Eight Forms of Opposition to Making Community Change and How to Tackle Them

The stark truth is that no matter how noble and well-meaning our goals may be in trying to make community interventions that are positively impactful, the unfortunate reality is that we can still face great resistance to making it happen. The known, even the dysfunctional known, is familiar, and change can be very unknown, and therefore scary; people may see those who are trying to make changes as radical or as ‘other’ and try to sabotage them, may disengage out of fear or hostility, or make have serious ideological reasons to resist our work.

Opposition to change can come from both inside and outside of communities. In the lingo of the field, “opposition” involves any actions taken to oppose, undermine, or prevent a group’s attempts to make positive change. Attacks on change-making efforts are called “opposition tactics.”  Our attempts to respond to these effectively and successfully are “counteropposition tactics.”

What are the eight most common forms of opposition tactics we can face while trying to make community change happen? Conveniently, we can remember them by means of “the 8 Ds” (Holt et al., 2017). These include deflection, delays, denials, discounting/discrediting, deception, dividing, dulcifying or appeasing, and outright destroying. In point form, I’ll offer definitions of each of these opposition tactics and then offer some best practice responses that have emerged from the literature as effective ways of responding to them on the part of our community group.