Stage 2.2  Identifying Opportunities

The change agent should avoid an exclusive focus on what is wrong with the client. Spend some time identifying areas of strength and areas of greatest potential for change. There are sound practical and psychological reasons for adopting this posture. Psychologically, an accent on the positive makes the client feel less defensive and more hopeful that change can be beneficial. Moreover, from a practical point of view, the overall diagnostic picture is made much clearer when the strong points are noted. It shows the members of the client system that they can begin their change effort by using their strongest capacities and capitalizing on their areas of greatest potential.

Strengths as well as weaknesses may be identified at various levels and some things that appear to be "problems" on the surface may, in reality, indicate an underlying strength. For example, students from some cultures may resist competition in the classroom (a surface problem) because they are holding fast to cultural norms of group solidarity (a potential underlying strength). Likewise the "resistance" of students to classroom teachers of different races (a surface problem) may signify growing racial pride and a desire for independence and self-initiative (potential underlying strengths).

The change agent should take special note of the history of the client system in coping with problems. Sometimes a school or a community that seems hopelessly disorganized and strife-torn will reveal surprising resiliency and competence in coping with difficulties in certain areas at certain times. These areas and times should be noted and recorded in the diagnosis.

 Internal analysis is not the only way to define opportunities for change. Sometimes a comparison to other systems gives clients ideas about what they need and what they can do. For example, awareness of an innovation that has been successful elsewhere will often induce an awareness of need and create the motivation for change. Outside innovations are sometimes suggestive of inside opportunities, and in this sense they create needs. Furthermore, outside systems that appear to be successful and innovative also provide a comparative yardstick against which clients may measure their own performance.