Thoughts About Change From A Book About Racial, Ethnic, And Class Tensions

For the Urban Engagement Book Club for Central Dallas Ministries tomorrow, I am presenting my synopsis of There Goes the Neighborhood:  Racial, Ethnic, and Class Tensions in Four Chicago Neighborhoods and Their Meaning for America by William Julius Wilson and Richard P. Taub.  At this book club, we focus on books related to social justice and poverty issues – quite a different focus from what we normally choose for the First Friday Book Synopsis.  And this book takes a careful look at some social justice and poverty issues.

In this book, which looks at four neighborhoods that felt the impact of racial change, and all of the implications of that change, I found this insightful paragraph:

Albert Hirschman argues that when people become dissatisfied with changes in their surroundings they can exit – move or withdraw from further participation – or they can exercise voice.  Hirschman defines “voice” as any attempt “to change, rather than to escape from,” an undesirable situation.
The more willing people are to try to exercise voice – that is, to change, correct, or prevent a particular situation – the less likely they are to exit.

This seems to be useful as we think about all kinds of change:  if a change is threatening (and most change is), then people will either “exit,” or they will “speak up” to seek to make their own voice heard in the midst of change.

And when will people most likely speak up?  According to Hirschman, people will speak up when one’s “loyalty” to a neighborhood, or an organization within the neighborhood, is deep, and genuinely matters to the individual.  In such instances, things are worth “fighting for,” and a person will do whatever he or she can to maintain the ties.

So – put this in a business context.  The more loyal people are to a company and its mission, the more likely they are to speak up to protect what is important, and seek to shape the change in a workable way for all.

It seems to me that we want people who are loyal enough to speak up for what is important to them!

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