Common Cause is a network of people working to help rebalance cultural values to create a more equitable, sustainable and democratic society.
In 2008, WWF-UK published a report, Weathercocks and Signposts: The Environment Movement at a Crossroads. Written by Tom Crompton, this sought to open debate about the theories of change adopted by many environmental organisations. The publication of this report led to widespread international debate – and we quickly realised that many of the challenges and responses highlighted in that report were as important to groups working on other causes as they were to people working in the environment movement.
The following year, under the leadership of David Nussbaum, WWF-UK brought together senior staff from a handful of UK non-governmental organisations to discuss the inadequacy of current responses to challenges like climate change, global poverty and biodiversity loss. Some social scientists were invited to join us in this conversation. How, we asked ourselves, might greater public demand for proportional responses to such global challenges be brought to bear on political and business leaders?
In reflecting on this question, we drew on recent research in cognitive science and social psychology. Much of the current debate, especially as this relates to environmental issues, focuses on approaches to motivating specific behaviours (driving less, or buying fair-trade, for example). But pressing social and environmental challenges seem unlikely to be met by picking off behaviours one-by-one. From outset, we were convinced that these challenges would require a more concerted approach.
Many of the organisations represented at our initial meeting came together to support the publication, in 2010, of Common Cause: The Case for Working with our Cultural Values. This report was also written by Tom Crompton, through a process overseen by a steering group of senior communications and campaign staff, called the Common Cause Working Group. Members of this group were drawn from the organisations that went on to publish this report. Early on in drafting this report, we recognised that the types of challenge we were examining – and the responses that we were highlighting – were applicable to a very wide range of third sector concerns. We saw that this raised the possibility of working with a diversity of organisations to develop this agenda further.
The debate that Common Cause catalysed grew rapidly, and WWF-UK supported the Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) to produce a shorter, more accessible version of the report (The Common Cause Handbook), a practical workshop and online resources.
Between us, we have now held workshops for several thousand people from a variety of sectors and countries and have published other related reports, many of which you will find on this website. A great number of individuals and organisations have since stepped forward to take ownership of some part of this discussion and help drive it forward.
PIRC were particularly involved in supporting the Common Cause initiative between 2010 and 2015. Supported by WWF-UK, JRCT and others, they authored The Common Cause Handbook, Common Cause for Nature, and a number of other reports relating to values and frames such as Building Bridges (on the framing of human rights in the UK) and Valuing Equality (on the values held by citizens in Europe). They developed the Common Cause workshops and trainings, and helped host and support the informal network of practitioners applying Common Cause. They’ve also supported exciting pieces of research and thinking such as Think of Me As Evil and No Cause is An Island.
In 2016, PIRC moved onto new work. The Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) is an independent charity developing new civil society strategies for a more democratic, equitable and sustainable society. They seek to create and champion powerful, participatory, and practical tools to shift our cultural stories for lasting, transformational social change. They currently do this primarily through the Open Framing project.
Here’s what they say about us “What we’ve loved most about being involved in Common Cause is all the people we’ve worked with, chatted to, and swapped ideas with – all enabled by the huge inspiration that it’s provided us all. Values have proved, time and time again, a fertile common ground upon which we can all work together for shared aims.”
WWF-UK have committed to supporting the launch of a new organisation, The Common Cause Foundation. Oliver Smith and Tom Crompton have left WWF-UK to lead this organisation. The Foundation has already embarked on preliminary research and outreach work, and will be launching with programmes in the coming months.
Enjoy exploring our site, and please do get in touch if there is anything you want to add, or contest, or if you can see ways in which you would like to help further extend the conversation that we have started!
Common Cause Foundation is a not for profit Company Limited by Guarantee registered in England and Wales (09413020), the Registered Office is 29 Lion Lane, Haslemere, Surrey GU27 1JFAbout Common Cause