Three Perspectives on Social Change in Igiugig

Written by
22 January 2021

Waqaa Igyararmiut! Quyana to those who joined the library event in October. I am thankful for your good comments and reflections, and it was good to get a little glimpse of Igiugig life again! To those of you who could not attend, this article is meant to give you a brief summary of what I shared.

Drivers of social change in Igiugig

In short, the research is about the drivers of positive social change in a community setting, with Igiugig as a case study. I am interested in how you work to create positive community change that increases well-being and long-term sustainability. You are experts on sustainability in your community, and my aim has been to learn from your knowledge and share your insights with other people working with sustainability. Also, I hope that this work can support you in your efforts.

Three perspectives

When I visited Igiugig in 2017, I did interviews with 28 community members about the drivers of positive social change in the community. This included the sorting of different statements into a grid of agree or disagree. I used a computer software program to find similarities and differences between how you had sorted the statements, and found three different perspectives on the question of what drives positive social change in Igiugig: passionate individuals who “walk the talk”; knowledge and protection of cultural practices; and collective visioning and decision making.

Perspective 1: Passionate individuals who “walk the talk.” This perspective sees passionate individuals as the main driver of change in Igiugig, focusing on being a leader through the actions you take rather than by telling other people what to do.

Perspective 2: Knowledge and protection of cultural practices. This perspective finds that engaging with cultural practices like Native dancing and being on the land is central for individual and community health and that cultural values is what guides positive community development.

Perspective 3: Collective visioning and decision-making. This perspective takes an “eagle eye” on community change and focuses on the process of coming together as a community to make decisions, emphasizing the importance of having a shared vision based on common values and long-term thinking.

Even though the three perspectives are different, they also have a lot in common. All community members in the study could see the importance of passionate individuals, cultural practices and collective decision-making, but what they found most important differed from person to person.

What I have learned

One of the biggest insights I have gained from this work is the importance of being grounded in collective values while also being flexible in day-to-day decision-making. My sense is that you are able to do what you do because you are deeply connected to the place that you live and to each other, but also keep an eye on what happens out in the world. You are also flexible with each other – you respect and make room for different opinions and beliefs. Differences among people in the community is a strength because you share a certain understanding of how you would like Igiugig to be, now and in the future.

Next steps

My hope was to come to Igiugig this past summer to present these results as well as do a few more interviews. Due to Corona, this was not possible. I plan to ask some of you for a follow-up interview that we could do over Zoom. Also, if it becomes safe to travel again, coming to Igiugig will be a first priority for me!

For more information about the research project, see here:

To download the article that presents this research, click here:


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