Social change agents and sustainable futures
In sociology we have a really important concept – social change agents. These are individuals who engage with change.
The thing about the concept of social change agents is that we all are them. Through our actions we engage with people, society etc – we accept the status quo or we question the status quo, depending on how we see things and what we want to do. Society doesn’t ‘just happen’. It’s a product of all these interactions with one another and with society’s institutions, such as political systems, education systems, economic systems etc.
What this in turn tells us is that social change agency – the search for change – can happen at three related levels. The first is the level of our everyday lives and our everyday actions. We can, for example, make consumer choices by buying green products, we can support community groups that reflect our values, we can discuss the importance of having a lighter footprint on the earth through our actions.
The second level is that of trying to change the existing institutions to reflect sustainability. For example, we may vote for a particular party, those green purchasing decisions are fine-tuning the existing economic system to hopefully make it more environmentally sustainable and so on. Here, we try an fine-tune the existing social systems which are in place and make them work for a better future.
Finally, there’s the search for fundamental change to the existing arrangements – values, institutions, economies, politics etc. These are much more radical (in the sense of fundamental) rather than fine-tuning and as a result can lead to a much bigger shake-up of things.
So what does all this mean? To my mind, it means:
- we are all engaged in these processes – that’s what makes us human. We all live in societies etc
- so we are all change agents in that sense – we can, through our actions, contribute to sustainable futures in whatever way and at whatever level.
- we can choose our own pathways for this – we can all work this out for ourselves
There is no ‘right’ way of engaging. But if we try and positively contribute to sustainable futures, in whatever way, we have engaged with the potential for change and our role as change agents.