In the early 1980s, campaigners against drunk driving were a little snake-bit. I was lead for a collaboration putting together an international symposium.   We were asking ourselves and each other: can this time be different?  Can  the energy of this moment be converted into a lasting progress.

We did succeed. In my view, the difference-maker was Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Founder Candy Lightner had a passion and tenacity that ignited a national movement.  Since Candy was a great campaigner, and inspirational, but not a empire builder, MADD became strongest at the local level. That accident of history was decisive. National ideas were pursued vigorously and relentlessly at the local level, and sustained long enough for lasting changes in laws, institutional practices and mindsets to take hold.

The Great Example of MADD

“What can
help you

Here’s why I think the evolution of MADD is such a great model: All change is local.  What I mean… Ultimately, change is about individual, group and institutional behavior. From a change perspective, the only thing that counts is what we do or don’t do. The seeds of that change are interpersonal: what are others who are important to us saying and doing, or how are they reacting to what each of us is saying and doing? We may take our “leads” from what’s happening globally or nationally, but ultimately broad-scale, sustainable change must be embedded locally.

That’s just as true if you’re talking about transforming corporate or other institutional cultures, no matter how large or small the organizations are. The definition of local might be a little different. For instance, we might be talking about specific field offices, departments or even smaller units. Individual and small group leaderships take hold and begin to transform how they act and interact. The impetus might come from the CEO, but the change must take hold locally.

What Do You Want to Tackle?
What’s your concern or issue? What would you do differently if you weren’t waiting around for governments to act, or global or national figures to forcefully lead the way? Genuine movements are not really organized; they are organic; they are inspired, and there are inspirational leaders, but sustained success (or not) depends on idiosyncratic local action.

What do you want to collaborate on? Poverty? Addiction Recovery? STEM Education? Economic Development? More community support for live arts performance? ________________________ (Fill in your blank, here.)

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