Thursday, March 18th from 13:00—14:00 (GMT+2)
This webinar will take place online.
Meeting ID: 942 5223 6740 / Passcode: 823804


Join us for a Webinar in our CST series of Webinars 

Imagining transformative biodiversity futures How do privileged insiders become change agents? A study of institutional volition

When we picture a change agent, the image that surfaces is often of young people marching in the streets or disenfranchised groups fighting the establishment. But everyone has the capacity to be agents of change, even those of us who are privileged insiders and benefit from the current system. In fact, as privileged insiders, we hold great transformative potential.

Privileged insiders are those of us who have reaped advantages associated with our education, our socio-economic background, our citizenship, our gender, or our race. We have both responsibilities and opportunities associated with the significant influence we have in our organisations, communities and beyond. This makes it especially important for us to consider our role in addressing the converging crises we face, as well as the possible unconscious biases we may hold. Importantly, we also have leisure time to reflect, skills we can leverage, and networks that can facilitate action. We have the means to challenge the status quo.

The insights I share are based on a review of prior academic research on change agency, combined with insights gathered from 73 interviews and a series of workshops with privileged insiders working to address a range of societal issues in different settings: finance, education, agriculture, law, and business. Through this work, I learned that those who rise up to engage in change begin with recognizing the presence of institutional injustices around them and experiencing deep feelings of discomfort. Depending on how they engage with these feelings and accept their own complicity in perpetuating institutional injustices, privileged insiders may become involved in actions that start to challenge the status quo. Ultimately, this may lead them to reframe their role, assigning new meaning and practices to their role, in order to facilitate transformative change in their context.

Cecile holds a master’s degree in Economics and Finance (Eco-Fi) from Sciences Po, France, and an MPhil in Sustainable Development Planning and Management from Stellenbosch University. She worked as an entrepreneur and consultant for 15 years before joining UCT Graduate School of Business for her PhD studies in 2016.



Fields of research

  • Theories of change and agency in complex societal systems
  • Transformative change agency (change agents, activism and social movements)
  • Institutional change and sustainability in Organisations Studies

Recent publications