Stages of change

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Any desired social or political change must go through several stages before becoming the new status quo. These stages are often lumped together under the heading "how", but the answer to the question "how can we do this" is substantially different depending on which stage(s) one is asking about.

  1. logistics: there is a plan which could accomplish the goal(s), if implemented
  2. implementation:
    • resources: the necessary resources (e.g. political support) are available
    • approval: the necessary resources are approved by their gatekeepers (e.g. Congress passes a bill)
    • action: the plan is set in motion (e.g. funds go to appropriate organizations)
  3. survival: the plan survives attempts to subvert or reverse it

(An earlier, longer version of this list is here.)

For change which requires popular support rather than centralized implementation, "adoption" might be a better descriptor for Step 2.

This may be related to the theory of change, "a specific type of methodology for planning, participation, and evaluation that is used in the philanthropy, not-for-profit and government sectors to promote social change."


Much confusion arises from failure to distinguish between these phases. Proposals intended to address one phase are often criticized for their failure to address another, without any acknowledgement that these are different problems. Logistical stage proposals, for example, will often be criticized for lack of provisioning.

Proposals involving allocation of resources are particularly subject to this kind of conflation. For example, a proposal regarding how resources should be distributed (conception or logistics stage) will be criticized for wanting to "take" or "steal" resources from their current owners -- when in fact the proposal says nothing about the mechanisms whereby such redistribution might take place (provisioning). The provisioning stage might be, for example:

  • creating a microsociety in which the proposed rules would be applied and therefore involving only voluntary redistribution
  • changing the incentive structure of the existing economy so as to encourage voluntary redistribution along the lines proposed



  • 2013-03-27 Google+: open proposal of this breakdown