The Ripple Effect and Cinderella’s Glass Slipper

What is the best way to produce social change?

Some of us believe social change is something that should be produced by trying to influence an organism using outside forces.

On the other hand, some of us consider that to produce social change it should be done by focusing on the individual that will eventually trigger a domino effect on other individuals as Mother Teresa, who has been famously quoted, when she suggested that our actions could have a powerful effect as drops of water have in the ocean.


Similarly, Mahatma Gandhi pointed out through his Khadi Revolution the ripple effect that one individual’s actions could have in society.

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However, even if the change is done individually or collectively, the paradox about social change appears: the more change is pursued, the less it happens.

What could be the best approach to social change in this scenario?

Should we allow change to happen as a natural process and trust the universe that it will do its work?

According to different holistic views, such as transformative social change approaches, and those that consider the role of spirituality for social change (Yasuno, 2008; Kumar, 2013),  human beings come to this world to individually evolve and transform themselves and therefore their surroundings by developing awareness of one’s own place in the world (Zimmerman, Pathikonda, Salgado and James, 2010). Taking this into account, it could be said that if each individual concentrates on his/her own development, everyone else will take care of themselves in the same way. Therefore, we will all achieve our own degree of awareness according to what we were meant to do in this world, and as a ripple effect, society will eventually do, like this:

Social Change ‘One-Dimensional’ Equation
Produced with the help of this tool edited by Conscious Digest @consciousdig

Even if the above equation looks ideal, or unrealistic to some, this is the way it works from a simple, one-dimensional, perspective. However, many other variables come into play, when analyzing social change, which make the equation more complex. This is one of the main reasons why social change is not such a straightforward process, at least when explained rationally.

A metaphor about social change

Sometimes, the conditions of the environment are ‘not the right ones’ for a specific change to happen, however, there are some people who still insist for change to take place.

Just imagine Cinderella’s sisters trying to fit Cinderella’s slipper on their huge foot. The more they tried, the least likely the shoe would fit in. Their individual conditions and those of the environment, weren’t the right ones, however, they kept insisting for the whole situation to change. The harder they tried, the least it was going to happen.

If the conditions aren’t right, social change won’t be produced even if individuals or groups of people, are trying to force it to happen.
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The same happens with social change and individual processes and desires. It is not only the fact that ‘an individual or many individuals want the world to be different’, it is also the fact that their own individual conditions should be the appropriate ones and those of the environment for change to take place.

Do we have the right as individuals inside a system, to trigger social change in a larger scale or do we need to focus in changing ourselves and trust that changes in society will happen?

Is change something that should be pursued (individually or collectively) in the first place?

Note to readers: This post is part of my reflections of Critical Issues in Campaigning  at the University of Westminster MA in Media Campaigning and Social Change.


Kumar, S. (2013). Soil Soul Society: A New Trinity for Our Time. East Sussex – UK: Leaping Hare Press.

Yasuno, M. (2008). The Role of Spirituality in Leadership for Social Change. Available from:

Zimmerman, K., Pathikonda, N., Salgado, B., James, T. (2010). Out of the Spiritual Closet: Organizers Transforming the Practice of Social Justice. Oakland, CA: Movement Strategy Center.

The featured image on this post was taken from: and edited by LivingLightlyArt.