Introduction to the Social Change Model for Leadership Development

The start to an article series that connects the seven “C’s” of leadership for social change to Michigan 4-H’s seven guiding principles.

It seems there are more buzz words related to leadership than ever before—new approaches and programs to help teens have more grit, grow as critical thinkers and increase their failure resiliency. While I agree all these skills and tools are important, at Michigan 4-H we believe leadership isn’t a one-stop-shop. Having grit or the ability to think critically in a tough situation can contribute to someone being a leader, but as a single trait doesn’t necessarily make them a leader. Instead, we believe to develop oneself as a leader, you must develop and employ a collection of skills. These skills could include the ones noted above, but aren’t limited to just the three examples shared.

The Social Change Model of Leadership Development frames leadership as a process that involves individuals and groups with the overarching goal of enacting some kind of positive social change—taking action to help the community function more effectively and humanely. The first key component of Social Change Model of Leadership Development to highlight is that leadership is considered a process. While there may be formal “leadership positions” such as elected officers, this model frames leadership as the development of a number of different competencies.

Michigan State University Extension frames most of its youth development programs using Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model, which at the most basic level is a cycle of thinking, doing and reflecting. The Social Change Model of Leadership Development fits well will the Experiential Learning Model, because the Social Change Model of Leadership Development recognizes that learning happens when we try to make meaning from our experiences (reflecting on what we’ve done).

Traditionally, the idea of the Social Change Model of Leadership Development came out of the higher education student affairs field, and while leadership development can be approached from a variety of avenues, we feel the Social Change Model of Leadership Development offers great opportunities for framing youth development programs, specifically youth leadership and civic engagement programs. The Social Change Model of Leadership Development is grounded in the values of equity, social justice, service, personal empowerment and citizenship, meaning it is also extremely well-aligned to Michigan 4-H’s seven guiding principles.

The seven guiding principles of Michigan 4-H are:

  1. Youth develop positive relationships with adults and peers.
  2. Youth are physically and emotionally safe.
  3. Youth are actively engaged in their own development.
  4. Youth are considered participants rather than recipients in the learning process.
  5. Youth develop skills that help them succeed.
  6. Youth recognize, understand and appreciate multiculturalism.
  7. Youth grow and contribute as active citizens through service and leadership.

Fittingly, the Social Change Model of Leadership Development has seven guiding values called the “seven C’s of leadership for social change”. They are:

  1. Consciousness of self
  2. Congruence
  3. Commitment
  4. Collaboration
  5. Common purpose
  6. Controversy with civility
  7. Citizenship

These seven C’s help frame the Social Change Model of Leadership Development from three different levels: individual values, group values and societal or community values. When employed and engaged at all three levels, this process of leadership development can create positive community change. This series of articles will further explain each of the seven C’s, how it fits with the Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles and share some Michigan 4-H examples of programming, activities or probing questions you could exercise to engage youth in the Social Change Model of Leadership Development.

MSU Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas. To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, civic engagement, citizenship and global/cultural programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.”

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