March 24, 2016

Understanding Transformative Action


Transformative action is a model for personal and social change.


During his doctoral research, Scott Sherman, the Transformative Action Institute’s (TAI) founder, investigated the question, “what strategies correlate with success and failure when people try to change the world?” After studying hundreds of case studies across many social causes, the findings astounded him.

Most of the strategies that he learned as both a community organizer and a lawyer turned out not to be effective in solving social issues and conflicts. In fact, these strategies are often counter-productive. They can generate a bitter, fractious “us versus them” atmosphere where tremendous resources and energies are wasted in fighting, while solutions go undiscovered. As a result, many good-hearted citizens who are working for democracy, the environment, health care, and other important causes become burnt out, exhausted, and overwhelmed.
Instead, Sherman discovered that the people who we’re most often winning their campaigns were using very different tactics. These people were successfully transforming enemies into allies, hatred into goodwill, and conflict into collaboration. Rather than simply protesting about what’s wrong with the world,they were coming up with creative win-win solutions that uplifted all stakeholders. As a result, these leaders were successful in catalyzing the power, money, and creativity of all stakeholders towards finding innovative solutions. With no term to define these tactics, Sherman coined them “Transformative Action” and identified three key principles which made up this new model (see the principles explained below).


 He also realized that these principles were effective in describing how people can achieve personal change as well. The model provides the fundamental process for understanding how to turn negatives into positives, pessimism into optimism, and obstacles into opportunities for personal growth.
TAI Principles2
But how do people transform? And how can they develop these mind-sets that are essential for transforming the world?

The Transformative Action Institute was born out of the need for trainings and tools that can help people develop their capacities for creativity, emotional intelligence, resilience, optimism, courage, and other 21st century skills.

To read an in depth article by Dr. Scott Sherman on transformative action, CLICK HERE.