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Common Threads – January 2013

  • CCTV increases people’s sense of anxiety - “High levels of security have come to characterise our public buildings. This is because security has become a prerequisite of planning permission as a result of [Secured by Design], which is a design policy that has the blessing of the police.” It seems that “while people often believed CCTV would make them feel safer, the opposite turned out to be the case.”
  • Jonathan Franzen on consumerism, materialism and commodification - “To speak more generally, the ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes — a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance — with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self. Let me suggest, finally, that the world of techno-consumerism is therefore troubled by real love, and that it has no choice but to trouble love in turn.”
  • Article by Georgie Fienberg in BBC Viewpoint magazine, arguing that  development charities should move away from using guilt, shock and pity in their appeals. “This type of fundraising is antiquated, delivers the wrong message and is actually a net negative for society at large – both for Western societies and those in developing countries. I want to see poverty shock advertising consigned to the history book…”
  • A recent poll from the Associated Press-GfK finds that American concern for global warming is slowly creeping up, but most notably through direct experience rather than scientific communication.
  • Philosopher Roman Krznaric talks about moving away from introspection into ‘empathic outrospection’. Here, with the help of RSA animate, he makes the case for cultivating shared emotional responses as a vehicle for wider social and political change.
  • A Greenpeace campaign video that highlights the environmental damage caused by fashion companies while supporting a broader critique of consumerism. We like.

Satirising the sell off: creative campaigning through intrinsic means

SOLD

On Thursday the 6th December 2012, as part of Oxfam’s weekend of action on the land campaign, we co-organised a well attended auction in Bristol city centre.

The auction wasn’t selling antiques, vehicles or even animals, but Bristol’s very own landscapes, neighbourhoods and monuments. Staff from Grab, Grab & Profit auction house went to town, selling off Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol Temple Meads Train Station, Easton, St Pauls, nearby trees and even people. Grab, Grab & Profit wanted to promote private investment by selling off parts of Bristol to competitive corporate bidders at exceptionally attractive rates.

While some members of the public attempted to take part in the land rush, many others objected to the blatant injustice taking place, and put their name to supporting the land campaign. The Land Campaign calls for the world bank to enforce a 6 month freeze on all large scale land investments, and then review the process by which these purchases are conducted. More information on the land campaign, calling for an end to unjust land grabs here. Read more

Common Cause Introductory Workshop

London, January 25th 10-4.30pm

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Stepping Back to Think

Interviews with people at the Common Cause Lunch in Brussels

In Brussels, we try to meet regularly to discuss theory and practice of values and frames during lunchtime. On 21 November, we had the pleasure to welcome Rich Hawkins from PIRC in the European capital. Over the past few months, many more people showed interest in Common Cause, so this was an opportunity for us to refresh our knowledge about the use of values and frames and to introduce new comers to the concept. Individuals from ActionAid and Cooperatives Europe shared their impressions: Read more

Common Cause for Nature: Why conservation needs to change, if it really cares

Ralph Underhill worked on planning casework and water policy at the RSPB for seven years, before joining the Public Interest Research Centre where he is working on the Common Cause for Nature project. He would like to hear your thoughts on this piece and would like anyone interested in the project to get in touch.

Conservation is a dam. It tries to hold back a tide of potentially damaging impacts, that, if unleashed, would overrun the natural world and destroy the wildlife we care about.

With the increasing challenges brought on by economic development this dam is reaching its limits. Numerous biological indicators (such as this) are showing that the cracks in it are widening and water is spilling out at a rate not previously seen.

To date, the role of those working in the conservation sector has to been to try to maintain the integrity of the dam. Whenever a new threat emerges (be it a new infrastructure proposal, breeding failure on a particular reserve or a damaging government policy) it creates a fresh crack and we rush to stem the flow. Although some water gets through, it is never as much as would have done if we weren’t there.

We are making a difference, yet somehow things continue to get worse. Read more

Values and the outdoors

Inspired by the adventurous spirit of the Scottish naturalist who once tied himself to the top of a tree in a hurricane to experience the exhilaration of nature, the John Muir Award offers participants the opportunity to explore wild places and take an active role in conservation. In October, leaders who deliver the award, including teachers, community workers and National Park rangers, met for their annual gatherings in 3 locations around the UK, to share stories and discuss how values fit into their work. Read more

Common Threads – November 2012

  • Africa for Norway - simply amazing.
  • Daniel Bye on the Price of Everything - a work-in-progress “theatrical lecture” on the concept of value.
  • On being the “poorest” president - “I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more”.
  • Enlightenment in the Age of Materialism - a great TEDx talk by Carol Craig from the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing in Glasgow.
  • Behavioural change or societal change? - “The aspiration is for the UK to be a low carbon society not 60 million low carbon individuals.
  • Changing the discourse - a 6-page thinkpiece on framing, by Compass. Includes this great quote from Karl Polanyi on the “negative freedoms” of liberal utopianism: “the freedom to exploit one’s fellows, or the freedom to make inordinate gains without commensurable service to the community, the freedom to keep technological benefits from being used for public benefit, or the freedom to profit from public calamities secretly engineered for private advantage.
  • On reclaiming ‘freedom’ - how the value of freedom has been co-opted by market ideology – “in the context of a consumer society freedom today is less an Enlightenment virtue than it is the call to go shopping” – and how we should rebalance “rights and responsibilities that favour the freedom of the many rather than the few.
  • Thoughts on campaigning and where the dodo got it wrong - this is quite good.

Advancing A Global Citizens Movement?

Common Cause Brussels meets The Widening Circle

On 6 November 2012, some of the more active supporters of Common Cause here in Brussels had the chance to meet Uchita de Zoysa, Global Coordinator of The Widening Circle. According to the website, The Widening Circle is an action campaign to advance a global citizens movement for a Great Transition: global citizens are to engage for “a future of enriched lives, human solidarity and environmental sustainability” based on a “new suite of values”, namely quality-of-life, human solidarity and reverence for nature. Read more

Blue valuing green? Public engagement with climate change on the centre-right

This guest blog is by Valerie Mocker, who recently com­pleted her post­graduate degree in Environmental Policy at Oxford University. Here, she describes find­ings from her dis­ser­ta­tion research. They sug­gest that framing cli­mate change as an ‘eco­nomic’ chal­lenge may not be the best way to engage con­ser­vative audi­ences, leading people to exter­n­alise respons­ib­ility of cli­mate change and express higher degrees of fatalism about the issue. This blog was originally posted on Talking Climate on 22nd November. Read more

Christian Aid: Making Extrinsic Frames History

This post is by guest author, researcher Jo Chamberlain.

How is it, Finding Frames asks, that while financial support for international development NGOs is increasing, public concern about global poverty is decreasing? Even after the massive Make Poverty History campaign, the report finds that public understanding of the issues is poor, and in the current climate of cuts, even support for overseas aid spending is diminishing.

Finding Frames suggests that the ‘successful’ fundraising strategies are part of the problem causing the lack of public engagement.  The relationship between the organisations and the public has changed.  Members are now supporters, and these supporters are held at arms length and interacted with on a transactional basis.  Making a donation is the full extent of many people’s involvement.  The charity frame dominates the issues of global poverty, where the roles of “powerful giver” and “grateful receiver” are still as fixed as they were in 1985.

The picture of Christian Aid which emerges from its Christian Aid Week material is of an organisation based on intrinsic values, and, to a large extent, using helpful frames to communicate with the public.  The key outcome of its development work is described over and over again as enabling people in poor communities to determine their own futures and to successfully find their own solutions to poverty.  This seems akin to Schwartz’s “self-direction” values.1 Christian Aid frames itself not as a charity but as a partner.I set out to discover which frames Christian Aid is using to engage the UK public, and whether it is as wedded to the charity and transaction frames as Finding Frames’ analysis of the sector suggests. Using the material produced for Christian Aid Week 2012, I identified the values and frames used to describe Christian Aid’s work overseas, and those used to encourage the UK public to get involved.

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  1. [1] Shalom H Schwartz (1992) “Universals in the Content and Structure of Values: Theoretical Advances and Empirical Tests in 20 Countries” in Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (vol 25: 1-65). Mark P Zanna (ed), San Diego: Academic Press
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