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Disruption and Embracing Change

The theme of the 2016 Community Change Institute (CCI) hosted by the Tamarack Institute is “Disruption.”

The word disruption can evoke a mixed set of emotions. On one hand it may evoke anxiety. As Mark Cabaj shared in his introduction at CCI, we, humans, are hard-wired for stability.

On the other hand, it may evoke a sense of hopefulness and possibility. Disruption may lead to a positive break in patterns that are oppressive or no longer serve us.

The bottom line is disruption is needed for change. As Peggy Holman writes, without disruption there would be no need to change.

Sometimes disruption happens to us as in natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. Sometimes we creatively disrupt in order to promote a change, such as Occupy Wall Street or the Black Lives Matter movement.

It can also happen on a neighborhood level. In the past few years, Memphis neighborhoods have felt disruption when a local school closes. And, Memphis neighborhoods have creatively disrupted by ‘occupying’ an intersection or a few blocks and creatively demonstrating what might be possible when vacant storefronts are occupied; streets and sidewalks are improved for walkers and bikers; and open spaces invite people to stop, interact and connect with neighbors. (To learn more, visit

Disruption can be judged as good or as bad. One disruption might be judged good by some and bad by others. And, sometimes one might see the disruption as both good and bad. No wonder it can evoke strong emotions.

On Monday, the keynote speaker at CCI was Roger Martin who is the author of Getting Beyond Better. His talk was about how social entrepreneurs disrupt and seek to make something better, not just better but transformed. He shared examples of several social entrepreneurs, most can be found at

On Tuesday, the keynote speaker was Francis Westley who is the author of Getting to Maybe. She began her talk by talking about the complex times we live in. We are more connected and interdependent across the world than ever before. And, this contributes to natural and social disruptions that happen at an increasing rate.

One of the goals of the CCI is to provide tools and frameworks for embracing change, tolerating ambiguity, and cultivating a mindset for looking at both the short-term and the long-term possibilities.

Tamarack Institute generously puts tools and resources on their website for all to use. You might want to check it out, because…

Disruption happens!


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