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Resistance to change can be a very powerful force

Updated on August 28, 2014

Rural living in central Chile

Smallholding
Smallholding | Source

Setting the scene

A few weeks ago I wrote about teens as “agents of change”, and I was delighted to see that because of it I received a HubNugget accolade. Now I intend to add some more information to the same theme.

(See the complete previous article)

In this new Hub I will continue referring to the difficulties created by resistance to change, and I will highlight some details about incorporating teachers in innovative projects, and also about external factors that obviously delay the overall economic development of the smallholders living in our “interior drylands” , who try to subsist under complex geographic and climatic conditions.

Teachers at work

Doing creative work
Doing creative work | Source

Increasing the amount of teacher involvement

The teaching staff of the New Zealand School at Santa Juana, Chile (where we worked on the project that was the central theme of my previous Hub), was represented by a group of about 40 professionals. The non teaching staff came to about 35, so the running of the school involved about 75 persons in total.

This was a numerous group, and as each member had a particular profile, set of motivations, goals and characteristics, it was not an easy task to achieve the same level of commitment from all of them; in fact I think it would not have been a very realistic goal for the leading team. At best we would be able to achieve some degree of involvement and consider ourselves lucky if we got that far.

A simplistic description of the teaching group would be to put them into three groups, ranging from “very committed” , through “informed but rather indifferent”, to “in outright opposition”.

The leading team was constantly involved in finding ways to interest all the teachers, and to finding the opportune moment to get them to commit.

There is a very good example of ”the opportune moment” with reference to two of the teachers, which I will include in the next section.

La Serena, Chile

View of La Serena, Chile
View of La Serena, Chile | Source
View of La Seran, Chile
View of La Seran, Chile | Source
A view of the Cathedral, La Serena, Chile
A view of the Cathedral, La Serena, Chile | Source
A view of a Colonial style church, La Serena, Chile
A view of a Colonial style church, La Serena, Chile | Source
Partial view of the beach at La Serena Chile
Partial view of the beach at La Serena Chile | Source
A good view of the La Serena-Coquimbo complex, La Serena, Chile
A good view of the La Serena-Coquimbo complex, La Serena, Chile | Source
The Museum in La Serena, a colonial style building
The Museum in La Serena, a colonial style building | Source

Recognizing opportunities for achieving involvement

At some moment halfway through the initial period of our project, the educational authorities requested all school communities throughout the country, that were involved in curriculum innovation, to present status reports at a big general meeting to be held in a place designated by the organizers.

The choice of locality was La Serena, a resort town north of the capital (Santiago), famous for its long white sand beaches, the good weather, and the wonderful food. The city has preserved an old colonial style reminiscent of the Spanish influence, so it is an important tourist attraction at a national and international level. It is also rather expensive, so generally out of reach for people working on a teacher’s salary. All in all, a dream place!

The meeting was to last 3 days, all expenses paid, including the trip there and back, a fantastic experience for many hard working educators.

So we had to designate our representatives; here we ran into some problems, as the more involved members of the team were all women, with family commitments, children at school, or studying for a postgraduate degree and taking tests. They certainly could not run away for 5 days, the necessary period of time to travel there, attend the meeting and travel back. (La Serena is about 800 kms. away from our city of Concepción, and the participants would not be using air travel).

It was obvious that the persons we sent could not be women, so what about the men? We finally settled on two candidates, one of which was “informed but indifferent”, and the other was “in outright opposition”. Not such a good choice! But somebody had to represent the school, so we decided to risk it and offered them the job.

When they received the news, their faces were a picture! They were torn between two sentiments, as on the one hand they really wanted this fabulous trip, and on the other, they were not very well prepared to represent the school project. We offered them all our support and helped them organize the information and construct their presentation. And off they went!

A very short version of their experiences is as follows:

  • ·The participants from the other schools went all out and bombarded them with questions, praise and extreme interest.
  • ·The authorities were impressed.
  • · They worked really hard, as when they finally got to La Serena, the full weight of their responsibility to our school community fell on their shoulders, and they spent numerous hours of the day and night studying up the project and extra details that could come up in the question period.
  • · They felt satisfied that they had done a good job.
  • · They admitted that for the first time they really understood what it was all about, and seeing it through the eyes of the other representatives, made them change their overall view of what we were attempting.
  • · They also admitted quite honestly that up to that moment they had felt that the whole thing was just “some crazy idea conceived by the (new) principal” and therefore not worth worrying about.

As a team we were delighted, and added another ingredient to our own on-the-spot training, as we were also learning as we went along, none of us were experts at leading social change.

As a conclusion, we never really achieved a general commitment from all the teachers, their individual characteristics were too varied, but at least we reduced the “total opposition”, and that was a big help.

Resistance to change is a very, very powerful force!

A Strategy for Reducing the General Resistance to Change

What do you think of our strategy for reducing resistance through participation?

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Resistance to change can have important effects on economic development

I will emphasize once more that the geography of the area we are referring to, the interior drylands of central Chile, is really complex as to climate, volumes of water and quality of soil, all of them important factors for smallholder agriculture. In my previous article I highlighted some aspects of the soil, but now I want to refer to the characteristics of the flow of water, or rather, the excess of it during some months and the scarcity during others.

Very briefly, the situation is as follows:

  • · The area has one or two good sized rivers, which flow along the bottom of some of the valleys.
  • · The rest of the terrain is hilly and beginning to be strongly affected by erosion.
  • · Most of the smallholders live up in the hills, where the subdivision of land is very high.
  • · The rainfall is very intense during about 3 to 4 months every year, frequently causing floods.
  • · The water runs down the sides of the hills, carrying with it even more of the fragile topsoil, and finally washes into the rivers, which are becoming badly silted up.
  • · During about 6 months of each year, the sun just beats down, and temperatures can rise to over 35º Centigrade. The soil and the people sit and bake with the heat, at times it is even difficult to breath.
  • · By that time, the water, which was so plentiful, has all disappeared somewhere out to sea.
  • · Water is fast turning into a scarce commodity due to overall changes in the weather, and ought to be carefully preserved, thus avoiding both erosion and the silting up of the rivers, which in the future will only complicate matters still further.
  • · Water is also needed to improve farming through better irrigation.
  • · This is a really complex chain of events and not so easy to solve, I would think.
  • · The required innovations are expensive, and naturally meet resistance to change head on, thus reducing the possibility of success.

The drylands cover a very big area

Rural living in the drylands
Rural living in the drylands
A small, very simple place of worship, way up in the hills.
A small, very simple place of worship, way up in the hills.
A view of the drylands
A view of the drylands
A view of the drylands
A view of the drylands
Another view of the drylands
Another view of the drylands
Another view
Another view
And another view
And another view

A very good example of a successful innovation

Before working in Santa Juana (16 years as principal), I worked in another rural area, where I was principal for 6 years in another school. This was in the Commune of Ranquil, somewhere near Chiilán, and a bit north from Concepción. And this time it was “coastal drylands”, that is, lands facing the Ocean, although not all that near to the Pacific.

The geographic and climatic conditions are similar to Santa Juana, with one difference: the area produces grapes and wine. The summers are even hotter, and the winters can be pretty fierce, where bridges and roads can be swept away, and there is often no electricity due to the wind. It is also colder than Santa Juana, as temperatures drop to below freezing point (-10º Centigrade is not unusual).

While I worked there, I had to live there during the week, as the school is located about 100 Kms. from Concepcion, and the bus trip involves a rather precarious rural transport system. It is much more isolated than Santa Juana is. During my stay there, on about 5 occasions I became marooned in the little town of Ñipas and could not get back to Concepcion at all.

The mayor, who was also my boss in the municipal educational system, owned a large farm close by, and was very involved in the wine and grape production. He periodically invited some teachers to lunch at his home, and I was able to observe and to learn from a really well run enterprise. Both he and his wife were first and second generation Swiss-French, and very industrious and proactive.

They had found a solution to the problem of the water and the irrigation of their vineyards, which I found admirable. As they told it to me, they got some help from some engineering friends, who studied the terrain and located a small valley above the vineyards, into which the rainwater ran naturally. As they described it, every drop of water that ran down the hillsides, was collected in that one place. So they closed the mouth of the little valley with a high but simple wall, into which they installed several outlets at the bottom of the wall, which were in turn controlled by a large wheel that was moved by hand from the top of the wall. The wall itself was quite beautiful, as it was covered with soil that produced colorful flowers.

During the winter rain, a lake was formed in the valley, big enough to swim in or row a boat. They even had some fish there, who kept the water clear from pollution by eating the unwanted insects and minor vegetation that developed in the water.

When the time came to provide irrigation to the vineyards, a collection of medium length plastic tubes were carried out of the warehouse, where they had been stored out of way up near the roof. The various sections of piping were then interlocked to form really long tubes, having first connected them to the outlets in the wall.- As the ground continues to slope down towards the planted area, all they had to do was to open the controls, and gravity did the rest!

I had never seen anything like it, and was properly amazed. As a matter of fact, I still remember it with admiration, as these were not rich people, just hard working producers. And the amount of capital invested in this installation was minimal. Most of the work was done by nature, by gravity, or by hand, and very efficiently too! Maybe this kind of installation is common in other parts of the world, but to me it is still a marvel of ingenuity.

This then, would be my solution for the wastage of water during the rainy period, in all the area characterized as the “drylands of central Chile”. This is a really big area, extending over two regions and involving numerous provinces, communes and small rural localities.

But here is where the strong force of resistance to chainge comes into its own! I am sure that up in the very extensive hilly area, there must be many locations that have the necessary characteristics to turn them into rain water reservoirs, but it is also highly probable that this location would cover ground belonging to more than one smallholder, maybe to as many as three or four. So how would they come to some agreement about the construction itself, and about the ownership of the water? I can imagine them being filled with suspicion and very resistant to taking the initial steps, after all, this is something that has never been done, and there would be no way of knowing just what the benefits would be, at least nothing that could be reduced to statistics and hard facts. All in all, a difficult, if not impossible, innovation to sell!

Resistance to Change has Lasting Effects on Economic Development

Do you think "Resistance to Change" is a fundamental factor in blocking economic development?

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Some conclusions

I think the main conclusion would be that participation in initiating ventures is a really effective way of getting round the block caused by “resistance to change”.

This element was certainly true in our experience with our two fellow teachers, and I think it would also be true in the case of the smallholders. The problem here is that these isolated groups, for a variety of reasons, have not had much opportunity to practice participation in anything let alone something as complicated as a rainwater reservoir that works by gravity.

The next generation of leaders will have to make big efforts in this direction. This is a goal that the Chilean nation has not yet achieved.

© 2012 joanveronica (Joan Robertson)

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    • profile image

      Susana 5 years ago

      I think it is in human nature not taking changes so well, but it is also in us the power to persevere...

      Another wonderful article Joan. Very well written. You can tell there is a lot of sweat and tears...

      It is always a pleasure to read and share your work!

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Thank you Susana. I have always written a lot, both in Spanish and in English, but mainly for academic work. This is a new venture for me, so any support is happily received!

    • profile image

      Marcelo 5 years ago

      The the divergent thinking, is the spark of the innovation. When you really want to make something different and fight for it you can get an "extra force" that will help you to jump up the barriers.

      Great article!.

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi Marcelo! Many thanks for your comments, I liked your description of the "extra force". Yes, this does happen when you commit to something that you feel is really important. As to "divergent thinking", I seem to have a high percentage of it, and am always fighting inertia and the status quo! This makes for an eventful life.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Joanveronica, I was fascinated with your telling of the event. You used a great method in getting the to see your angle on the program. Chili has some beautiful scenery and I hope that the people learn to reach out and embrace progressive thinking. Great hub article.

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi again, teacher12345! I'm so glad you liked this article. I was principal at Santa Juana for 16 years, and there are so many memories. I spent a previous 6 years as principal at another Municipal school, also in the drylands. All told a difficult and demanding professional life, but a fascinating experience!

    • profile image

      Fernando Saenz 5 years ago

      Dear joanveronica, life itself is composed by a series of different ventures and therefore stories… and your writing really gathers some very interesting ones!!! I´m glad to hear that this “Hubpages experience” is going perfectly well. I´ll be looking forward to read additional essays of your authorship…

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi Fernando, thank you for your coment! I am doing well at this writing venture, which I combine with my classes. Hope to see you soon!

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      Julio Tobar 5 years ago

      good story! we grew up as a result of several changes, physical and menthal; these process often is painful, but, when we reach embrace the new stage, the sensation of feeling comfortable with ourselves, yeah! is great.

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi Julio, thank you for your comment. I hope you will be able to visit the rain reservoir soon, I know you are interested in it.

    • profile image

      Hubert Williams 5 years ago

      Necessity will hopefully take the forefront and shove resistance out of the way. Ranchers tried to keep water from the farmers in the days of settling the west. Many senseless killings took place, but the farmers and settlers persevered andobtained their water rights. I hope these people can keep bloodshed out of the negotiating and create a win-win solution. Beautiful pictures.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 5 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thank you! My work on resistance to change has been mostly in corporate America, and I can say that, with greater education and better economic status, people are just as resistant to change as ever!

      I deeply admire your respect for those who resisted your efforts, your persistence in working with them, your courage in having them represent you, and your creativity in helping people open their eyes at "the opportune moment."

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi SidKemp, thank you so much for your comment! Your thoughts are very important for me, as this topic doesn't seem to be overly popular. I think we meet this resistance every day in both the big and the little issues, it doesn't seem to go away, and I don't think it ever will All we can do is try to learn how to ride it and still reach our objectives. Thanks again! Be happy!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      This is a remarkable hub. Your point of resistance to change is well made and documented. How wonderful, in your first section, that the representatives you sent learned the value of what they were representing. How frustrating, in the second section, to know there are ways to help the summer water shortage and not be able to implement them.

      This was a great, educational hub. Voted up and interesting.

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi, tillsontitan. Thank you so much for your comment! Especially for the word "remarkable"! This has made my day, and given me energy to persevere. Thank you, thank you.

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      To many, change is rather frightening and to be approached with trepidation. There is also "the old is good enough" attitude to be overcome and that can be just as difficult.

      Add in that it takes real work and commitment to change to accomplish it and it is understandable why so many are quite content and happy for things to remain just as they are.

      A very good hub, with some excellent examples. Well done!

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 4 years ago

      I read a book recently called "¡The Gringo Brought His Mother!" written by the mother of a Peace Corps Volunteer. She talked about her visit to him at his site in Guatemala and described some of the people she met there. In her descriptions of what her son was doing I could see the very resistance to change you are talking about here. Even something as obvious (to us) as washing your hands before eating did not make sense to them. It was just a waste of precious water and they didn't get the connection between that and illness.

      I see resistence here in the US too, all the time. Very good hub and good points, Joan.

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi, watergeek! This was a pleasant surprise, to receive a visit and a comment on this Hub! I have noticed a tendency to avoid involvement in topics on "resistance to change", which I think is also a resistance to change! Your comment is very interesting, and I agree that this "resistance" is not exclusive to the lesser developed areas of the world. It also affects the so-called "developed nations" as well. Thanks once again for the visit and the comment! Have a good day!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK

      Joan, really enjoyed reading this article - your first two paragraphs about the school rang so many bells for me. I was a senior manager in a school where 2 old schools were amalgamated - nightmare! Mainly because of the points you make - they really were all on a 'spectrum' when it came to their desire to change and it caused far too much grief. We did try participation a lot in the first year with some success but far too often , other school business meant the change meetings were not well attended and soon things began to slide. I left last year but I don't think much has changed. I used to teach change management back in the day and every group I ever encountered had a mix of enthusiasm and a few bolshy types - comes with the territory :o) Loved the wine production story too (I am making my own hooch at the moment on a shoestring!)

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 3 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi Jools99 what a lovely surprise it was to receive your visit and comment! Especially as we apparently have some similar expreinces with this absorbing and often frustrating topic. I'm so glad you enjoyed these stories. The funny thing is, I retired from my teaching life and left that same school behind. I have since heard that many of those memebers of the staff who complained about the extra efforts involved in trying to "change", have taken to stating that things are not the same as when... and that the present administration doesn't "do anything". They have actually stated that they were better off in the days of my directorship! Weird! but that's life, I suppose they were slow to make their way to the proposed objectives and reached them after I had gone. Another lesson learnt, at least for me: the time factor is all important. Anyway, thanks again and I'll be seeing you!

    • profile image

      suzettenaples 3 years ago

      Excellent article. I am s retired teacher and I have also taught overseas. Sounds like these teachers were living in an isolated area and when they transferred to the sunshine and met other teachers who embraced the new teaching ideas, they realized how their indifference and intolerance to change was silly. Your strategy worked! Congratulations. Sounds like you had a very interesting teaching assignment and career.

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 3 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi suzettenaples so happy for your visit and comment! I'm glad you could identify with these situations due to your own experience. And yes, I definitely did have very interesting teaching career - still do, as a matter of fact, I give private lessons to professionals who need to keep up their English. Thanks again, and have good day!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      A great hub, it is amazing how rain water is harvested and stored for use during the dry seasons. Resisting change is like resisting a breath of fresh air. Great write voted up.

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 3 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi Vellur, many thanks for your visit and your comment, I'm glad you liked this Hub. I wrote it from the heart, I really believe in these ideas! Harvesting and storing rain water is going to be a very important issue in the near future, I think! We need to become more active in this matter I believe. So thanks again, and I'll see you online!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      It is amazing how change can affect many people in these ways I know change is certainly a power of our minds and resisting change is so challenging. Looking at how others live in poverty and can't afford to use the precious needs. Great hub.

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 3 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi DDE so happy for your visit and comment! This was my second Hub and that was quite some time ago, but I think the topic is ever challenging. We humans don't change our set ways very easily, I'm afraid! See you!

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