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Many in the development world call themselves change agents—campaigners, organizers, development workers, even researchers here at CGD. But how does change actually happen?

My guest this week on the CGD Podcast is Oxfam senior strategic advisor Duncan Green, who’s about to release a book on that very question. The book, Green tells me, is partly a response to the fragmented theories of change that have been touted in the development sector. 

“Everybody talks abut change but we don’t have a proper language for talking about change,” Green says. “We have lots of conversations where people are talking past each other—economists and political scientists using different language, anthropologists using another language. And so [the book] is partly an attempt to try to get a common discussion going around the central issue of development.”

Can there really be one unified theory of change? “I got over that,” laughs Green, a former physics student. But there is, he tells me in the clip below, a common element: “In any system, a development intervention is often about rearranging power.”

 
Green’s book “How Change Happens” is available for preorder. 

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.