More Than Money
Issue #29

Money Changes Everything

Table of Contents

“Models of Change”

by Christopher Mogil and Anne Slepian

Call it a case of incurable idealism, but even in the heart of realistic middle age, the two of us steadfastly believe that enormous, positive changes are possible, not only in our own bumbling lives, but also in the wider world. Why must there be violence, oppression, starvation, and misery? Although these have been with humanity for thousands of years, we refuse to believe they must continue for the next thousand.

We know that hopelessness about individual and societal change is widespread, but having been students of change our whole adult lives, we have seen many effective models of change. We know of therapeutic models that have helped individuals change their personal lives for the better; we can point to historical, sweeping changes that were deliberately fostered by philanthropists and activists; and we've been impressed by the wisdom in many models of social change-from consciousness change to systems theory to the building of grassroots movements.

Quantum Leaps
Throughout the years, we have kept asking, "What enables quantum leaps-changes beyond the incremental?" Here are two examples that answer that question, one in the arena of charitable giving and one in the arena of politics.

Fifteen years ago, we interviewed people who had leaped out of the traditional box of generosity. Most people give two to three percent of their annual income, yet these unusual givers were donating twenty percent or more of their total net worth. What enabled them to take such quantum leaps? The key factors, described further in We Gave Away a Fortune, included:

  • Ethical grounding by their families
  • Life-changing experiences that gave them perspective about wealth and poverty, as well as hope for change. (These experiences were especially powerful when people were in their teens or early twenties.)
  • Practical and compassionate support for resolving concerns about giving so much
  • A social reference group that supported their action

Three years ago, when we decided to transform More Than Money from an informal handful of dreamers into an organization with national clout, we invited our supporters to take a quantum leap with us. Twenty-three households became members of our Visionaries' Circle, committing to giving $100,000 or more over three to four years. For many of these givers, this was at least a ten-fold leap beyond what they had given to any organization before. We believe that one reason the Visionaries Circle has been so effective is we incorporated into the effort all that we had learned from our interviews years before. We ask ourselves: What other programs could be built with these elements that would stimulate a quantum leap in the nation's generosity of talents, time, and treasure?

Twenty years ago, we were personally transformed through a year-long training program in social change. We were inspired to discover that most major societal changes, such as the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, don't "just happen" like spontaneous combustion; they require the building of social movements through deliberate efforts over years, decades, and even lifetimes, with these predictable stages:

  • Cultural preparation-when people are bringing to individual and public awareness the idea that something needs to change. This stage often takes decades.
  • Organization building-when people are building the infrastructure to support widespread mobilization
  • Take-off-when a catalyzing, external event enables a groundswell of visible public action
  • Institutionalization-when successes of the movement begins to be integrated into the culture1

Knowing this model helps give us the patience to work toward changes we know may take generations. We see More Than Money as helping with the cultural preparation and organization building that may eventually lead to a world where everyone has enough.

Pooling Our Wisdom
Many of us want to use our financial and human resources to unleash major positive changes in the world. Let's learn, then, all we can about how personal and societal change happens. Useful models abound. Let's talk with each other about our underlying assumptions about change-not to argue about which model is correct, but to pool as much wisdom as we can. If our money is going to help change anything meaningful, we'll need all the insight and inspiration we can get.

1Based on models developed by Bill Moyer (in Doing Democracy) and George Lakey (in Powerful Peacemaking) .

Christopher Mogil and Anne Slepian are the founders of More Than Money. They are award-winning wriiers, persenters, and organizers on issues of wealth stewardship. Their books include Taking Charge of Our Money, Our Values, and Our Lives; Welcome to Philanthropy; and We Gave Away a Fortune.

Here are a few diverse models of change:

  • The creators of Yes! magazine offer a "social diffusion game" that teaches a model of how new ideas spread through a culture. (web.syr.edu/~bvmarten/socialnet.html)
  • The field of "social marketing" combines knowledge from the fields of public health and business marketing. (See Marketing Social Change by Alan Andreasen.)
  • The Institute for Noetic Sciences is creating a comprehensive, online curriculum about how internal consciousness change creates external systemic change.
  • Inciting Democracy by Randy Schutt offers a practical model for creating a healthy society.
  • Therapeutic models such as psychosynthesis, holographic repatterning, and neurolinguistic programming offer fascinating tools for individual change that may be applicable to societies as well as to individuals.