Tom Crompton

tom

I've worked on values and social change for nearly a decade. WWF’s work in this area started in 2008, with the publication of my report Weathercocks and Signposts. This was followed in 2010 with the publication of a book I wrote with Tim Kasser called Meeting Environmental Challenges, and then with the Common Cause report, published later the same year. In the last couple of years I’ve focused on research – particularly through a very productive collaboration between WWF and Scope. This has allowed us to test many of the principles we are advancing through Common Cause. I’m now helping to set up The Common Cause Foundation. Email me at: tcrompton@commoncausefoundation.org

Let’ celebrate the world’s 2.6 million co-ops

This is a guest blog by Ed Mayo, Secretary General, Co-operatives UK

There are around 2.6 million co-operative enterprises worldwide, with a combined membership of around one billion people.

The beauty of co-ops is that they have a global code of values and principles, so tend to be interested not just in business (as usual), but in re-imagining the economy to be fairer and more sustainable. The 1st July was the 95th annual International Day of Co-operatives, a global celebration of co-ops backed by the United Nations.

The theme of the 2017 International Day of Co-operatives was, fittingly, inclusion – that no-one is left behind. To achieve this theme across business and markets would go a long way towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.

But do these values chime with people at large? Or are there in fact one billion hip and hippy entrepreneurial co-operators around the world, but no more than that one billion?

To answer this, we teamed up with the values experts, Common Cause Foundation. It turns out that the global code of values for co-operatives maps relatively straightforwardly onto the well-established values framework developed by Professor Shalom Schwartz and used as a basis for values surveys the world over. Above all, they line up behind the two key dimensions of ‘universalism’ and ‘benevolence’.

With this, we were able to interrogate the European and World Values Surveys and look at the prevalence of co-operative values worldwide. By comparing results for countries, subtracting for each a balancing factor of the more individual dimensions of ‘power’ and ‘achievement’, we could derive a Co-operative Values Index.

You can read the report for the full analysis, of course, but here is my interpretation…

The first and most important finding was that in all but one country of the 88 that we had data for, people ranked the values of co-operation higher than those of individual power and achievement.

The second was that there are a number of countries that have very high pro-co-operative values and, no surprise perhaps, these are countries with longstanding and proud traditions of co-operative enterprise.

Brazil ranks as the most co-operative nation on Earth. That fits. The country has two and a half times as many member owners of co-ops than it does shareholders in listed firms. One of the most inspiring health co-operatives in the world, Unimed, is Brazilian. Its work to extend healthcare across the country is an emblematic example of enterprise and inclusion.

Norway ranks second. Again, that fits well. I shared this news with my counterpart in Norway, May Woldsnes, and her response was to point to the characteristic Norwegian joke of co-operation and competition – that it doesn’t matter who wins… as long as Norway comes ahead of Sweden!

There is a wonderful short video released, with a similar dash of humour, by Coop Norway, which tells the story of how some Sharing Economy geeks reinvent the co-operative. They travel to Norway, one of the world’s richest country by GDP per capita, to test how the idea of an open access, member owned business, sharing profits and ownership would work. When they arrive, they find ‘Co-op’ signs everywhere and assume someone has stolen their brand new idea!

However, we also know from the work of the Common Cause Foundation that there is a paradox at work, which is that most people think that they themselves are more co-operative and others are less co-operatives minded. The scope for increasing co-operation in practice is therefore considerable, if the public realm of media and marketing held up were a less bleak and narrowly individualistic mirror for us to look into.

The United Nations International Day of Co-operatives, like our #coopstories campaign for Co-operatives Fortnight which culminates on the International Day, can be part of that effort.

Co-ops are the only businesses and the only business model to be back by the United Nations. According to the data on trust from GlobeScan, the United Nations is more trusted worldwide than religions and faiths – even in the USA. It is more trusted than the world of music and film. The United Nations is our celebrity backer.

In recent years, we have seen efforts to link up co-operatives across the world, through the International Co-operative Alliance. In Delhi, co-operators came together. In Germany, the consumer genossenschaften met to celebrate. In Cameroon, there was a poster campaign reaching thousands. Co-ops celebrated in Columbia, Malaysia, Spain…

Values can come off the page. I charted in an article for the Equality Trust the close connection between regions with a high penetration of co-operatives and the levels of relative equality compared to elsewhere.

My conclusion is that we should recognise and celebrate the extent to which we live in a co-operative world. For a day, we can set aside competition, power and status and learn from that for every other day.

Read the full International Prevalence of Co-operative Values report here.

 

Tom CromptonLet’ celebrate the world’s 2.6 million co-ops
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Why direct democracy needs to be part of progressive wellbeing politics

This is a guest blog by Eivind Hoff-Elimari who is a special advisor at the Research Council of Norway in charge of climate-related research in the social sciences and humanities and author of a book published under the Norwegian title Gull eller grønne skoger? Politikk for det gode liv (Res Publica, 2016). Eivind has a background as an environmental lobbyist in Brussels for WWF and for The Bellona Foundation.

Higher wellbeing is embraced by researchers and politicians as a better goal for society than GDP growth. Until now, it has been mainly centre-right governments that have pushed this agenda in Europe – from Nicolas Sarkozy to David Cameron and Angela Merkel. The United Arab Emirates recently appointed a “happiness minister”. Is “wellbeing” used as a new goal to make people forget about injustice and inequalities?

Jon Cruddas MP chaired the UK Labour party’s internal policy review ahead of the 2015 elections. He has no doubt that well-being will play a larger role in politics – and can be used by both the right and the left.

“I would give credit to David Cameron for putting wellbeing on the political agenda in the UK. The Conservatives grabbed it partly to decontaminate their own brand and brought it into government offices in 2010. We on the left have been lagging behind. We must catch-up, because talk about wellbeing provides a deeper texture to the debate about equality and justice. It is not just about economics, it is also about mental health, access to justice or simply having a voice in democracy” he told me in an interview.

A wellbeing agenda can obviously be captured by ideas reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The Legatum Institute’s 2014 report “Wellbeing and policy” emphasizes the availability of psychological treatment as a policy priority – not the fight against economic inequality.

Yet, enhancing wellbeing offers a better avenue for environmental and social progress, at least in affluent societies, than the goal of economic growth simply because (i) wellbeing can be more directly linked to social progress and (ii) there is far more empirical evidence for absolute decoupling of wellbeing growth from ecological footprints than for decoupling of GDP growth from such footprints.

To avoid a “Brave New World capture” of wellbeing, one comes a long way by keeping in mind the three dimensions of subjective wellbeing recommended by the OECD: Life evaluation (often measured through questions on life satisfaction), affect (“happiness”) and eudaimonia (“meaning in life”).

In affluent societies, life evaluation and eudaimonia are both positively correlated with pro-social values (such as universalism, benevolence and self-direction in Schwartz’ value typology). As recent work by Common Cause Foundation also finds, life evaluation is also correlated with a more accurate grasp of other people’s value priorities.

This is why we should use pro-social values as a compass to steer a wellbeing policy agenda: The content and framing of policies should reflect pro-social values: building on the priority that most people already place on these values, re-affirming this priority, and conveying a wider appreciation of the importance that typical fellow-citizens place on them

In practice, there are two answers on how to design such a policy agenda.

First, a focus on content: for example, greater economic equality, better public health services available to all, shortening normal working hours, constraining advertising or clamping down on consumption loans.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, there is an answer that lies in policy process: A wellbeing policy agenda must be based on a strengthening of democracy. In post-war Western Europe, large political projects mobilised people broadly – such as public health services, sanitation and education. Though GDP growth resulted from this, the pursuit of economic growth was not the driving force behind such public policies. Better lives were. Yet, since the 1960s we have not managed to identify political projects that mobilize people broadly enough, whilst an economic surplus can always be bigger. Thus, the political vacuum of affluent societies is increasingly filled by “economism”, with GDP growth as the overall guiding star. To fill this vacuum with something else, we need encouragement to reflect more about where we want society to go.

Convenience and market forces can take us to the supermarket several times a week, where we naturally act as consumers. We are less often reminded to act as citizens – most of us only at elections. Thus, a more participatory democracy should be part and parcel of a wellbeing policy agenda: We need to find ways of deepening people’s participation – for example through referenda designed to make clear and informed choices, more participatory budgeting, or the drawing-of-lots to appoint people to public offices.

But what if people vote, for example, for building new roads, rather than protecting green space?

Generally, this is not what happens. In participatory budgeting around the world, projects that make urban spaces greener and more human typically win – not new parking lots. Binding results of Switzerland’s popular initiative referenda include large railway investments to reduce road traffic and curbs on executive pay.

I believe that as public participation in decision-making deepens, public commitment to social and environmental policies strengthens. Perhaps part of the reason that a majority of people in the UK voted for Brexit was precisely because – particularly in a first-past-the-post political system – people protested against the difficulties of making their voices heard. Those disappointed by the recent rise of populist politics in the US, UK and elsewhere, should see the lesson as being the need to widen opportunities for direct and participatory democracy – not restrict them.

Picture: Citizens queue to participate in a referendum in Grenoble. Credit: City of Grenoble.

 

Tom CromptonWhy direct democracy needs to be part of progressive wellbeing politics
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The UK election: a triumph of values over perception?

Much of our work over the last couple of years has focused on the likely consequences of the ‘perception gap’. Most people (85% of citizens in Greater Manchester, for example) place more importance on ‘compassionate’ values of community, social justice and equality than they do on values of wealth, success or social status. But it’s also the case that most people (75% across Greater Manchester) underestimate the importance that others place on these values. Our work finds that this ‘perception gap’ is greatest among people who self-identify as ‘liberals’.

It seems that the ‘perception gap’ is related to many different outcomes – people’s well-being, their feelings of connection to community, and their concern about social and environmental issues. We have also repeatedly found that people who hold less accurate perceptions of what matters to a typical fellow citizen are less likely to vote.

One key factor in shaping the outcome of the recent UK General Election seems to have been an increase in voter turn-out.

Why might this increase have arisen?

There are many things that may influence whether people vote. But perhaps one important factor is a tension between people’s own values and their perceptions of others’ values.

A typical person’s own ‘compassionate’ values may motivate them to vote for whichever party they feel is most likely to promote social justice, equality, environmental protection and strong communities; while that same person’s perception of what matters to others may hold them back from voting at all. And remember, this ‘perception gap’ is particularly large among people who identify themselves as ‘liberal’ as opposed to ‘conservative’.

The dramatic increase in support for the Labour Party in the few weeks running up to the election did not, in all likelihood, arise because people came to attach greater importance to social justice or equality over the course of the campaign. That kind of shift doesn’t happen quickly.

But the ‘perception gap’ could be closed quickly. Perhaps, in part, what we saw in the few weeks running up to the election were the effects of people coming to realise that others held these concerns to be more important than they had hitherto thought. This realisation may have been helped by the reduced influence of newspapers, many of which seem to promote the erroneous perception that people care most about themselves.

At one level, this is simply to restate that success begets success: that is, as support for the Labour Party was seen to grow, it was likely to grow further. But if I am right that shifting understandings of what others care about played a part here, then there’s a consequence of practical importance.

The suggestion, voiced by many Conservatives since the election, that their party lost support because their manifesto didn’t make much of a “retail offer” conveys an understanding that the question uppermost in most voters’ minds must be: “What’s in it for me?”

This very suggestion is likely to widen the ‘perception gap’ – eroding people’s motivation to vote (especially among people who identify themselves as ‘liberal’).

If they are to build further on their growing public support, the Labour Party would do well to frame their success as arising not because they spoke to people’s self-interest, but because they connected with people’s concern for one another.

This framing, if adopted by any political party, but especially if adopted by political parties that appeal to ‘liberal’ voters, could be of great help in closing the ‘perception gap’ and engaging even more citizens in civic life.

(Cartoon by Bec Sanderson)

Tom CromptonThe UK election: a triumph of values over perception?
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Values at City Hall

With a month to go before mayoral elections in England, there is one overarching question that voters can ask of their mayoral candidates: will they organise their work around the values that citizens in these cities and city-regions hold to be most important, and will they do so explicitly – testifying publicly to the shared importance of these values?

Climate campaigners and communicators wring their hands at the fickleness of public debate on climate change: a debate does not seem to be in any way proportionate to the scale of the challenge that climate change presents, or the gravity of its consequences.

Faced with this frustration, one response is to try to link climate change more firmly to other more salient aspects of the news agenda – for example, immigration, security or economic growth.

On the face of it, this seems like a sensible approach. If, for example, people don’t seem to care (much) about climate change, but care deeply about the economy, why not focus on the potential economic benefits of a vibrant renewables sector?

But the continued failure of this approach, now over many years, suggests that it may be misguided.

It is an approach that seeks to build concern about policy areas while showing little understanding of the underlying values that drive public appetite and demand for policy change.

Values are not rooted in policy debate: they are structured very differently. Debate about policy may cut across many conflicting values, while commitment to the same coherent set of values may underpin public support for seemingly unrelated policy interventions.

Policy areas – like national security, immigration, climate change, public health care or economic competitiveness – are largely discreet. Public debate on these issues is led by experts with different areas of specialism.

These experts sit in different academic disciplines, in different government departments, in different (often competing) charities, or at different editorial desks. To be sure, links can be made between different policy areas. But where this is done, these links are material. Think of the debate about the impact of immigration on national security, or the intersection between economic competitiveness and public revenues for public health provision.

Unfortunately, most policy debate is structured in ways that fail to grasp the psychological factors that are of critical importance in shaping public support for action in these areas: people’s values.

People’s values are often blind to policy areas. In our work, we have shown that public support for conservation action may be built as effectively by communicating about disability rights as by communicating about biodiversity loss: if the values are right. If the values are wrong, then communication in one sphere is found to undermine public support for action in the other.

Crucially, it seems that the actual issues don’t seem to much matter – what matters are the values that are invoked in debate about these issues.

These insights present a crucial challenge to the way in which public debate around social and environmental issues is conducted. It suggests that the work of, say, a government department focused on child poverty may be as important in influencing public support for ambitious action on climate change as the work of, say, a charity working specifically on climate change. Even where that government department makes no mention of climate change.

Of course, these inter-dependencies are already operating – often unseen, and usually in an unhelpful direction.

So, today’s dominant narrative thread, running throughout public policy debate and focused on wealth creation and economic competitiveness engages specific values. These are values which, as demonstrated by study after study, are diametrically opposed to public expression of concern about challenges such as climate change.

The psychological evidence seems clear: systemic public support for serious action on climate change will be predicated on different values.

These will be values of community, social justice, friendship and helpfulness. And they are values that can be placed at the forefront of public policy making.  Indeed, there is a clear mandate for this because these are the values that a large majority of people hold to be most important – though, tragically, most of us underestimate the importance that a typical fellow citizen places on these values.

Though difficult, it will be necessary to effect such change at a national level. But at a local level it is perhaps more foreseeable. This is why we are working in Bristol and Greater Manchester in the UK: seeking to help place these values, and awareness of the importance that citizens place on them, at the forefront of regional public debate.

There is a single overriding commitment that mayoral candidates in the upcoming elections across England next month should make, and that we can encourage them to make at their hustings. It is this: to begin to organise their work around those values that the citizens in these cities and regions hold to be most important, and to do so explicitly – testifying publicly to the shared importance of these values.

Tom CromptonValues at City Hall
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Values to help heal our Brexit divisions

Tom Crompton & Paul Hanel

An understanding of values could help to heal the divisions that have been deepened by the EU Referendum, pointing to a crucial role for our cultural organisations.

Working at the University of Bath, one of us (Paul) has studied values data from across the European Union and has found that people who attach importance to the group of values called “Security” are likely to be the least trustful of the European Union.

Here concern for “Security” is defined as “safety, harmony, and stability of society, of relationships, and of self”. The group includes values such as “national security” and “social order” but also “family security” and “cleanliness”.

Figure 1 shows the values of a demographically representative sample of a thousand UK citizens (based on a survey that Common Cause Foundation commissioned in 2015). High numbers of us prioritise “Security”: indeed, it is the second most highly prioritised value across the UK.

Figure 1: UK citizens’ own values

 

But there is another value group, which is even more widely prioritised than “Security”, and which seems to be unrelated to feelings of trust for the European Union. This is the group “Benevolence”.  “Benevolence” is defined as “preservation and enhancement of the welfare of people with whom one is in frequent personal contact”. These are the values which are most widely prioritised across the UK. But Paul found that the importance that we place on “Benevolence” values is of no help in predicting the level of trust that we feel towards the European Union.

Our survey also found that, across the UK, we seem to have a relatively accurate perception of the importance that fellow citizens place on “Security” values – correctly perceiving that these values are widely prioritised. But, crucially, this research has also shown that we in the UK typically underestimate the importance that our fellow citizens place on “Benevolence” values.

Look at Figure 2. The blue line shows an average UK citizen’s value priorities; the orange line shows our average perceptions about a typical fellow citizen’s values. We typically underestimate the importance that fellow citizens place on “Benevolence” values. But we hold relatively accurate perceptions of the importance a typical fellow citizen places on “Security” values.

Figure 2: UK citizens’ own values and perceptions of others’ values

 

In other words, there is an opportunity to deepen our appreciation of the values that we share, irrespective of our attitudes towards Europe.

One way to begin to heal the divisions that the EU referendum has created may therefore be by working to convey a deeper appreciation of the high importance that most of us place on shared “Benevolence” values, regardless of how we voted in the referendum.

At a workshop earlier this month, organised by Happy Museum and held at Derby Museum, representatives from many different museums came together to explore the role of the cultural sector in helping to heal the divisions created by the Brexit vote.

A key focus emerging from the workshop was the potential for cultural organisations to amplify and reflect common values, particularly around “Benevolence”, as a way of opening dialogue and building understanding.

Encouragingly, research that Shanna Lennon, Common Cause Foundation Co-coordinator at Manchester Museum, recently conducted shows that visitors who left Manchester Museum feeling that their visit had encouraged “Benevolence” values were also more likely to leave saying that they felt a responsibility to become involved in their community, to support action on climate change, and that their visit had contributed to their well-being.

Such insights are not, alone, conclusive. But they suggest that, by becoming aware of the values they model, and that their visitors hold to be most important, the UK’s 2,500 museums could play a crucial role in nurturing community cohesion and healing social division.

Dr Paul Hanel is a post-doctoral research assistant with particular interest in human values, cross-cultural research and statistics. He is at the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, UK.

 Featured image: The Great North Run, copyright Peter McDermott, Creative Commons

Tom CromptonValues to help heal our Brexit divisions
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We Need to Talk About Englishness

English people in the social and environmental movements often don’t like talking about English identity. It seems to be a source of embarrassment. When I speak to friends about Englishness, I find that many like to shift the conversation subtly onto the safer ground of Britishness.

But there’s an irony here. This easy elision from Englishness to Britishness could only ever be sustained by those living in England. Where it’s unconscious, it’s an elision that arises through a sense of being numerically, economically and culturally dominant. Yet it is those who feel most uncomfortable about Englishness, and who appeal most readily to Britishness, who are also the first to consciously reject any possible basis for dominance.

All of this is changing. The stark difference between the attitudes of Scottish and English (or Welsh) voters towards Europe, thrown into relief by a referendum that forced a binary yes/no response, makes it increasingly difficult even for those living in England to confuse Englishness with Britishness. Theresa May’s insistence that “we voted in the referendum as one United Kingdom” rings hollow.

It’s time for people who live in England, and who are working for a more humane and caring society, to stop hiding behind this increasingly untenable sense of Britishness. It’s time for them to begin to help shape what it means to be English. Only by doing so can they assist in the midwifery of a self-confident, outward-looking and inclusive English identity.

I was keen to explore this perspective with the theologian and philosopher Alastair McIntosh – someone who has given a great deal of thought to Scottish national identity. Sharing a dram over Skype we took a sideways look at English national identity: both of us were born in England, though we have each spent almost our whole lives living elsewhere (Alastair in Scotland, I in Wales).

Where might an inclusive and outward-looking conversation about English national identity start?

Here are three possible departure points that Alastair and I came up with:

1. Get the history right

Before he became Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnston delivered a speech entitled “What Would Maggie do Today?”. Thatcher, he said, “changed the self-image of the country”:

“To grasp what she did, you have to remember how far we felt we had fallen. Our country – Britain – used to rule the world – almost literally. Of the 193 present members of the UN, we have conquered or at least invaded 171 – that is 90 per cent…”

Greatness, it seems, is to be found in the power to suppress. According to this perspective, advanced by an English MP speaking for Britons, we felt we had fallen when we stopped ruling the world. But the atrocities of British suppression of other peoples is not greatness, and to suppress our collective understanding of these atrocities is to keep the lid on our humanity. There can be no possibility of developing a self-confident and outward looking English national identity without coming to terms with the horrors of the empire. But this is history that we would rather destroy than confront.

Yet, at the same time, there are many great things that England has given to the world that we choose not to highlight, and that are largely overlooked in our history classes. One could start with the flood of radical ideas thrown up at the time of the English Revolution, and their global legacy today.

In the US, there are organisations dedicated to supporting the teaching of people’s history. Similar organisations are needed in England.

There is work here for teachers, and arts and heritage organisations – perhaps starting with the National Trust.

2. Treat nature as though it’s sacred

England’s “mountains green” and “pleasant pastures” of Blake’s Jerusalem (pictured above in his own version) are central to English identity, which is, for many, rooted in relationship with England’s woods, rivers and coasts, and the other species with which we share these.

Yet this is an aspect of our identity which is under profound threat. We all know – even if we don’t recall the precise figures – that our woodlands and farmlands are becoming quieter as song-bird populations plummet, the seas around our coasts are dying, and those “pleasant pastures” themselves are under threat – whether from fracking or road building.

At the same time, what is left of English nature is commodified as “natural capital”, robbed of its intrinsic value as its notional financial value is chalked up: often with the complicity – if not outright enthusiasm – of conservation organisations. What untold and unconscious psychological damage is being wrought by the denigration of English nature as a resource to be “sustainably exploited” or “harvested”?

England’s environmental and conservation organisations need to mount an effective defence against the desacralisation of English nature. To embrace its commodification is to shoot themselves in the foot.

Alastair recently drew these threads together for BBC Alba, speaking about the crucial interplay of history, sense of place, community and the shared national imagination.

3. Talk about English diversity

The myriad ways in which English culture is enriched through the contribution of people of diverse background or faith needs to be talked about. If we don’t talk about it, then we silently strengthen a more narrowly circumscribed and impoverished perception of what it means to be English.

Take just one example: look at the Google ngram chart I’ve generated below. The phrases “British Christian” and “English Christian” are used with comparable frequency. But there’s a wide disparity in the frequency of the use of terms “British Muslim” and “English Muslim”. Is it that we prefer to use “British” in relation to Muslims because of a tacit fear that “English” is less inclusive of faiths other than Christianity? It seems possible. But if this is happening, then it is also likely to be self-reinforcing. A more inclusive sense of Englishness is going to be best nurtured by consciously talking about, for example, English Muslims.

Any English person who worries about what Englishness stands for could ask whether she or he is working to help address the source of these worries, or is rather retreating behind her or his simultaneous identity as British. It’s time to start celebrating all that’s great about Englishness – and, yes, finding in it things of which to be proud.

 

English identity and today’s big challenges

It seems clear that if England is to become a caring and open society, celebrating the diversity of the English, caring for the disadvantaged and looking after the planet – both the bit called England and the rest of it – then we need to talk about English identity differently.

A lot is known about the intersection of people’s identity and their social or environmental sensibilities.

Take climate change.

If accepting the gravity of the problem that climate change presents risks leaving you ostracised by your ‘in-group’ (the people with whom you closely identify) then it is ‘rational’ for you to shore up your group-identity by rejecting the climatology.

After all, the chances are, whether you accept or deny climate change, your stance on the issue is going to have next to no impact on whether effective policies to tackle climate change are adopted.

But (depending upon the worldview of your in-group) accepting the science may come at a very high social cost – that of being criticised, or ostracised, by friends and family. The social scientist Dan Kahan calls this “identity-protective cognition”: whether we accept facts depends in part on the impact of this on the identity we’re striving to preserve (even where this effect is not something of which we are consciously aware).

It’s known – Tim Kasser and colleagues have shown this – that reflecting on different aspects of our national identity leads to different outcomes when we’re subsequently asked about our support for environmentally-friendly policies.

It’s because identity is so important in shaping collective responses to social and environmental challenges that Common Cause Foundation is working on our perceptions of what matters to others. Collectively, and across all English regions, people typically underestimate the overriding importance that fellow citizens place on values such as social justice or environmental protection.

These values are core aspects of the identity of most people who live in England. We need to start making them part of what is understood by Englishness.

Tom CromptonWe Need to Talk About Englishness
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The Values of Cooperation

This is a guest blog by Ed Mayo, Secretary General at Co-operatives UK and author of the new book Values: how to bring values to life in your business.

Sometimes, you just need confidence.

Ask yourself this: do I ever feel a bit lonely, a bit different if I care about social justice, or about what we are doing to the environment?

If you do, then it is not because you are alone. It is because you are made to feel alone. This is what I have learned from Common Cause Foundation.

We live in a world in which the narratives that dominate in society and the economy are rooted in values that tend to marginalise ‘intrinsic’ values of co-operation, fairness and sustainability. Common Cause Foundation are on a mission to give us confidence, proving that concern for those intrinsic values are far more widely shared than we are led to believe. If non profit, social movements stress these values, then we contribute to changing the narratives that keep us separate and unconfident.

I have recently been exploring whether what the Common Cause Foundation argues might also hold true for business – that even markets may be conduits for positive values.

One test case has been co-operative enterprises. There are around 1.6 million co-ops worldwide, operating under a global statement of values and principles, some underpinned in law, some voluntary, and all extraordinarily diverse expressions of a common shared model of a business owned democratically (one person, one vote) by people participating directly in the business.

The result is a short book, Values, a ninety minute read published by Greenleaf, in their Do Sustainability series. The book focuses on the practical tools for bringing values to life in business – how to recruit for values, how to measure values, how to bring values into the supply chain or into governance. It tells the stories of businesses that have tried and failed to change values, and those that have succeeded.

So, business can reflect different values. Of course there are challenges, of inequalities and competing purposes, but in principle every business relies on a high degree of voluntarism, both from staff (will they stay, will they be productive, will they speak up with innovations and improvements?) and from customers (will they stay, will they spread the word, will they too speak up with innovations and improvements?).

With voluntarism of this form making a difference, there is always a case for business to reflect better the values and deeper motivation of those it deals with. If the owners also share these values of fairness and sustainability, for example with a number of co-operatives, then the business case for action on fairness and sustainability is even more clear.

So, what next?

If there are one billion people worldwide who are co-owners of co-operative enterprises, then the next question is how these values of co-operation can become more prevalent or even dominant within society?

With data analysis being led by Common Cause Foundation, we are now looking at values data drawn from existing surveys worldwide, such as the European Social Survey and the World Values Survey, using in particular the widely respected framework on values developed by Professor Shalom Schwartz.

The results, across country to country, won’t be available until 2017.  When it comes, we hope to have been able to test for around ninety countries across the world, the prevalence of co-operative values.

The data, when published, may reinforce the finding that there are more people who care than we presume. More than the conventional narratives of power, including economics and politics, would have us believe.

We are not alone.

We just need the confidence to know that this is true and to act individually and collectively in ways that our shared intrinsic values call us to.

Values is published by Greenleaf and available here

Tom CromptonThe Values of Cooperation
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Values and civic participation in Greater Manchester

Promoting public demand for a more caring society

Common Cause Foundation are working in collaboration with Manchester Museum, part of The University of Manchester, on a project to show how insights from social psychology could help to build social cohesion, wellbeing and support for positive social and environmental change across Greater Manchester – including public demands for ambitious action on climate change.

What’s preventing a more caring and compassionate society?

A society which fosters greater wellbeing for today’s citizens and future generations is an aspiration not just in Greater Manchester, but the world over.  We know what policy interventions, technologies and lifestyle choices are needed, but without vocal and sustained public demand for change, these seem to be a distant prospect.

Change won’t happen by itself.  Organizations working for a better society will benefit from developing a clearer understanding of how to motivate and sustain widespread public demand for change.  Only by doing this will political space and pressure be created and maintained.

What will we be doing?

Our recent research, published as Perceptions Matter, shows that over three quarters of people in the UK under-estimate the importance that typical fellow-citizens place on values such as responsibility, honesty, social justice, and equality (that is, ‘intrinsic values’).

With Manchester Museum we will be developing ways of addressing this widespread misunderstanding about what others hold to be important – something which, if we can overcome it, could enable citizens everywhere to be more civically engaged in building a better world.

Focusing on visitors to, and stakeholders of, Manchester Museum we will create a better understanding of the typical values of a Greater Manchester citizen, validating and strengthening social norms around intrinsic values by:

  • developing new resources for the 450,000 visitors to the Museum that convey a deeper understanding of their and their fellow citizen’s values
  • supporting other organizations in Greater Manchester to engage their audiences in ways that convey a better understanding of their values and concerns, strengthening their commitment to civic participation

What do we expect the outcomes to be?

  • deepening awareness among Museum visitors of the importance that they and others place on intrinsic values
  • increased engagement in civic participation by visitors to the Museum
  • inspiration and practical support for other organizations working in Greater Manchester to adopt similar changes, greatly magnifying impact
  • a toolkit and replicable approach to ways of strengthening people’s commitment to civic participation, for uptake by networks in many other city-regions, in the UK and beyond

This project builds on conversations facilitated by Happy Museum and is supported by the Minor Foundation for Major Challenges

 

 

 

Tom CromptonValues and civic participation in Greater Manchester
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Grounds for hope in challenging times

We know – we don’t need to see the data, though here it is – that we (individually and collectively) embody deep contradictions.

We desire power, wealth, and image. We tend easily towards prejudice. These are values that are celebrated – often blatantly, often subtly – in so many ways; through much of the media and advertising that we consume, through the role-models of our political leaders, even through the ways in which we measure the progress of our society. The dead hand of market fundamentalism, it seems – beckons us ever towards self-interest and antipathy.

But, even in the face of this, we hold other values to be important. Values of community, social justice, and equality. We strive for broadmindedness and we are drawn to beauty.

Indeed, these are the ‘intrinsic’ values that most of us hold most dearly: though we tragically underestimate the importance that our fellow citizens place on these values.

As Common Cause Foundation’s research has shown, people in the UK hold these values to be the most important irrespective of age, region, perceived wealth, gender and political orientation. We can anticipate that most people in the UK will also hold these values to be the most important irrespective of how they decided to vote in the EU referendum.

Here are four hope-full things we can each do.

Practice empathy and humility

As David Malone wrote in his recent appeal for ‘Remainers’ to express the empathy and humility to which they are so committed rhetorically: “The battle of our time, will require a courage and a faith in each other that we are squandering with every word of this bilious Brexit name-calling.”  This video may help in that effort.

Know your blind-spot

As Common Cause Foundation research has also shown, over three quarters of UK citizens underestimate the importance that a typical fellow citizen places on ‘intrinsic’ values such as community, social justice, protecting the environment, and broadmindedness.

The ‘intrinsic’ values we are likely to hold to be most important are actually in step with the values to which most others attach greatest importance. Understanding this could, in turn, embolden us each to better express these values – providing further social proof of the importance that people place on them, and further emboldening others to express them.

Let hope transcend misguided tactics

In the run-up to the EU Referendum in the UK, both sides sought to deepen our collective fears – about the economy, or people from other countries. People who should have known better acquiesced to this.

“I’m backing Osborne’s Project Fear – if it helps keep us in Europe” wrote Martin Kettle in The Guardian. The trouble is, what Kettle welcomes as an argument that is “pragmatic and hard-headed to a fault” may have unintentionally contributed to our distrust of others who are not part of our social group.

So, for example, John Duckitt reports that those who perceive a dangerous world (demonstrated by agreement with statements such as “Any day now chaos and anarchy could erupt around us – all the signs are pointing to it”), are more likely to have a high ‘social dominance orientation’. That is, they are more likely to agree with statements such as “Inferior groups should stay in their place”, and less likely to agree with statements such as “It’s OK if some groups have more of a chance in life than others”.

This is just one way in which people who would like to see our politics infused by greater openness and compassion shoot themselves in the foot by mistakenly thinking that they are best appealing to fear, selfishness, or desire for social status. They are less likely to succeed – and where they do, their success is founded on sand.

Dig where you stand

And if this feels out of reach for those of us who do not feel the hand of history upon our shoulder, then perhaps it helps to be reminded of something T.S. Eliot wrote during February 1940 – while working as a night-watchman just a few months into the Second World War. He urged us to locate “our hope in modest and local beginnings” rather “than in transforming the whole world at once.”

 

Tom CromptonGrounds for hope in challenging times
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Donald Trump’s selective hearing about climate change

One key barrier to public acceptance of the evidence for man-made climate change is our psychological investment in the current economic system.

At one level this seems obvious, because the implications of any adequate response to climate change for today’s economic institutions will be profound. We might anticipate that anyone heavily invested in today’s economic system is going to be attracted to sources of information more sceptical of climate change (and, on the other hand, that people critical of the economic system may be more attracted to sources of information underscoring its severity).

But when it comes to climate change, our selective hearing (or memory – psychologists aren’t sure which it is) also seems to operate unconsciously.

In research published last month, Erin Hennes and colleagues asked people a series of questions to assess their belief that the current economic system is fair and legitimate.

People who score highly on the “economic system justification” scale, are likely to agree that: “If people work hard they almost always get what they want”, “it is virtually impossible to eliminate poverty”, “social class differences reflect differences in the natural order of things”, and “economic positions are legitimate reflections of people’s achievements”.

When presented with a report about climate change, those people who scored highly on the “economic system justification” scale were then less likely to recall facts, mentioned in this report, that affirmed the scale and severity of climate change.

It seems that people who score highly on this scale have an unconscious fear of accepting the scale of challenge that climate change presents, because to do so risks acknowledging that our faith in the fairness and legitimacy of today’s economic institutions might be misplaced. This insecurity leads them either not to assimilate, or to assimilate but then forget, information pointing to how urgent action on climate change is.

This is perhaps a demographic to which Donald Trump tries to appeal when he dismisses climate change as a hoax – though the jury is out on whether he really believes this himself.

More generally, the researchers suggest that people “… may be motivated to manipulate their informational landscape in a manner that fulfils the need to maintain and justify the status quo.” (p.10)

What can be done with this insight?

Those who score highly in “economic system justification” are, the researchers suggest, more accepting of evidence for climate change if they are first told that the economy is buoyant. They tentatively recommend that communications about climate change should be preceded by assertions that the economy is doing just fine – something which seems tantamount to inviting us to stick our heads in a pile of yellowish granular material.

One more realistic response is to assimilate climate change into the current economic system as another business opportunity, thus allowing ‘high system justifiers’ to reconcile their desire to bolster the current economic system with acceptance of the reality of climate change. But this approach leads to an emphasis on new opportunities for jobs and growth without ever mounting a proper response to those activities that make lots of money while trashing the climate.

Another response is to work to change the ideas that ‘high system justifiers’ hold of the kind of economic system that they are anxious to defend. This requires us to re-imagine economic systems, and think about these in new ways. In terms of the material dimensions of climate change, the case for this re-imagining was always strong. This new research underscores the compelling psychological reasons for embarking on it.

 

Tom CromptonDonald Trump’s selective hearing about climate change
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