Institutional Change


  • To build understanding of institutional change
  • To brainstorm actions to reflect institutional change


  • Lamont and Lily situation sheet (1 copy)
  • Rene and Rachel situation sheet (1 copy)
  • Sonya situation sheet (1 copy)
  • Changestopper Changemaker skits (8 copies)

Prepare Before


Warm Up

Give three examples of institutions that impact your life.


Today we are going to look at how our actions can change institutions instead of blaming the people impacted by these institutions.

Let’s introduce two kinds of people — the Changemaker and the Changestopper. Changemakers connect problems to root causes and to institutions.  Changestoppers blame people for their problems.   Most of us move back and forth between these two types of people. Ask for 8 volunteers to do a skit, and give each of them a Changestopper Changemaker skits sheet. Have 4 volunteers perform the first skit, then have 4 volunteers perform the second skit.

Divide class into 3 groups.  Each group will receive a situation sheet: either Lamont and Lily, Rene and Rachel, or Sonya.  They should complete the questions on the sheet, prepare a skit to demonstrate Changemakers and Changestoppers, and be prepared to discuss the answers to their questions.


After each skit ask,

  • How did the Changestopper see the problem?
  • How did the Changemaker see the problem?
  • What institution did they connect it to?
  • Are there other institutions that this problem could be connected to?
  • According to the Changestopper, what is the cause of this problem?
  • According to the Changemaker, what is the cause of this problem?
  • For each person, how would they try to solve this problem?

After both skits:

  • Why is it easier to be a Changestopper than a Changemaker?


Victim-blaming is common in our society.   It is easier to blame someone for their circumstances because then it doesn’t affect us and we don’t have to do anything about it.  It’s easy to say “Work harder” or “I made it, why can’t you?”  This fits with our dominant culture’s belief in the American Dream.   But, once we look at the root of the problem, we can see that there is a deeper cause, a fundamental problem that must be solved if we want the system to be different for everyone.


Get into groups of 4-5.  In groups, brainstorm a scenario that fits your research question.   The scenario should demonstrate what a Changestopper might think and what a Changemaker might think.   For example, if your issue was alcohol use at school, when a student is drunk at school, a Changestopper might increase the punishment for that student, a Changemaker might do many things — lead an assembly on alcohol use, lead a campaign to decrease the amount of liquor stores near schools, or look at the root causes that make someone want to drink.

What did the Changemakers see as the root causes? What types of actions did they come up with?   Were all of them creating institutional change?

Refer class to Solarzano’s 4 quadrants, if needed. Just because change is not victim-blaming doesn’t make it institutional.  It’s possible to create change that helps individuals but does not change the conditions that create the problem — in fact, many organizations take actions that are not institutional. For this research question, we want to make sure to take actions that lead toward institutional change, even while helping those most impacted by this problem.


Which change that you heard today do you like the best?  What about it do you like?  How likely is it to change the conditions at our school?