What is progressive social change?

While traditional charities generally respond to the symptoms of entrenched social problems, the Funding Exchange network supports those who identify underlying causes and working to change these conditions. This is a core value of progressive social change as reflected in the phrase, “Change, not Charity”. Social change organizing:
Builds community-based responses, not solutions that affect just a few individuals and leave the underlying social problems intact.
  • Changes attitudes, behaviors, laws, policies and institutions to better reflect the values of inclusion, fairness, diversity and opportunity.
  • Insists on accountability and responsiveness among institutions, including the government, large corporations, universities and other entities whose policies and actions profoundly affect the living conditions of individuals and communities, whether locally, nationally, or internationally.
  • Expands the meaning and practice of “democracy” by involving those closest to social problems in determining their solutions.
Because progressive social change involves making significant changes on a systemic level, conflict with those who hold power is often inevitable. The power that social change organizations bring to the table is their ability to organize, to educate and to mobilize.
Progressive social change is a profoundly democratic undertaking. At its best, people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, abilities and ages join together in developing and implementing creative solutions to social problems. Organizing amplifies the voices of those whose interests are too often overlooked.
Money alone does not bring about change; nor do individuals. But when people band together and form organizations to focus their collective power, social change can happen. When a large number of organizations work together toward a common goal, that’s a movement. Movements make change.
On the surface, social change movements appear to be spontaneous bursts of energy, a sweep of people, outraged and energized, rising forth to demand some form of change. But in truth, social change movements flow from careful organizing, massive public education, sustained agitation, and, at times, inspired collaboration across the divides of race, gender and class. These movements are driven by human energy, intelligence, courage as well as money.
The following may help give a more concrete understanding of social change:
  1. The structural transformation of political, social and economic systems and institutions to create a more equitable and just society.
  2. Proponents target the underlying causes of critical social problems, such as homelessness, discrimination and poverty.
  3.  While a variety of organizing and advocacy methods are utilized, social change organizations are characterized by activism, cooperation, persistence, and dedication of their members. (Example: An association of people with developmental disabilities working collectively to address issues of discrimination by empowering its members to advocate for themselves and collectively challenging service providers, government agencies and other institutions to ensure equal access and rights for ALL developmentally disabled people.)
 Opposites: Status quo; charity; business as usual; temporary solutions.