Stage 0.11  The Change Agent's Value Issues


The role of change agent can be seen as problematic on a number of grounds that might be called “moral” or value-based. It can be argued, for example, that people have a fundamental right to work out their own problems (or not) in their own ways. This is a dilemma as old as the helping professions. Indeed, the strictures of the ancient Hippocratic oath, "primum non nocere," (above all, do no harm) are very much applicable to change agents,  

But can we ever guarantee that we will do no harm, that we will leave the system in at least as good a condition as we found it? We definitely cannot. After all, we are trying to make significant changes in ongoing living systems. We are interfering with ongoing linkages and arrangements that may have been in place for centuries. When we open up a new room, how do we know we are not tearing down a bearing wall that will threaten the collapse of the structure? There is risk in what we do, and we should be aware of it, striving always both to minimize the risk and provide the client with "informed consent" regarding our interventions.

One of the trickiest moral dilemmas concerns the client system's initial expectations. They invite you in because they think you will do one kind of thing for them, but inevitably, a good change agent may well end up doing more and different things than their initial mandate stated.  If expectations are to 'fill one change agent role, is it legitimate to fill others as well or instead? If brought in by one member of the client system to serve their needs, is it legitimate to reach out in an attempt to serve other members of the system or the system as a whole? 

All change agents will have to resolve these dilemmas for themselves in their own way. The Guide may help in sorting out some of the issues, but it won't resolve them for you.