Richard Hawkins


Richard is Director of the Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC), and has led PIRC’s work on Common Cause over the past 3 years. He’s facilitating over 80 workshops across the Third Sector and civil society in the UK and Europe. He is a core team member of Smart CSOs, a co-founder of Campaign Lab and a fellow of the RSA.




Values: 58 Ideas We Live By is a beautiful deck of cards for exploring who we are, designed by Genis Carreras in collaboration with PIRC.

“Love. Creativity. Enjoyment. Curiosity. Friendship. Purpose. Psychological research shows that we are all driven by the same things – but differ in how we prioritise them. Fifty-eight values guide our lives, shaping who we are, what we do, and ultimately the kind of society we live in.”

Whether you’re just mildly interested in values or a fully fledged Common Cause geek looking for workshop material, this little deck deserves a place in your life…

Support the project and get some cards.

Richard HawkinsVALUES: 58 IDEAS WE LIVE BY
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Common Threads, March 2014

  • Economics and greed – a round-up of research illustrating how the study of economics can push people towards selfishness and distrust of others.
  • The Big Picture at Friends of the Earth – A campaign that takes over large screens at Waterloo station and invites people to submit images of ‘What makes the world special to them’. Nice!
  • ‘Cash for the Cure’ – a critical look at Kohl’s breast-cancer campaign: encouraging consumption, fear and all things pink.
  • How can advocacy NGOs become more innovative? It may be a tired buzzword, but this Oxfam blog has some pretty good advice. We particularly like the suggestions for shifting staff culture, e.g. ‘give people a day a month to visit ‘the outside world’ with no greater agenda than to look and learn.’
  • On rising inequality – it’s deep-seated psychological impacts, and why it damages the social fabric of our societies. From the authors of the Spirit Level.
Richard HawkinsCommon Threads, March 2014
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Common Threads, February 2014

  • NGO sitcom! – Kenya’s first mockumentary takes on the NGO world. Worth a watch: “In Episode 2, their task is to come up with an acronym before figuring out what the grant’s about”.
  • Climate change and equity: whose language is it anyway? – In his winning entry for the Gavin Mooney Memorial Essay Competition, Sydney GP Tim Senior argues that language, and different ways of knowing, have been getting in the way of action on climate change.
  • Facebook’s ‘dark side’: study finds link to socially aggressive narcissism – Researchers have established a direct link between the number of friends you have on Facebook and the degree to which you are a “socially disruptive” narcissist. The research comes amid increasing evidence that young people are becoming increasingly narcissistic, and obsessed with self-image and shallow friendships.
  • Foundations should become the change they want to see in the world – A great piece by Jo Confino: “By not sticking with programmes over the long-term, they fail to give the opportunity for projects to mature. Development, as we have all discovered can take at least a generation to embed. Foundations have the potential to be powerful change agents in our society. But they will only be able to take on that mantle if they recognise that the approach they have taken over the past 40 years has not led to the changes they were hoping for.”
  • The Evolution of Empathy – Jeremy Rifkin’s animated talk about empathy’s impact on our our society.
  • The Nature Moral – We love Project Wild Thing, but it has to be about more than access rights and the provision of green space…
Richard HawkinsCommon Threads, February 2014
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Common Threads – January 2014

Interesting things we’ve been reading, watching or listening to this month:

  • Empathy vs. sympathy – connection vs. disconnection. Empathy is “I know what it’s like down here and you’re not alone.” Sympathy is “Ooh. It’s bad, uh huh. Do you want a sandwich?”
  • The status quo is not values-free – ‘realism’ is a value-laden position. ‘We have lost faith in any of the large available understandings of how structural change takes place in history, and as a result, we fall back on a bastardised conception of political realism, namely that a proposal is realistic to the extent that it approaches what already exists. This false view then aggravates [our] paralysis. What hits you like a hammer is that word “realistic” – it’s the thing people say when they actively don’t want change. It’s the avoidant atrophy of the miniscule reform, the circularity of entitlement – “Who decides what’s realistic?” “Me, because I’m in charge.” “Why are you in charge?” “Because I’m so realistic.”’
  • Paul Piff: Does money make you mean? – A great TED talk on the psychological impacts of getting rich, even with monopoly money. How does temporary wealth make people behave? (Hint: badly). Includes gem research headlines like “people who feel wealthy are more likely to steal sweets from children.”
  • Climate change & stealth denial – A new report from the RSA: ‘The point is not so much to change values, as to strengthen those already latent values that are most useful with respect to dealing with climate change’.
  • Materialism in children’s books – Has risen over the past 15 years…
  • New Progressive Development Forum Charter – “The organisations and institutions that we work for, with and through in the UK and worldwide must take on a more critical analysis of power and engage in political processes to tackle the inequalities of power, wealth and resources that create and maintain injustice and poverty.”
Richard HawkinsCommon Threads – January 2014
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Common Threads – November 2013

  • Rusty (and Golden) Radiator Awards – Best and worst practice in development campaigning – from ‘too poor for words’ (unbelievable) through to the empowering and creative.
  • The adverts we deserve? – A great piece on the all-consuming power of marketing. “Satire has long been acknowledged as a paradoxical crutch for a society’s existing power structures: we laugh at political jibes, and that same laughter displaces the desire for change. As such as Chipotle’s — which express our concerns about the failings of globalisation in a safe space before packing them away — are surely an equivalent safety valve for any subversive rumblings. We all like to think that we’re above the dark art of advertising; that we are immune to its persuasive powers. But the reality is that, though we might have been immunised, it is not against ads: it is against dissent.”
  • Rewind and Reframe – A platform for young women to speak out about sexism and racism in music videos.
  • Changing behaviour – how deep do you want to go? – Nice piece challenging ‘behavioural insights’ approaches and the myth of apathy. “Those asking which forms of behavioural insight are best suited to create a more sustainable world should ask themselves the following difficult question: what kinds of practices, values and feelings are embedded in the work we do, and is behaviour, as such, ever really the issue?”
  • The Pope – On inequality and out-of-control capitalism. Would be much stronger if he was also willing to talk about gender equality (and he’s also still sitting on a gold chair).
  • Change:How – Transactional politics, why public apathy really is a myth, and how change can happen in a broken system… Whether or not you’re going, Compass’s pre-conference reading is long but excellent.
Richard HawkinsCommon Threads – November 2013
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Smart CSOs – Searching for new cultural stories in civil society

In October the Smart CSOs Lab hosted a conference in Germany attended by over 80 activists and researchers from 14 different countries. This video was produced at the conference and shows voices of activists from different parts of the world and different sectors of civil society talking about their frustrations, motivations and inspirations to join the growing movement for systemic change.

Smart CSOs is an initiative inspiring people to start searching for new civil society stories to overcome the frustrations many of us are feeling by working in our issue silos and by fighting the symptoms while knowing that we need to tackle the root causes of the multiple crises of our times.

Go check them out: Smart CSOs

Richard HawkinsSmart CSOs – Searching for new cultural stories in civil society
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Common Threads – October 2013

  • Agnes Nairn on Consumer Kids at TedX Ghent – pretty depressing topic, but well delivered and full of shockers like: ‘Kids can spontaneously recall 200 different brands before they get to school.’ Worth a watch.
  • – claimed to be the UK’s first charity betting website, will give £5 to charity for every bet of £5 or more, with £100,000 target. You couldn’t make it up.
  • Poverty Porn – A great piece on development images and messages, with some discussion of research into how Ugandan people perceive their portrayal in the Western media.
  • Conscious Capitalism – A fantastic reflection on TOMS charitable work and the consquences of charities embracing a business model that links progressive social action to consumer spending.
  • Russell Brand on revolution – In case you missed it, Brand’s editorial in the New Statesman. It’s not all roses (especially his gender politics), but it’s a good read: “We require a change that is beyond the narrow, prescriptive parameters of the current debate, outside the fortress of our current system. A system predicated on aspects of our nature that are dangerous when systemic: greed, selfishness and fear. These are old, dead ideas.”
  • Peak Advertising – when ads become more and more useless. A terrifying, exciting and short read.
Richard HawkinsCommon Threads – October 2013
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Common Threads – September 2013

  • So true – the status-quo is not values-neutral. ‘Anti-nudgers bemoan what they see as the nanny state; they think government should stay neutral on things such as diet and exercise. The problem is that staying neutral is trickier than it sounds. All else being equal, a government that decides not to influence fizzy-drink consumption (or whatever) isn’t staying neutral, leaving consumers free of pressure. It’s making an active choice to let the soft drink industry’s persuasive efforts – ads, sponsorship – go unopposed. You might feel the anti-nudgers are in the right here: after all, governments get to enforce their wishes using the law and police, so we should be hyper-wary when they stick their noses in. What you’re not entitled to claim, though, is that being anti-nudge is “staying neutral”. You have to pick a side. You don’t have the option of rising above the fray.’
  • Skirts are a leading cause of rape. Because men have eyes’ – A powerful (and hilarious) challenge to the way in which a male-dominated political arena frames rape. There are a lot of power dynamics reflected in the frames we are exposed to. Watch it!
  • Framing hits mainstream UK politics – Progressives ‘“won’t achieve meaningful change until [they] stops buying into the conservative “frames” – austerity, scarcity, threat; “transactional ideas” conveyed by phrases such as “something for nothing” and “culture of entitlement”. And, critically, the “taxpayer” frame, implicitly divisive because it separates the nation into taxpayers and non-taxpayers.”’ And as mentioned in the article, Tom Crompton takes a critical look at the rhetoric of the Labour leader in this fascinating essay [pdf].
  • As if a job title and a salary were the sole measure of a person’s worth – This cartoon version of a Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbs) speech is AMAZING.
  • Rising child poverty – what role does philanthropy play? – The inspirational Edge Fund ask whether “philanthropy just exists to protect a system which makes some people very rich?” Includes this excellent, really values-y quote from Crisis, who “recently said we live under an ‘anti-human system’ that ‘treats people as commodities, to be exploited and abused and thrown away and trashed if no profit can be made out of it.'”
  • Keeping your feet on the ground in positions of power! On the subject of philanthropy, this is a genuinely excellent article about the lived experience of being in a position of power as a funder, and the impact that has on a person’s values and responses. How can we address inequality while operating in unequal ways?
  • The Money Shredding Alarm Clock is the perfect metaphor for capitalism – Nothing is sacred. Valuing money takes over the realm of sleep. “In a consumer society, the official point of life is to make money, then use it to buy things. Lazing in bed sets you back in this interminable rat race. The Money Shredding Alarm Clock simply makes all that more literal: you snooze, you lose.”
Richard HawkinsCommon Threads – September 2013
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Common Threads – July 2013

  • The Charity-Industrial Complex – A great critique of how philanthropy maintains structures of inequality: “The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over…. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.” What we need, he says, is systemic change: “It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code.”
  • On questioning the ‘economic common sense’ – We can’t imagine a different type of economy when we’re trapped by thinking taxes are bad and investment and speculation are the same thing.
  • Who framed the asylum seeker? – A good article from Australia on the framing of asylum. Why’s it always discussed as a ‘problem’?
  • Keith Joseph smiles and a baby cries – Jim Coe on single-issue campaigns: in a world of austerity, are we in a zero-sum game? How do we go for the structural changes we need?
  • Paths to climate action survey – Aberystwyth researcher Rachel Howell is doing some research into motivations behind climate change action and she’s after survey respondents: can you help?
  • Targeted advertising in doctors’ surgeries – Seriously?! And this one’s seriously creepy: A newly developed transmitter can send advertising messages to sleepy commuters who rest against the window, so sounds appear to come from inside their own heads…
  • Childish mistakes – Experiences, particularly those that are repeated, shape our values by telling us what is ‘normal, possible and desirable’. What are we learning about ‘equality’ as children (and adults)? “If a teacher tells you in media studies … that Page 3 and similar images are airbrushed and photoshopped and therefore unrealistic, but the boys in your school compare you to them every day, then once again the experience is likely to win out over the facts. Add to this the fact that if anything is repeated often enough it eventually takes on a kind of truth of its own, whether or not it started out as a lie or a joke or ‘just a bit of fun’. The act of repetition legitimises things, as advertisers know very well. In this way images such as the Sun’s page 3 effectively ‘advertise’ to viewers the wares on show and make them seem normal and desirable.”
Richard HawkinsCommon Threads – July 2013
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