It’s November and the word most on my mind is ‘change’. The news is full of stories about change. A week ago was the first anniversary of the election of a black community organizer to the White House. A couple of days ago we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and today, November 11th marks the 91st  anniversary of the end of World War I. These events, years apart, were  momentous occasions and moments of great hope for millions.

Change is also afoot at Dogwood Initiative. We’ve recently hired five new interns taking our staff up to thirteen and opening up whole new possibilities for how we get our work done. It also demands that we make changes to our rolls within the organization.

How do we create change? Not the incremental change that makes things momentarily a little less bad, but truly transformational change; change of the magnitude that’s required to meet the urgent challenge of global warming and other human caused calamities. Are big events the best way to look at how societies are transformed?

I’m not the only one asking these questions. To find some answers Dogwood staff and volunteers have been hitting the books. Here is a brief synopsis of what we have been reading about change and models that can move us to a brighter future.

But before you check out these books – click here to participate in an URGENT action on our No Tankers campaign!


The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience by Rob Hopkin
Review by Sohia Lang, Volunteer

The Transition movement began in Britian back in 2006 as a response to the dual looming crises of peak oil and climate change.  Rob Hopkin’s book is the manual  that summarizes the work done by the pioneering transition communities. 

This book is not only visionary but offers hands-on practical advice for creating local Transition groups. It begins with a clear analysis of both climate change and peak oil, explaining why the two issues need to be discussed together. The book then shares the experiences of the towns that first started the movement.  The Transition Handbook is extremely hopeful with a clear vision of a future that is more localized, resilient, re-skilled and equitable.  In short, the perfect read for a burnt-out environmentalist or someone seeking what has so far been a missing link between individual actions and political cage-rattling. 

The reader should know that Victoria is one of many local places that has a Transition Initiative. Others are being formed on Saltspring Island, Denman Island, and Powell River, to name a few.

Good to Great by Jim Collins
Reviewed by Will Horter, Executive Director

What are the factors that can help an organization become great? Jim Collins describes six core principles that distinguished great from just good companies. These principles, elaborated on in a companion paper on the social sector, highlight the dominant role discipline plays in super effective organizations: disciplined people, disciplined thought, disciplined action. Like Collins, I reject the idea that the path to for an activist organization is to simply be more like a business, but I found Collins insights into leadership, , selecting employees, strategic planning, priority setting and focus very helpful.

If we as British Columbians, Canadians, and citizens of the world are going to take back power and transform our economy and environment to stave off the worst of the growing climate crisis, we are going to figure out how to move from good to great quickly. This book offers insights that will be helpful to anyone serious about changing the world.

Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block
Review by Charles Campbell, Communications Director

For Peter Block, transformational change comes about when a community is able to move from isolation and self-interest to a concern for the whole. This happens when we collectively shift our focus from problems to possibilities and value our and others gifts. The roll of a leader in Block’s model is not to provide vision and answers it is to bring together the right people and ask them powerful and difficult questions. The small group is the unit of transformation and the relationships we create are all important.

This book brings together the insights of a number of different thinkers and packages them as a practical guide to creating a community process that helps us create a future distinct from the past.

Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky
Review by Kelsey Singbeil, Development Manager

Clay Shirky writes about the internet. Most recently, about the ability of the internet to change the way human beings organise, and how this affects the accepted status quo in his book, Here Comes Everybody. Never before has it been possible to communicate with hundreds (or thousands or millions) of people at little to no cost, in real time and with no regard for geography. Just think about. How did you organize a group people prior to email and Facebook? Group coordination has never been so easy. Goodbye business as usual, hello new forms of collective action.

If you’re interested in how new media tools can affect democracy, social
organizing and the future of institutions, this is a must-read.

If you have any thought on these books or want to suggest a few of your own please add a comment.