Change agents

Networks rely on their membership to drive change and address wicked problems.  This blog reviews healthcare literature to understand what super powers change agents have and why you would want them in your network.    

Carol Read RN/MSc


The health and social care sector is changing rapidly as it tries to balance traditional ways of practice with new care models.  Alongside the constant swirl of change networks are set up to bridge the gaps in the system and address wicked problems.  Malby outlines in detail what makes networks distinct, in essence a network connects people around a shared sense of purpose and functions through principles of reciprocity.  There are similarities with other methods of organisation, such as social movements and Satell (2017) outlines five steps which enhance the process and drive change -

  1. Define the change you want to see.
  2. Shift the spectrum of allies. 
  3. Identify the pillars of power.
  4. Seek to attract not overcome.
  5. Build a plan to survive victory.


Therefore if similarites exist, what does it matter?

Playing devils advocate I would suggest it does not matter, what makes a network great is the abiity to harness the skillsets of individuals, horizon scan for new ways of working and understanding when the work of the network is completed.  I recently interviewed Sanjay Agrawal for the Source4Networks platform and he outlined several of those points with his experience as a leader of two networks.  This leadership included knowing when to stop a network, an experience he found difficult.  Change agents can help, they are often the people in your network who may be the first to recognise when your network is not working and will flag it up to others.  They will also seek to build a plan to survive victory, as Satell puts it.  This could mean that the network is disbanded and the problem the network was set up for has been solved.  

Change agents super powers are multi-dimensionalone power is they are capable of making the unseen visable.  Useful communication tools for potential change agents within your network can be identified from the powerful illustration from history in the article by Christiano & Neimand (2018).  The very first example of an inforgraphic was used to highlight a change that was needed to sucessfully stop the slave trade. 


We see infographics and sketch notes used within many of the social movements and change agent programmes today, these visuals are being used for the same purpose - transformational change.  Simple tips for communication can be drawn from this article and it is worth reading in full to understand how the methods used could be deployed across a network. 

To understand further tools and techniques that have been used in the NHS and international healthcare sectors I have highlighted a few campaigns, additional reading and a video that will support network leaders and show how change agents can be an asset to a network.

Stachowiak & Gase

Battilana and Casciaro (2013)

Leading large scale change - A practical guide

NHS Change Day

Change Day Alberta


Freer TEDX