The System exChange
The System exChange provides powerful tips and ideas for transforming your local community.
The last issue of the System exChange provided ideas for how to help diverse stakeholders initiate action in your community. Click here for this last issue.

This week's System exChange provides ideas for how to overcome common barriers to action by reducing ambiguity.
 Overcoming barriers to action:
Reduce Ambiguity
Have you ever signed up for an action item but stalled because it was unclear what exactly you were supposed to do?

Too often action items that come up during a meeting don't have enough detail for people to know how to take their next steps. 

As a result, people often put off carrying out these ambiguous actions, or end up carrying out the wrong action.
Case Example
You attend a meeting where everyone is tasked with getting feedback from residents on a new strategy idea. However, when you get back to your office after the meeting, you're not sure how to start. What questions should you ask? Which residents should you talk with - and how can you find them?

As a result of this ambiguity, you put off this action item and forget all about it. At the next meeting, you find out nobody else has taken this action either, and the group's momentum slows.
How can you overcome this barrier to action? GET DETAILED!

Anytime an action item comes up in a meeting, pause the discussion to help stakeholders create a detailed plan for how to carry out the action.

Example questions to plan out detailed action items
  • What exactly needs to happen? (e.g., ask residents for input on strategy ideas)
  • Where does it need to happen? With whom? When?
  • What do we need to prepare? (e.g., develop questions and note-taking materials etc.)
  • Who can initiate these actions – by when?
Additional Resources
Facilitation tips and questions for encouraging people to initiate action ideas during meetings and conversations.
Example quick win actions that can be accomplished within 1-3 months. You can use this guide to help a group identify actions to move your efforts forward.
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Want access to more information about community transformation? Check out the Michigan CHIR Learning website !! This website includes information, tools, and resources to help support local collaborative efforts.
March 2019
Have an idea for a future update? Email us at:
  • Foster-Fishman, P. G., & Watson, E. R. (2012). The ABLe change framework: A conceptual and methodological tool for promoting systems change. American Journal of Community Psychology, 49(3-4), 503-516.