Identifying the Change Agents and Targets
When doing work in your community, the first thing to decide is what is the issue or problem you want to address. Whether you are teaching kids to read or trying to create safer neighbourhoods, it's your group's reason for being; it's what you're all about.
But, you and your organisation are not alone. There are people who can benefit and people who can help. That is, there are people for whom your initiative has things to offer and people from whom you can learn and get assistance. We need to be clear about who should benefit--youth and parents, for example--and people who can help address the issue or problem--including youth, parents and guardians, teachers, service providers, and others. And knowing just who these people are is an important step.
We'll help you decide who your organisation or initiative is trying to reach -- sometimes called targets of change -- and who are the people who can help you reach them -- agents of change. These people, as you might guess, are sometimes called agents of change. We'll also consider what it is that these "agents of change" can do, and how you can develop a plan to make sure you have found everyone who can benefit and everyone who can help, and not just the most obvious candidates.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? And it is. It's just a question of being clear, complete, and making sure you look at every angle.
Who are the people who experience or can help the problem or issue (the targets of change)?
You're probably trying to change a certain behaviour or outcome, such as reducing drug abuse or creating decent jobs. Sometimes, the particular behaviour you are changing is clear; other times, the root cause of a given problem or issue is less obvious. Children falling asleep in class, for example, might actually be a direct result of their not having had breakfast, and isn't really a result of any problem in the school itself. Not having enough to eat, in turn, may have less to do with parental neglect, than with the family living in poverty due to inadequate job opportunities .
Like finding the root problem, understanding whom you want to target for change can be relatively simple or more difficult. Generally, targets of change will fall into two categories:
Those people who directly experience the problem or are at risk, and Those people who contribute to the problem through their actions or lack of actions. Deciding who is directly at risk is usually the easy part. If you are trying to increase immunisation among inner city children under two years of age, for example, those children (and their parents or guardians and health providers) may be the targets of change. Intravenous drug users (the ones that use syringes) are among the key targets of an AIDS prevention effort, since they are at higher risk for contracting the AIDS virus.
Sometimes, however, the people at risk aren't the same ones you will target for change. It may be that because of some reason, such as age in the immunisation example above, the people at risk are not the ones whose behaviour you will try to change . Since children under two years of age can't immunise themselves, the targets of change include parents and guardians and health providers. In this case, your targets of change will be those people whose actions (or lack of actions) contribute to the problem. Examples of these people include:
parents and caregivers
business people and merchants (eg., who sell tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs) elected and appointed officials
As you work on an initiative, you will want to consider both categories, targets and agents of change. Sometimes, an initiative might be designed to work with both those people who experience or are at risk for the problem, as well as those whose actions (or lack of actions) contribute to the problem. For example, a community initiative to improve public transportation might use:...
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