Gaining Deeper and Wider Acceptance

Real change does not result from a single trial, however successful. We can only say real "change" has happened when it is continued. When it is repeated at the same place and different places, and when we can extend these actions and their benefits to an ever-widening circle of others.

The preceding five stages identified procedures that the change agent should follow in preparing for a program of change. These early phases included: 

  • Delineating a concern, what seems to be disturbing the status quo;
  • Establishing a working relationship between change agent and client;
  • Working with the client system to change the concern into a diagnosis;
  • Acquiring information and resources that match the problem(s);
  • Deciding on a potential  solution and given it a successful trial.

At this point the groundwork has been laid for the actual installation of the innovation in the client system. Now is the time for transforming the trial into a successful system-wide change.  It is in this phase that you find out whether or not you have a workable solution that can be accepted and used effectively by all the members of the client system. In the main sections of Stage 5, we will consider five inter-related issues:

  1. How individuals accept innovations.
  2. How groups accept innovations.
  3. How to go deeper: solidifying adoption.
  4. How to go wider: diffusion strategies.
  5. How to extend and stay flexible.


5.1 Acceptance by the individual

During the period of installation, each individual who will be involved in the change program must be allowed to become familiar with the innovation; he or she must learn how to use it and must come to accept it as a part of his or her routine behavior. This process usually follows a six-step sequence:

            awareness >> interest >> evaluation >> trial >> adoption >> integration.

The change agent can play a key role in helping at each step.


5.2 Acceptance by the group

People typically accept change as members of social groups, i.e., family, neighborhood, school, community. How innovation is adopted by larger social unit is related to individual adoption with important differences. The change agent has a big role to play in facilitating acceptance by these larger entities.


5.3 How to go deeper: Solidifying adoption

Repetition, re-adaptation, and integration into the on-going life of the user system are all necessary to solidify the adoption of anything new. Both technical and administrative support must be established and the innovation must come to be seen as "just part of the way we do things around here."


5.4 How to go wider: Diffusion strategies

The key to gaining wider acceptance lies in how well the new ideas are communicated. The relevant "facts" about the innovation must be conveyed to the relevant audiences clearly and accurately. In addition to the "facts," you as the change agent must effectively convey your support and approval as attempts are made to carry out the change plan.  


5.5 How to extend and stay flexible  

You can’t think of everything. There are unforeseen contingencies. It may be that a change in plans is forced by external events or the original concern is trumped by another concern.  In any case, the change agent must be willing to review and reassess any or all aspects of a change program, including the choice of the innovation itself. Therefore, every effort should be made to prepare a schedule, which is flexible as well as schematic, a difficult but crucial balance to strike. 

One successful trial of a planned change may disappear without a trace in a year or two unless it comes to be accepted by the system as a whole. Fortunately, there is a very large body of research on how organizations and societies adopt innovations. Any change agent should be aware of the salient findings of this research, including both the predictable processes at the individual, group, and system levels.