Social Change

Social change plays a role in balancing the inequalities and injustices whether it be on a community, national, institutional, or international level. (Leadership Paradigms, n.d.) What can result from collective action is the development of policies and solutions that have the ability to change law, attitudes, behaviors, and institutions. (Leadership Paradigms, n.d.) Social action, citizen participation, mass mobilization, and popular education are all strategies that can be utilized to achieve social change. (Schneider, et al, p. 288, 2012)

The efforts put forth by individuals and communities to create social change are often labeled social change strategies. (Lewis & Lambert, p. 407, 2014)  Certain groups use social change strategies in an effort to combat prejudice, racism, and sexism. (Lewis & Lambert, p. 407, 2014) Seidman and Rappaport’s (1986) theory of social change strategies states there are two forms of social change strategies, first-order and second-order social change. (Lewis & Lambert, p. 407, 2014)

First-order social change strategies address problems by looking at ways an individual or group can adapt to and function within a certain system (e.g., business, government, education) without changing the structure of the system.  (Lewis & Lambert, p. 408, 2014) An example of this would be a company with a history of homophobia having an employee tell another employee why being homophobic is inappropriate. (Lewis & Lambert, p. 408, 2014) This intervention does not change the system it just helps people work and adapt to the current systemic structure, which may only improve individual function. (Lewis & Lambert, p. 408, 2014)

Second-order social change can improve individual functioning, however it involves “challenging the status quo and fundamentally changing the systemic structures that are in place.” (Lewis & Lambert, p. 408, 2014) An example of this would be an employee that works for a company that is homophobic demanding that this issue be confronted so that the homophobia would no longer take place within the company. Lewis & Lambert, p. 408, 2014)

One group that has historically used social change strategies as a means of coping with a systemic structure are African Americans combating racism. (Lewis & Lambert, p. 407, 2014) From the Black Nationalist Movement to Transformationalist these social strategies fought to eradicate racism and redistribute resources and power throughout the social structure. (Lewis & Lambert, p. 407, 2014)

Our beliefs about our own competence (self-efficacy) can influence our ability to be agents of change. (Bain, Hornsey, Bongiorno, Kashima, Crimston, p., 523, 2012)  Researchers have suggested that individuals with high levels of self-efficacy are more likely to engage in social change behavior because their belief about their own competence enables them to face challenges with confidence and mastery. (Pinquart, Silbereisen, Juang, p. 341, 2004)  These individuals are also less prone to anxiety, depression and worry. (Pinquart et al., p. 341, 2004)

Research has shown a positive correlation between self-efficacy, goal attainment, and locus control. (Garrin, p. 45, 2013) According to Bandura (1997) college students who possess this control are “better prepared to put forth effort toward inducing change and are more motivated to withstand the change process.” (Garrin, p. 47, 2013) This trait is essential because social change does not happen overnight and there could be setbacks and multiple stages. (Garrin, p. 47, 2013) In his experiment Bandura (1997) also witnessed self-protective behavior, rational thought that promotes positive self-esteem, and productivity all of which can contribute to risk analysis and strategic planning needed for social change programs. (Garrin, p. 47, 2013) College students more than ever have campus wide opportunities to enhance their self-efficacy by becoming financially independent, getting involved in campus wide initiatives, which can educate others, promote self-reliance, and cause community level social impact. (Garrin, p. 47, 2013) Thus creating a “feedback loop,” when students internalize the knowledge obtained they disseminate it by becoming future leaders and educators and thereby creating social change.

 Perhaps what we really need to take away from this is, if we believe we can do something, we usually can do it. Real social change can take place when we as a collective believe we can make things happen.


Bain, P. G., Hornsey, M. J., Bongiorno, R., Kashima, Y., & Crimston, D. (2013). Collective Futures: How Projections About the Future of Society Are Related to Actions and Attitudes Supporting Social Change. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39(4), 523-539.

Garrin, J. (2013). From College Student to Change Agent: A Triadic Model of Self-Efficacy, Attribution, and Appraisal .Journal of Social Change5(1), 40-57.

Lewis, K. M., & Lambert, M. C. (2006). Measuring Social Change Preferences in African American Adolescents: Development of the Measure of Social Change for Adolescents (MOSC-A).Assessment, 13(4), 406-416.

Pinquart, M., Silbereisen, R. K., & Juang, L. P. (2004). Moderating Effects of Adolescents’ Self-Efficacy Beliefs on Psychological Responses to Social Change. Journal of Adolescent Research,19(3), 340-359.

What Is Social Change?. (n.d.).Leadership Paradigms. Retrieved April 16, 2014, from

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