29 Perspectives on Change: An Exploration of the Synergies Between Organizations, their Internal Practices and their Aspirations for Social Change

Jennifer Bruce


Social purpose organizations have become an important site of social innovation. These types of organizations possess the ability to influence policy while also contributing to social well-being, community development and other positive outcomes. However, social purpose organizations are facing increasing struggles to sustain themselves, to navigate political, social and environmental uncertainty and complexity. This often contributes to a disconnect between what organizations are trying to accomplish in the world and how staff experience their organizational life. Thus, this research explores how organizations can more consciously align their internal practices with their broader social change goals. The purpose is to uncover practical insights on how organizations can deepen their social impact and to engage more deliberately in their day-to-day practices. This has yet to be explored fulsomely in academic and applied literature and even less so has been transferred to organizational settings. Through a preliminary literature review, this research has identified four approaches that speak to the dynamic between social change and organizational development. Using a social innovation approach to social change, this research critically engages in the opportunities, limitations and tensions within the current literature. It also expands the applied knowledge and practice for social organizations through three themes – the human space, architecture and external relationships. Overall, it argues that a power analysis, intentionality and a holistic practice are key features of organization development and socially innovative processes for organizations.