Real Change Relies on Social Movements

When trying to institute systemic change – organizational or nationwide – it’s easy to feel like it’s impossible. It’s challenging to change the way an entire group thinks or behaves, especially when being attacked by multiple dimensions simultaneously. Creating change through compliance is equally tricky. People are passionate about their freedoms and are good at finding loopholes to work around the system. Yet, there have been several instances throughout our nation’s history when a social movement did just that. Think smoking cessation, seat belts, and recycling.

Creating a social movement allows people to apply their creativity, volition, and passion for doing the right thing. A social movement is very different from mandating a change, which seems to carry the automatic response to throw off the yokes of oppression and do things your way. You’re working real magic by encouraging people to decide for themselves and bringing them to a place where they identify with the new behavior.

I did street theater for ten years and focused on how to get the audience involved in the show – no easy feat. The audience hadn’t bought tickets, didn’t stand in a line, and is usually on their way to somewhere else – we’re interrupting their day. Through my efforts, I discovered four thresholds that not only apply to the theater but to creating a social movement. Those thresholds are:

  1. Grabbing the audience’s attention
  2. Holding their attention
  3. Getting them to investigate
  4. Helping them to identify with the show, presentation, or change

The first grabbing attention is relatively easy. The last, getting the audience to identify is much more difficult. The difficulty increases with the size of the audience. It’s easy to convince a few pedestrians on the corner. But what about an entire organization or a nation? Watch the video above to learn how the four thresholds work for magicians and leaders leading change initiatives.

Are you interested in learning more about creating a social movement or leading a grand challenge? Please email me at

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