We’ve all done it. We walk through our community and see something that we’d like to change: a rule regarding hours of trash collection or maintenance, or a change to the facilities in a common area like the addition of a playground or swimming pool. So, how do we make change happen?

Putting to use the change models that are effective in large organizations can be your best bet to make a change in your community. Most HOAs are like those organizations, with the need to create awareness and a desire for change, and multiple layers of approval. In the early 80’s, Harvard professor John Kotter presented an eight-step change model for organizations that is still the one most widely used today.

Because no one likes to follow eight steps, I will boil it down into some essential tasks that will better arm you to make a change in your community:

  1. Create awareness and a coalition to support your efforts. Most homeowners and board members already have full lives or their own agenda for the HOA. To get your change noticed and supported, you’ll have to do a bit of campaigning among your neighbors and with the board members. It’s important to get a few people to join you in this effort so that you create a coalition who can work with you and multiply your message.
  2. Create a vision and a plan. Assuming your effort has cost implications, how will it get funded and who will do the work? Work with your board members or consult your community’s governing documents about the process for approval and funding for initiatives. If your change is to an existing rule, determine the implications- both positive and negative- to the change and what it will take to get that rule changed.
  3. Seek approval and implement your action plan. Once your change is approved, determine how to put it into action. If it’s something you will be in charge of, gain the resources you need to oversee the work. If you’re handing the effort to the Board and its designees, set specific times to follow up and monitor the effectiveness of the plan.
  4. Follow up and celebrate successes. This is often the most overlooked phase of a change initiative, because people assume the work stops once the change is complete. Be sure to follow up to see that the change has truly taken effect and be prepared to take action if things have been left undone. Also, and more importantly, thank those who helped you along the change journey and plan to celebrate the success for them and for you. This will help reinforce their efforts and gain their future support should you find a new change to implement.

Even making a small change in your community can require a big effort, so I’d be remiss to end this post without some advice: be prepared for the change effort to take some time. That said, your community will benefit from your passion and persistence for a necessary change. As Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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