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Change it Forward

External/internal teams assembled for the purpose of identifying a Company’s unique ‘world benefit’ tactics/strategies. Teams are then split up and re-configured / re-assembled with other companies, and so on, to keep ‘changing it forward.’

Photo of Sylvia Stein
19 16

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Note: The last four images above are frames taken from an illustrative scenario which you can download at the end of this post (cif-story2-1)


An organic and dynamic process whereby select groups of Change Agents (Change Agent Teams) are assembled from a range of company’s and groups which are actively engaged as agents of world benefit. Each Change Agent Team is assigned to work with a specific Host Company which seeks to find a way to launch or energize its impact as agents for world benefit. 

The Change Agent Discovery Process is designed for the Host Companies, together with their respective Change Agent Team, to explore, implement, and continue to evolve its approach to becoming an agent of world benefit. 

The goal is to identify an approach that leverages each Host Company’s core values, messages, strengths or relationships. This approach might begin as an internal initiative to re-align corporate values, before it can evolve to a more externally focused initiative. 

Once the Host Company is fully engaged in the process, active members of this team, together with Change Agents from other companies and groups, are reconfigured into subsequent Change Agent Teams which in turn are invited to work with additional Host Companies … and so on and so on. As the community of Change Agents grows and spreads to companies large and small around the globe, stories, knowledge and ideas are shared, successes are celebrated and the community of corporate agents of world benefit grows exponentially.

This concept builds upon a number of Inspirations: GoodGuide, NYU, Waldorf Astoria, Danone, etc - illustrating the diversity of ‘agent of world benefit’ initiatives; Change by Design – thinking beyond programs and products to ‘change agent behaviors’;  and of course: Pay it Forward and Aspen Movers: Creating Change from Within. Possibly others as well. 

Who would 'own' or be responsible for organising and managing the process?

This question gets at a core value of this concept, which I believe is self-organization and collective ownership. The idea / video sent by Johan Lofstrom illustrates this value perfectly. There has been a lot written about how to organize and support Communities of Practice (for example:Cultivating Communities of Practice by Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott and William M. Snyder; Harvard BusinessReview), but I believe the essential components that help this process evolve, more or less organically are:

- A dynamic group of passionate, core Change Agents (Changents???) who ‘magnetize’ the core of the process;

- The utilization of a range of structured and unstructured learning activities that nurtures collaboration, innovation and knowledge-creation.

I have attached a rough visual* to show how the learning activities provide the framing for this community, and the core ‘Changents’ energize the community together and propel it forward. Together these forces create an environment where the Change Agent / Innovation for World Benefit ‘Communities of Practice’ can flourish.

Rather than being amorphous and undefined, this structure is agile and elastic. At times it can incorporate the entire company, at other times it might involve a smaller group aligned along a specific initiative…

* This visual is adapted from Networks’ Ecology of Learning Activities, Fig. 2 from Communities of Practice: A new Tool for Government Managers: Collaboration Series,William M Snyder, Xavier de Souza Briggs, IBM Center for the Business of Government page 14

What would their partnerships with different companies look like?

In addition to the core ‘Changents’, and the other internal Change Agents, each team would also include Change Agents from other Companies. These could be chosen based upon the issue / specialty, or based upon proximity, or other relevant experience. I need to think about how these ‘outside’ members of the team would be identified. However, it is important to stress that these inter-company interactions fuel knowledge-building and innovation, and that there is are real, tangible benefits / profits that grow from being part of the larger, knowledge-creation community of ‘agents of world change.’

Put another way, participating in these inter-company Change Agent Teams is not extra-curricular work, neither is it ‘volunteer’ work. Being involved in this Community of Practice is central to each employee’s, and each Company’s, growth.

How does the process start? Expand?

- With care.

- One company at a time.

- By forming a Change-it-Forward ‘meta-community’ whose sole purpose is to bring the forces together that will allow this Community of Practice to evolve.

- I can think of two starting points, but perhaps there are others:

The meta-community would identify one Company that already is active in this sphere but is interested in expanding and exploring the Company’s role as ‘agents for world benefit’ and empower that Company to form and nurture a Change Agent Team with both internal and external members


The meta-community would identify a handful of companies that are engaged to different degrees in being agents for world change, and would giude a lab / workshop / case clinic session for the purpose of seeding the concept of Change Agent Teams and the Change it Forward Community of Practice.

- Forming a brand or identity that encompasses this ‘Community of Practice’ that would allow new members and companies to participate and collaborate. To the future, this brand or identity could be the framework within which the ‘external’ Change Agents could be identified.

How does your concept celebrate, identify or inspire for-profit businesses that act as agents of world benefit?

Change it Forward works synergistically from the inside out and the outside in: systemically from the inside out (nurturing, empowering, inspiring and growing the community of agents of change) and as storytellers from the outside in (highlighting, broadcasting, celebrating and sharing accomplishments). This concept takes into account that every company and every situation is unique. A small company with an energized and empowered team might be poised to have a much larger ‘world benefit’ impact. A large company, with an entrenched culture and bureaucratic structure might first need to address its internal mission. By creating an expanding community of Change Agents, Change it Forward is continually identifying and celebrating new stories, companies and individuals.

How will your concept help us create or leverage stories of world benefit that are sticky and shareable?

As the Change it Forward community grows, exponentially, over time, stories of world benefit will become shared interpreted, and integrated as part of subsequent Change Agent Discovery engagements.

What will it take to scale your concept so that its reach is global and widespread?

Initially this concept could draw from range of proven tools, techniques and processes used by businesses, as well as local communities to create and leverage 'communities of practice.' Subsequently, ‘Change it forward’ would scale organically as more and more companies become part of the community.

Evaluation results

8 evaluations so far

1. How well could this concept surface or identify examples of businesses that currently innovate for world benefit?

Really well: this concept clearly outlines the steps to identify great examples - 37.5%

Pretty well: this concept talks about identifying great examples but it's not clear exactly how - 50%

Not so well: this concept doesn't focus on identifying great examples - 12.5%

2. How well could this concept create or celebrate stories of world benefit that are memorable and shareable?

Really well: this concept is clearly focused on creating or celebrating stories of world benefit - 12.5%

Pretty well: this concept talks about creating or celebrating stories of world benefit but it's not clear exactly how - 62.5%

Not so well: this concept does not focus on creating or celebrating stories of world benefit - 25%

3. How well could this concept inspire or enable other for-profit businesses who want to innovate for world benefit?

Really well: this concept is clearly focused on inspiring or enabling others who want to innovate for world benefit - 37.5%

Pretty well: this concept talks about inspiring or enabling others who want to innovate for world benefit but it's not clear exactly how - 50%

Not very well: this concept does not focus on inspiring or enabling others who want to innovate for world benefit - 12.5%

4. Does this concept have the potential to scale globally and reach diverse audiences?

Yes: this concept absolutely has the potential to scale globally and reach diverse audiences - 37.5%

Maybe: this concept may have the potential to scale globally and reach diverse audiences but it's not clear exactly how - 62.5%

No: this concept does not have the potential to scale globally and reach diverse audiences - 0%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world - 37.5%

I liked it but preferred others - 50%

It didn't get me overly excited - 12.5%


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Photo of An Old Friend

Great idea! Love the phrase "change it forward"!

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