Building a Just Future: A Blueprint to Lead Transformation Now

Lina Srivastava
6 min readDec 10, 2020

The world looks different today than it did on November 2, 2020. A U.S. presidential election is only one among many indicators of progress around the world, but the results of this year’s election are a signal: We have a window of opportunity to reimagine a future that is inclusive, anti-racist, feminist, and that offers access and opportunity for all.

We have to confront the crises we currently face, and start planning to transform our systems. I am offering you a framework to guide that process.

For the past five years, I’ve been working on questions of transformation. Specifically I’ve examined how communities catalyze transformational change, using optimism, enterprise, and action, to achieve prosperity and justice for everyone. Nearly three years ago, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, I released Transformational Change Leadership (TCL), a framework that uses the stories of these communities’ leadership process to help social change leaders around the world do the same. In the time since its release, I have held TCL workshops with programs as varied as the Young African Leadership Initiative in Kampala, Uganda, the Young Leaders Access Program in Tbilisi, Georgia, and the Royal Society of the Arts in London, UK, among others. The result is a blueprint for transformation that is grounded in storytelling, collective action, and community-based decision making.

Why Now?

This resource will support you as you navigate our global crises and start shaping a more just future, within the context of your institutions, organizations, and community groups. We need this more than ever before: Over the past few years, those of us who work around the world in civil society — activists, scholars, or members of the creative and social sectors — have been struggling, and we need paths forward.

Let’s look at our current situation: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused loss of life and income on a massive scale. Uprisings around the world fueled by unrest are being met with repression. Displacement from conflict and famine — in places such as Ethiopia, Yemen, and Syria, among others — is rising again. The clock on climate change is ticking down. In this context, we in the civil society sector are trying to maintain efforts towards progress on myriad intersecting issues across rights, democracy, development, and humanitarian aid, while interrogating power structures within our organizations and institutions. Many of us are working in self-isolation on screens, challenging existing methods of collaboration at a time when mistrust of information platforms is at a high. At the same time, we are dealing with the effects of nationalism, fascism, and populism — that have promoted xenophobia, corruption, and extraction, from the United States to India, from the UK to Brazil — on both funding to the sector, as well as direct harms to the communities we serve. Longstanding embedded power imbalances have deepened.

This combination of issues has fully exposed how interconnected we are, while also starkly highlighting existing and deeply embedded inequities in our political, economic, cultural, and social systems. The way we have built these systems is inadequate to confront this moment.

How To Transform Our Systems

We are at a moment of fragility. We can’t return to pre-pandemic and pre-uprising “normal.” This year has shown us beyond a doubt we need transformational change towards justice, equality, and opportunity in communities across the world. And while we may be teetering on a precipice, we are also at a moment of possibility.

We can reimagine and build new systems. We have lived through a rapidly changing and altered landscape, and now we have new tools, new networks, and new movements to engage with. From anti-racism and pro-democracy protests to youth-led movements for the climate; from rapid innovations in vaccine development and distribution to discussions of ethics in artificial intelligence; from humanitarian sector programs aimed at localization and decolonization to the creation of new mutual aid networks: All together, these examples demonstrate what can happen when people come together in collaborations, movements, and collective action.

We have momentum. We have both an opportunity and a responsibility to start planning for a just future.

How do we move forward from where we are now? There is a set of questions we need to ask ourselves. How do we:

  • Adapt in a post-pandemic world?
  • Correct for the short-term damage of recent years of authoritarianism?
  • Interrogate our history of oppression based on racism, systemic inequality, colonialism, and extraction?
  • Create and harness global solidarity?
  • Shift our dominant narratives?
  • Generate community power?
  • Build shared vision and engage in collective action to establish new models?

Using the TCL Framework Now

We need to transition toward models that encourage distributed leadership and narrative power at the community level. Let’s examine our systems, how they interconnect and how we can transform them from the ground up; and let’s shift dominant narratives that guide the way decisions are made, who gets to make those decisions, and whose voices and stories are centered. And we will need to find, foster, and follow people and organizations on the ground that are catalyzing transformation.

I created the TCL framework to help you navigate complex times such as the one we face now. Through stories of leadership, the resource presents the processes and characteristics that unite leaders who create transformational change at scale. TCL is designed to help you learn from and emulate models from communities who catalyze their own change.

The framework will help you:

  • Explore examples of community-led or community-centered transformation;
  • Develop language to describe the future of your work;
  • Center narrative and lived experience as data and evidence;
  • Encourage new forms of thinking around narrative shift;
  • Learn why, when, and how to mobilize stakeholders.

Like the communities and organizations portrayed in TCL, we have the agency and capability to transform our systems and communities. While there is no one pathway to transformation, TCL will help you construct a blueprint for change that is based in collective and community-led decision making.

How to Use TCL

The TCL framework is a creative commons licensed platform, and so it’s free for you to use as you like, with proper attribution. I invite you to use it as a self-guided resource in your retreats, conferences, and strategic planning meetings, as follows:

1. Visit the Site Map to learn how to navigate the resource.

2. Read the stories on the site for hope and inspiration, and to explore different pathways to systems change.

3. Use the Discussion and Activity Guide with your teams or communities to examine your potential for transformation.

If you would like deeper scope for exploration and planning than self-guidance allows, please contact me about leading a workshop or a talk for your organization.

Moving Forward in 2021

In the coming year, I will launch the Center for Transformational Change — which I began planning as a Practitioner Fellow at Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. The Center’s mission builds on TCL and is aimed to help leaders navigate complex times through cultural strategy and narrative power. We will hold workshops and trainings on transformational change and stimulate new ways of thinking.

I hope you will join us. The coming months and years will call for new ways of telling our stories. We will be called to shift who makes decisions. We will be called to create new business models, impact models, and platforms based not on profit for the few but on shared prosperity. And we will be called to build new modes of production and collaboration, contributing to each other’s lives through mutual aid, cooperatives, and collectives.

My wish moving forward is to help us all create more stories about how to transform our communities, sharing them in an ever-growing “learning circle.” In this moment and window of opportunity, we should start leading for transformation now.



Lina Srivastava

Founder of Center for Transformational Change Using narrative to cultivate community power towards just futures.