Social change is defined broadly in terms of process and product to indicate that all kinds of social change activity are welcomed and encouraged at Walden. As faculty members, students, and alumni have indicated, even small acts can have large consequences, and many of these consequences are unpredictable. The charge given to the Definition Task Force was to expand the university’s definition of social change to provide more guidance for teaching, learning, and assessing the social change mission at Walden. To that end, the Task Force offers the following considerations.
To bring about long‐term solutions and promote lasting effects through the process of social change, the following features may need to be considered as appropriate to the context and purposes of each program. The features are grouped under the headings Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes, to encourage a holistic approach to preparing learners for social change. The groupings, however, are defined by soft boundaries because each feature belongs primarily to one group but may share some of the qualities of the other groups.
1. Scholarship The scholar‐practitioner model is particularly suited to social change because knowledge applied to real‐life situations is a scholar‐practitioner’s goal. In the scholarly role, the scholar‐practitioner engages in active learning, critical reflection, and inquiry into real‐ life dilemmas and possibilities. Careful study and research can reveal the causes and correlates of social problems and suggest solutions and opportunities for promoting growth.
2. Systemic thinking
Many of the issues addressed by social change are complex because there may be multiple causes and manifestations of the issue that require different responses at many levels. Systemic thinking is a technique for developing insights into challenging situations and complex subjects. It usually begins with analysis, which makes sense of a system by breaking it apart to see how the parts work together and influence each other. This may be followed by synthesis that aims to develop a set of responses that address the situation in a comprehensive way. In the Walden community, finding systemic solutions to challenging issues might be undertaken by multidisciplinary collaborations in which scholar‐practitioners from a number of colleges work together to examine issues and propose multipronged responses.
Those working toward positive social change can enhance their effectiveness by reflecting on the experience. Reflection can be extrospective, that is, looking outward to review the short‐ and long‐term outcomes of a project and its implications for the individuals, institutions, and communities with and for whom one is working. It can also be introspective, that is, looking inward to examine what has been learned from the process, including new insights into one’s motives, skills, knowledge, actions, and reactions. Self‐reflection allows for the contemplation of one’s professional and personal development. Group reflection affords all stakeholders in a social change project (scholar‐practitioners, community partners, policy‐makers, and beneficiaries) an opportunity to process the experience and learn from each other. Reflection employs critical‐thinking and analytical skills. It can be carried forward by questioning and self‐ inquiry and may depend on a willingness to see things from another’s perspective. While reflection needs to be honest, it should also be caring and supportive, examining strengths as well as weaknesses and successes as along with disappointments. While reflection may look to the past, its purpose is forward‐looking—to make future social change activities more effective.