

Nimble and Adaptive – Success requires persistence but also the ability to be nimble and flexible. We need to be open to trying numerous strategies and to adapting to changing conditions.

Learning Organization – It is important to learn from the movements and struggles of others.  Our work is built upon the work of others who came before us. It is also important to learn from our actions and mistakes and to nurture collective wisdom.

Strength in Numbers – Our power comes primarily from large numbers of organized people united around a common vision and cause: working together.

Bottom Up Approach – Our issues and decisions come from our members. We are bottom up, member driven, democratically run organization.  Directly affected people must be part of the leadership and must be involved in defining the solutions to their problems. This is an essential approach to engaging people on issues they care about and to making change.

Inclusiveness – Effective Movements have been broad and inclusive.

We Can’t Do It (win) Alone – We must develop healthy alliances/partnership with others who share our vision and values. We recognize the value and need for our organizations and movements to come together. We will need broad support to realize our vision.

Balance – We also recognized the related challenge that we should stay focused on our core work and build upon our unique assets and strengths. We should be careful and not allow our efforts to become too diffuse.

Local and Beyond – SOCM issues must have some resonance and connection with members at the Chapter level even though the root cause and solutions might lie elsewhere.  What affects one ultimately affects all. We acknowledge and affirm that we are interdependent.

Walk Our Talk – SOCM strives to model the change it seeks. SOCM recognizes that societal change and personal changed are linked and that one cannot be fully achieved without the other.  To achieve social, economic and environmental justice, SOCM must also work at being democratic in its shared decision- making, inclusive and tolerant, and caring in its actions for each other and the environment.

Uniqueness – SOCM engages in organizing as its core strategy. SOCM brings together diverse people to act as one on shared concerns.  SOCM invests in building a mass membership of trained leaders/directly affected people who are able to act with others in their communities to address issues of importance to them.  SOCM has an engaged membership not a paper membership.  SOCM believes in shared leadership and shared, democratic decision-making. SOCM also engages in community education, lobbying, electoral strategies, message/communications and direct action strategies.

Significant Issues that Affect Our Members:

  • Discrimination (race, class, religion etc)
  • Economic inequalities
  • Lack of good jobs and social mobility
  • Cuts in public investment such as public school funding
  • Lack of access to quality, affordable health care including health education and preventive care
  • Poor housing
  • Illiteracy, poor education, high drop-out rates
  • Drug abuse, violence
  • Generational poverty
  • Destruction of the environment
  • Poverty including global poverty driving migration

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