McDonough School of Business
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New Book Offers Blueprint for Today’s Social Change Movements

Some movements soar while others stagnate. The new book How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed While Others Don’t explores why some of the most significant movements of the 21st century have succeeded and what emerging movement leaders can do to advance their causes.

“Change doesn’t happen by chance,” said Leslie Crutchfield, author and executive director, Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “Our research shows that winning movements make their destinies come true, rather than being destined to succeed.  And we learned that even in the face of powerful industry opponents, change is possible.”

By studying and researching the movements and campaigns behind important social issues from lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) marriage equality to gun rights expansion, Crutchfield uncovers the leadership approaches, campaign strategies, and grassroots tactics used in modern social change campaigns. In How Change Happens, she explains how this knowledge can be applied to today’s burgeoning movements such as #MeToo and #NeverAgain.

The book outlines key elements that many winning movements have in common, including the following chapters:

  • Turn Grassroots Gold – Winning movements are fueled from the bottom up. They invest in their base and grow it.
  • Change Hearts and Policy – Successful movement leaders shift societal attitudes so the public believes the changes they seek are right and fair.
  • Break from Business as Usual – Companies can affect major change by altering their policies, raising their voices in public debates, and leveraging their innovation capabilities.
  • ‘Leaderfull’ vs. Leader-Led or Leaderless – Instead of a handful of elites dictating from the top down, or chaotic masses rising up in one-off protests, the most effective movements find a ‘leaderfull’ balance between leaderless and leader-led extremes.

“This book comes at an important time,” said Bill Novelli, founder, GSEI and founding president and current board chair, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “There is no real recipe for social change or ‘movement in a box’ that we can put in place to create a more equitable, just society. But Crutchfield shows us how we can make change happen.”

Crutchfield conducted research for the book with assistance from a research team at GSEI. Support for the research was provided by the Bank of America Foundation, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, Glikbarg Family Foundation, Microsoft Philanthropies, United Nations Foundation, and an anonymous donor through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

For more information or to order copies of the book, visit:

Global Social Enterprise Initiative