The Diffusion of Innovation, 5th ed by Everett Rogers

Chapter 9 – The Change Agent

  • One main role of a change agent is to facilitate the flow of innovations from change agency to an audience. To be effective innovations must match client’s needs. Feedback must flow through the change agent to the change agency to allow for adjustments. Change agents usually possess a high degree of expertise. Their superior know-how poses a barrier They must avoid information overload by selecting only the information their audience needs.

The Sequence of Change Agent Roles

  • 1) Develop a need for change – Point out new alternatives to existing problems, assess needs
  • 2) Establish an information exchange relationship – Establish rapport and gain confidence
  • 3) Diagnose problems – Get client’s perspective
  • 4) Create an intent to change – motivate client
  • 5) Translate intent into action – work with opinion leaders
  • 6) Stabilize adoption and prevent discontinuance – assist adopters so they become change agents themselves
  • 7) Achieve terminal relationship – move on

Factors in Change Agent Success

  • Effort – in contacting clients
  • Client orientation – base activities on client’s need, gather feedback, and develop rapport
  • Compatibility with clients’ needs – They should be aware of felt needs and be willing to shape them.
  • Empathy with clients

More on para-professionals

  • Change agent aides may have less competence credibility, but they have the special advantage of safety credibility, the degree to which a communication source is seen as trustworthy. They are seen as peers with selfish motives or manipulative intentions. Commercial sex workers are seen as credible as peer educators in HIV prevention programs. Aides should also not try to act and dress like professionals.

Concentrate on Opinion Leaders

  • Change agents need to concentrate their efforts on opinion leaders. Opinion leaders have followers whereas innovators are the first to adopt new ideas and are often perceived as deviants. Demonstrations can help. Be sure to differentiate between experimental demonstrations that are conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of a new idea and exemplary demonstrations that are conducted to facilitate diffusion. One should also work to improve a client’s evaluative ability.

Decentralized Diffusion

  • Centralized diffusion systems feature a top-down model that goes from experts to local users. Decentralized diffusion features peer diffusion of innovations through horizontal networks. New ideas arise and are spread by users to others who further adapt or re-invent the ideas. The capacity of users to manage their own diffusion system is greatest when users are highly educated and the innovation being diffused does not involve a sophisticated level of technology.
  • Decentralized systems are more likely to fit more closely with users’ needs and problems. Users feel a sense of control and the process is more cost-efficient as there is no need for professional change agents. What is lacking is a central coordination along with technical support and evaluation. Hybrid systems that feature decentralized decision making with central support can fit in certain circumstances (like education).
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