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We need to talk about ‘alienation’

It was all the rage in the 1960s and 1970s …

Alienation is one of the most frequently encountered concepts in social science. Indeed, the amorphous, global concept of alienation has been used as a catchword to explain nearly every kind of aberrant behavior from drug abuse to political demonstrations.” (Mackey & Ahlgren, 1977).

And Jimmy Reid expressed it better than anyone else. So well, in fact, that it is very tempting to simply copy out his 1972 speech, updating a few passages here and there with contemporary examples. I’ll spare you that (you can read it in full here), but to paraphrase his opening sentence: alienation is the precise word to describe the major social and environmental problems we face, and it is (probably) more widespread and pervasive than ever before.

But who talks about alienation now? It’s a concept that has gone out of fashion, seen as antiquated or irrelevant when explaining social problems. It has been largely rejected by academics, possibly because it’s a word that carries implicit moral and political force. Basically, “there seems to be much evidence for a fading romance with alienation in the social sciences.” (Heinz, 1991).

This is a romance that needs to be rekindled, because alienation is as relevant today as it’s ever been. We can understand everything from the riots, to Scottish independence, to the rise of UKIP, through its lens.

AlienNation

‘Alienation’ 30 years on from Jimmy Reid – by Bec Sanderson

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Nudging all over the world: behaviour change & public policy

Reflections on the scale of impact of the new behavioural sciences on public policy-making

This is a guest post from Professor Mark Whitehead of Aberystwyth University.

With all of the contemporary debate and discussion about nudge-type policies it can be difficult to assess the scale of the impacts that the ‘new’ behavioural sciences (including behavioural economics, behavioural psychology and even neuroscience) are actually having on public policy. At one level, there is a tendency to dismiss nudge-inspired initiatives as being relatively marginal within the broader universe of politics and public policy-making. But such dismissive perspectives are rarely based on careful analyses of actually exiting policies. There are, of course, many different ways in which you can begin to assess the scale of the impacts of any policy regime. Scales of impact can relate to the relative number of policies that have been shaped by new insights; or the actual affects that related policies have on people’s everyday lives. Scales of impact can also relate to the geographical prevalence of the policies under consideration. In a recent report entitled Nudging all Over the World: Assessing the Global Impact of the Behavioural Sciences on Public Policy we outline the scale of the geographical spread of nudge-type policies.

The global spread of nudge-type policies (states shaded blue have engaged in the central orchestration of nudge-types policies; those shaded red show evidence of some form of nudge-type policy being applied in their territory)

The global spread of nudge-type policies (states shaded blue have engaged in the central orchestration of nudge-types policies; those shaded red show evidence of some form of nudge-type policy being applied in their territory)

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Food Values: the first seminar

Calling all teachers, researchers and campaigners with an interest in values and food!

In September we kicked off Food Values: a nine month action research project with Organic Centre Wales. The goal of this project is to explore what food education based on values looks like, and we’ll do this through a series of research seminars and public food events around Wales that run until June 2015.

The first research seminar was a big success, bringing academics and practitioners to Aberystwyth University to discuss food values and good education practice.  We talked about how the values framework helped us understand what worked well in the past, and why. A good food event is participative, fun and creative (everyone has something to say about food!); it makes the social relationships visible by revealing the real people and places involved in getting the food to our tables, and it situates food issues, for example around security and sovereignty, firmly in the context of wider social change.

Taken by Christian, aka net_efekt, 2008, licensed under Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

Taken by Christian, aka net_efekt, 2008, licensed under Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

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Love & other illusions: Framing at the People’s Climate March

“I’m next to a giant pigeon and a tribute to Kate Bush” “We’re right at the front – just behind Emma Thompson…” “Anywhere near the sound system?” “I’m a solar panel!”

So went a series of text messages between my friends and I at around Sunday lunchtime, as we tried to locate each other at the People’s Climate March in London. I found most of them – eventually – apart from one elusive chap (who isn’t very good with technology or directions) – the last messages we exchanged were along the lines of “Ah well – seeya next time – was awesome anyways, super positive”.

From Li Photo Capital, licensed under Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

From Li Photo Capital, licensed under Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

And it was – really positive – a reflection of a perceptible shift in the environmental movement’s general engagement strategy. What was particularly surprising was that this was led by Avaaz – better known for repeatedly telling us “24 hours to save everything or else we’re all gonna die!”. The type of messaging that has, in my eyes, only strengthened “Apocalypse Fatigue”. Something that looks suspiciously like apathy in environmentalists and the wider public alike but is actually more likely an increasing sense of hopelessness. Because… Read more

Orphanages, latrines & soap powder: 7 things we can do to fix the #PovertyDiscourse

A guest blog from Martin Kirk on what’s up with the current poverty discourse.

We know that many people in the UK misunderstand poverty and development: there’s reams of evidence on that. But there are interesting lessons to be had when we look at what it is that they actually think. For example: the idea that Oxfam run orphanages, something that surfaced when Oxfam CEO Mark Goldring recently appeared on an episode of Undercover Boss. While this sort of misplaced belief might seem trivial, it exposes a far bigger problem than a simple case of misinformation.

First, let’s think about why it is that people might hold this belief. I worked for Oxfam for many years, and I never saw anything about orphanages in public communications, so it seems a strange belief to be common. Of all the possible things people could envision, not to mention all the many things Oxfam actually does and talks quite loudly about, why orphanages?

The reason it appears in people’s heads is that it follows logically from their understanding of poverty and of Oxfam.

fundraising Read more

Food Values: a new project with Organic Centre Wales

This is a guest blog from Jane Powell, originally posted here.

What does food mean to us? Is it fuel for the engine, a fashion item, an export commodity, a sensual temptation, a vehicle for culture and celebration, a badge of religious and political identity, or a vital connection with the natural world? It can be all of these things and more, and the stories we tell about food will have consequences for what we choose to eat, and ultimately the food systems that we end up with.

Carrot circumplex

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Why democratic ownership can make us better people

Human beings show a broad spectrum of qualities, but it is the worst of these that are usually emphasised, and the result, too often, is to dishearten us, diminish our spirit.” – Howard Zinni

In a recent OpenDemocracy piece, I argued that the way we’re living now – over-worked, over-consuming, environmentally-destructive, indebted, isolated and unhappy – has a strong relationship with the models of ownership and decision-making in our institutions.

Why, and what can we do?

grandstand-330930_640 Read more

Genis Carreras: Visualising Values

We’ve recently been working with Genis Carreras – the talented graphic designer behind Philographics – to visualise the Schwartz values inventory and we need your help!

But first, here are some example values…

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On having more than two sides: how do you describe values?

Common Cause draws on research by an academic called Shalom Schwartz, who divides values into four overarching groups: openness-to-change, self-transcendence, self-enhancement, and conservation. Yeah, right, they’re a bit of a mouthful.

circumplex

It also draws on work from researchers such as Grouzet and Kasser who use a similar model but that relates to goals.

Kasser Remade

 

When we’re talking about Common Cause, we often just talk about two values groups that combine the two: ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’. This terminology is pretty familiar to many people now, and it’s particularly useful for telling a simple story of how our society has become more materialistic, more unequal and more selfish – shifting from intrinsic to extrinsic – like George Monbiot recently did in the Guardian.

circumplex_intrinsic_extrinsic

But as with any simple story, it’s incomplete. Read more

Taking the red pill:
A 10-stop tour of Common Cause

Common Cause ruined my career, it removed a lot of my assumptions, and took me to a more radical perspective. It was like taking the red pill, once you’ve taken it you can’t go back. You see how misdirected much progressive work is.

Martin Kirk, /The Rules, ex Head of Campaigns at Oxfam-GB

Common Cause applies what we know about motivation from social psychology to the big problems facing the world. We’ve had a go at whittling it down to 10 principles…

What is Common Cause?

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