Leonard Jason’s ‘Principles of Social Change’


I’m currently briefly in County Durham on holiday – this is ‘our’ river – and am just finishing reading an extraordinary book – Leonard Jason’s “Principles of Social Change” (published 2013 by Oxford University Press). This examines how a five point approach – very briefly: focusing on second-order change, identifying and weakening the power holders, creating coalitions with communities and other activist groups, persistence and long-term engagement, and constantly evaluating and refining strategies and tactics – has served him in a life-time’s engagement in community activism. I’m particularly interested in what he has to say because in many ways it relates to current debates about ‘participatory’ and ‘socially engaged’ art and, additionally, supports and extends what I’ve been saying about the need for externally facing interdisciplinary/multi-constituency arts-led research work, ‘ecosophical’ collaboration, communities of transverse action, and so on.

I met Prof Jason – who directs the Centre for Community Research at DePaul University in Chicago – through helping my wife Natalie and son Josh on their film Voices from the Shadows. I collected them all and drove them across London so they could interview him on his way to a conference. In the book he references Natalie’s book Lost Voices in his discussion of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He’s an extraordinary man and it’s a very impressive book. It is very simply and directly written, is measured while pulling no punches, and I would highly recommend it.

I have now added a summary/review of this book on a separate page.