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

Common Threads – October

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

Common Threads – September

Why good people do bad things – On moving towards a more realistic ethical frame – and recognising that currently, a ‘business frame’ and an ‘ethical frame’ prompt very different values and reactions.

NGO-business partnerships – One from last year, reflecting on criticisms levelled at NGOs for their corporate partnerships – and thinking about key questions to ask when entering one.

Creative Change in the US – Some examples of projects working on workers issues, immigrant rights, and prison issues for the long term, and discussion of how we have to change culture and perceptions – which takes more human and material energy than getting someone to make a poster for your campaign.

Moving from blaming people to blaming culture? – Neal Lawson believes that we should neither vilify those at the top or bottom of our society (in terms of income), concluding “Our enemy is not other people but the processes, institutions and belief systems of modern consumer capitalism.”

Annie Leonard on the aspirational commons – “The aspirational commons: hope, passion, commitment, the future. These belong to all of us, and it is up to all of us to protect and nourish them – because a society without hope and passion, and without possibility-rich future, is a dreary society indeed. And, of course our democracy: it belongs to all of us and only works when we engage”.

Polling nerdvana – Good analysis of the most recent British Social Attitudes Survey, and thoughts on how it represents a competition between progressive versus conservative framing of social issues.

9 development phrases we hate (and suggestions for a new lexicon) – A great article well worth reading, it includes the incredible line: ”Give a donor one project, and feed him benefisheries for one day. Teach a donor to scale-up, and you will feed him benefisheries for a life time.”

Common Threads – August

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

  • Controversial new paper on the development movement - A discussion of a new paper on how ‘[big-D] Development “depoliticises poverty by viewing it as a technical problem to be ‘solved’,” [small-d] development “recognises the political nature of poverty and inequality that requires long-term structural change.”’ And Duncan Green’s response to the paper, expressing frustration at the lack of inclusion of NGO voices in the analysis.
  • The value of nature - Monbiot argues against the monetarisation of nature: “If we allow the discussion to shift from values to value – from love to greed – we cede the natural world to the forces wrecking it.”
  • Being primed with ‘individual choice’ makes people more accepting of inequality.
  • Tim Jackson on the “G” word - After Rio, Tim says we need to start talking about the religion of ‘growth’: “Prosperity is more social and psychological, it’s about identification, affiliation, participation in society and a sense of purpose. And you could in principle build a society in which people were fulfilling their needs and flourishing as human beings in a higher way than in a consumer society, provided you had the right investments in the opportunity to flourish in less materialistic ways.”
  • Why climate change doesn’t spark moral outrage - “Unlike financial fraud or terrorist attacks, climate change does not register, emotionally, as a wrong that demands to be righted.”
  • People don’t like shocking adverts, the ASA find, so how should organisations convey reality?

More responses to Tony Juniper: 
vision, experience and evidence

In the wake of Tony Juniper’s recent Independent blog on the role of values in environmental and social change campaigning, a number of people in the Common Cause network sent reflections on the points he raises about the “Values Modes” approach – which seeks to accommodate existing values, whatever they may be – and the fundamental challenge to this approach presented in Common Cause, which seeks to promote the values associated with socially and environmentally beneficial attitudes and behaviours.

We’ve split these responses into three categories: vision, experience and evidence. Read more

A response to Tony Juniper

There are two questions I would like to put to the proponents of Values Modes or
Cultural Dynamics (CD).

Firstly, is systemic change necessary? In other words: in order to minimise the speed and impact of climate change, do we need to alter any of the fundamental workings of the institutions and machinery of our society so that they, collectively, produce markedly different environmental outcomes? If your answer is no, that things are basically fine and some of the outputs just need tweaking, then we can stop right here as we’ve found the point of real and absolute difference with the Common Cause approach that supersedes everything below. I’d suggest people use this difference to judge which of the two more suits them.

If, however, we do think systemic change is necessary, then that requires us to examine certain facts. Firstly, that the global political economy is built in large part around corporate consumerist values of wealth, status and power. As opposed to, say, beauty, equality or caring for loved ones. Countries must acquire ever more material wealth (or GDP growth); individuals are encouraged hundreds or thousands of times every day to dress in a certain way to be attractive, watch TV to be entertained, look younger, drive better cars, go on foreign holidays, and so on. We must look at the fact that to drive these behaviours, consumers – as we’ve become known – must actually want them; that demand is required. To create demand, peoples’ desire for (that is, the degree to which they value) their own wealth, power and status are commonly appealed to. We must circle back round to the fact that to satisfy the demand that they have spent large budgets and endless amounts of human creativity to stimulate, the vast majority of economic actors – what can credibly be called the bulk of the system – use methods of production and distribution that are directly and significantly implicated in changing the climate. Which brings us irrevocably back round to the intense focus we place on the values that drive this type of economic activity. And finally, we must accept that the intensity and self-perpetuating nature of that focus, must, at some level, be addressed if we are interested in anything but treating symptoms. Read more

Common Threads – July

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

  • Winning The Story Wars - Jonah Sachs’ new book discusses the need for stories to create meaning and inspire change, and the shortcomings of our cultural stories, currently dominated by marketers.
  • Story of Stuff – Story of Change - Why we need citizens, not consumers, to create real change.
  • Brandalism - Subvertising spreads around the UK. “Here comes the boom of the end of your civilisation and don’t you look pretty in your cool new jeans.”
  • 5 popular forms of charity that aren’t helping- Breast cancer awareness campaigns – from pink buckets of KFC chicken, to breast cancer vodka and T-shirts encouraging men to ‘save a life, grope your wife’.
  • The Guardian discusses the Hodgson Report - The report controversially suggests charity trustees could be paid (there’s also a poll on this recommendation here).
  • The real reason conservatives win - Joe Brewer discusses political differences through the psychology of groups, and how a values-based strategy can aid progressives. “We need to focus on building communities of shared identity that bind us together… Building trust across organizations requires a three-pronged approach. First, we have to know our own values so that we can articulated them with authenticity and authority. Secondly, we must make these values explicit and engage in the practice of radical transparency to leave no questions about where we stand and what we care about. And third, we’ve got to seek out those who resonate with these values at the core level of their personal identity.”

Trade-offs in influencing the European Parliament – was it worth it? 
A view from Brussels

The European Parliament: between ice cream and development education

How much did it promote intrinsic values to adopt a European Parliament declaration on development education and active global citizenship when this relied in part on enticing Members of the European Parliament with “Earth balloons” and photo opportunities?

This was the question Tobias Troll of DEEEP (Developing Europeans’ Engagement for the Eradication of Global Poverty) asked the Common Cause Brussels chapter on 12 July.

Tobias first gave us a crash course in written declarations of the European Parliament: They become automatically adopted once a majority of the Parliaments’ 754 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have signed them (within a deadline of three to four months). The declarations have to be less than 200 words, have no binding force, can be linked to any policy area of the European Union and do not automatically give rise to any specific follow-up. The main purpose is political: with a written declaration in your pocket, it is easier e.g. to ask the Commission to take action. It gives you a political “foot in the door”. Read more

Can Trade Express Intrinsic Values? 
A view from Brussels

How can the fair trade movement better influence policy-makers by using intrinsic-orientated frames? That was one of the questions asked at the Common Cause Brussels lunch on 20 June, hosted by the Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO). Read more

Common Cause & Disability 
A view from Brussels

This update is from Eivind Hoff in Brussels who is hosting Common Cause conversations with policy experts, campaigners and social change-makers.

How could Common Cause be used to influence politicians and the public on the need for supported employment for disabled people? This was the topic discussed at the Common Cause meeting in Brussels on 22 May, hosted by Workability Europe.

With 80 million Europeans having a disability of some sort, ensuring a decent life for disabled people should be in everyone’s interest. Despite this, it is a topic that is often forgotten. One element of a decent life is having the possibility of using your capacities to work. Many disabled people are however excluded from the open labour market. There are various forms of supported employment for disabled people, yet little is known about their role in supporting people with a disability to transition to the mainstream labour market. Read more

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