The Tenacious Change Approach in Action

The Tenacious Change Approach is designed to help you make lasting change in communities, organizations, and systems through ownership-based change and collective change leadership. The Tenacious Change Approach is used to create a movement for change that brings the whole community together to participate, own, and lead the change.


positive diverse people making faces at camera

“Community” typically refers to a group of people residing in the same geographic area. However, “community” can also refer to people in the same organization or system connected by common work, values, or beliefs. In the Tenacious Change Approach “community” is used in a broad sense to include ways in which people feel connected to one another beyond geography.


The Tenacious Change Approach can be used anytime a movement for positive change toward the greater good is needed. It was originally created to help communities adopt more positive social attitudes, policies, practices, and systems related to the prevention of teen pregnancies. Since then, it has continued to be used in teen pregnancy prevention and also behavioral health and other issues communities care about. It can also help communities start positive change movements on topics such as: 

  • Homelessness reduction
  • Substance Abuse prevention
  • Bullying and violence prevention
  • Environmental action
  • Coronavirus and pandemic interventions
  • Actually, any greater community good!

In 2018, in partnership with the Tamarack Institute, we facilitated a behavioral health summit for over 160 people in West Palm Beach, Florida. Using Appreciative Inquiry strategies, we led a diverse, inclusive group of community participants through a process of discovering and affirming their understanding of the issues and claiming the vision and the aspiration to be a community in which every person in Palm Beach County feels hopeful, supported, connected, and empowered. The outcome was the birth of BeWellPBC.


Within businesses, public or private agencies, school systems, and other groups and systems, the Tenacious Change Approach can also help create a movement in support of strengthening the organizational culture. 


A county public agency in New York has been challenged to recruit and retain staff over the past few years. A hostile environment in the community, created by a dissatisfied client, weakened the morale and culture of the agency. This, in turn, made recruitment and retention even more challenging. Working in partnership with Metrix Marketing we have created a collective change leadership group within the agency. The group, comprised of senior leadership, management, front line staff, and office personnel, collaborated to identify, test, and apply innovations to strengthen the culture and aid in staff retention.


Built on research and practical experience, the Tenacious Change Approach is a set of ten essential operating principles, and their core tasks for diverse, inclusive, broad-based collective change leadership. The essential operating principles are the values and ideas that guide change. The core tasks are the processes for living up to those values and putting the principles into action.

HOPE Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, successfully brought together a diverse group of community members to participate in a collaborative planning and leadership group to address teen pregnancy. However, controversy over core values related to equality and equity threatened to derail the group. Working closely with the group’s facilitator, we focused on providing training and consultation to strengthen the group’s capacity for dialogue. The collaborative group was able to discuss the issues and resolve them sufficiently to allow it to work together and continue its forward progress.  


The Tenacious Change Approach stands apart for the contribution it makes to the field of community, organization, and system change because it focuses on how to “do” change through ownership-based collective change leadership that centers the whole community through intentional diversity and inclusion, and the use of equitable participation practices.


As the examples above indicate, the Tenacious Change Approach is currently being used in multiple sites even as it is being continuously upgraded. To learn more, schedule a time to talk personally with Tom Klaus, PhD, developer of the Tenacious Change Approach with this link.