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No Cause is an Island

A major new piece of research

Common Cause makes the case for a different approach to creating change.

Most current approaches to creating change focus on specific causes (for example, biodiversity conservation or international development; climate change or disability rights). They identify key interventions – changes in people’s behaviour, or policies for example – that will help to advance these causes. And then they promote these interventions.

Common Cause makes the case that this approach, important as it is, isn’t sufficient. We confront huge challenges. If we are to step up to addressing these, then our approaches need to add up to more than the sum of their parts.

We have built the case that we need also to look ‘across’ a wide range of causes. In this way we can identify the values that motivate people’s concern about these causes, and work to engage and strengthen them.

Common Cause has accumulated a large body of evidence for this approach. But much of this evidence comes from studies run by academics who don’t necessarily set out to address the specific challenges faced by charities. Often we hear from communicators and campaigners in charities that the material tested in these studies isn’t very ‘realistic’.

A new study

Today we’re publishing a new study, which we have been working on for many months. It combines the best of both worlds. On the one hand, we’ve worked on it with some of the world’s leading experts on values. On the other hand, we used it to test the effectiveness of material produced by staff in WWF (a conservation charity) and Scope (a disability charity). The study makes use of a large panel of nearly 14,000 people managed by the Institute of Development Studies in Brighton. Having read text describing the work of either WWF or Scope, in either intrinsic or extrinsic terms, we then asked people about their intention to help one or other of these charities – by donating money, volunteering, lobbying their MP, or joining a public meeting.

Here are some key findings, each of which I’ll be unpacking further in subsequent blogs.

Firstly, reading about conservation or disability in ways that connect with more intrinsic values leads people to express significantly stronger intentions to help WWF or Scope respectively. The implications of this are clear, and unexceptional to anyone familiar with Common Cause: if you are interested in encouraging people to offer these forms of support you are probably better off engaging them on your cause through intrinsic values.

Secondly, this result is found regardless of the values that a person holds to be important. We asked participants to complete a values survey 3 months prior to our experiment. This enabled us to examine whether extrinsic texts were more effective in encouraging expressions of support from people who were more ‘extrinsically oriented’ (that is, people who care relatively more about wealth and image).

We found that they were not. It made no difference whether people were more intrinsically or extrinsically oriented. Intrinsic texts were consistently more effective in motivating intentions to help either organisation.

Results like this hammer yet more nails into the coffin of ‘values matching’ strategies which advocate segmenting an audience according to their dominant values, and crafting communications to connect with more extrinsically-oriented audiences using extrinsic values.

But the third result of this study is the most significant.

As outlined above, we found that an intrinsic text about conservation (one invoking people’s love for the natural world) was most effective in motivating people to express an intention to help a conservation charity.

And we found that an intrinsic text about disability (highlighting the need to support disabled people in living life to the full) was most effective in motivating people to express an intention to help a disability charity.

But what about the effect of the text about conservation on people’s intention to help a disability organisation? Or the effect of the text about disability on people’s intention to help a conservation organisation?

We found that either intrinsic text was equally effective in leading people to express an intention to help either cause. The intrinsic conservation text was just as effective as the intrinsic disability text in leading people to express an intention to help Scope; and the intrinsic disability text was just as effective as the intrinsic conservation text in leading people to express an intention to help WWF. No cause is an island.

It seems that WWF and Scope, and presumably 1001 other charities, have the opportunity to communicate about their cause in a way that not only strengthens people’s concern about this cause, but which also serves to strengthen public concern about social and environmental justice in and of itself.

Education Conference 2014

Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of good education.
– Martin Luther King

What does good values-based education look like?

Last week we hosted a 2 day conference in cold and beautiful Edinburgh to discuss this question. With a hosting team from PIRC, Lifeworlds Learning, Character Scotland and Learning for Sustainability Scotland, and a room full of people working on or researching this topic, there was a lot of buzz and plenty of examples of good practice.

In a rather cruel Pecha Kucha session (which, if you’ve never done it, involves speaking for precisely 6.40 mins, following 20 slides on a strict timer of 20 seconds each), a number of brave speakers stepped up to the stage. We’re working on turning this into a short film, but to just give a couple of snippets – we heard how the Real World Network were using values and frames to guide their outdoor education, developing such frames as “This time we share, with the past and future” and “All taking requires giving back”; how the Woodcraft Folk’s focus on learning through co-operation and sharing was being integrated into Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence and how the John Muir Award scheme had been designed primarily to bring a little more AWE into the world (because awe’s great, isnt it?)

Conference panorama

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Action Learning Programme in Scotland recognised with UNESCO award

This post was written by Osbert Lancaster.

A group of us working on Common Cause in Scotland developed the Communities with a Common Cause Action Learning Programme to pilot an approach to putting Common Cause into practice that could be replicated more widely. The programme had excellent feedback from participants and was recognised with a UNESCO Outstanding Flagship Project Award. The judging panel were particularly impressed by the innovative nature of the project and its contribution to pushing forward the field of Education for Sustainable Development.

How it worked

Sixteen people participated in the programme, drawn from government agencies, NGOs and community groups engaging communities with the environment. Participants were recruited in pairs from each of the eight organisations and were selected for the influence they could bring to bear on their own organisation and their sector. The programme ran from September 2013 to February 2014 with one workshop per month introducing a range of concepts, tools and approaches that can be used to create a values-based approach.
Participants undertook activities between each workshop to put learning into practice and prepare for the next workshop, and were supported by a mentor.

The programme was evaluated using a range of methods including in depth semi-structured interviews with participants.

Alp scotland 1

Discussions at the Common Cause ALP in Scotland

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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

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