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
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
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.”
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
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
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
“I am already amazed at how I now hear people differently and think about what they say and how I contribute in regard to ideas. It’s been a very fundamental shift for me.”
Common Cause Workshop participant after reflecting on the session
Last month we held a full day Common Cause workshop with 40 people in Melbourne. This gathering brought together a network of people interested in applying the Common Cause approach in Australia. Hosted by Climate Reality Australia, participants included people from a diverse range of disciplines – including environment, development, psychology, marketing, fundraising, government, research, travel – working on environmental and development issues.
We saw it as imperative to ensure the workshop was conducted in the spirit of the environmental values at the core of our work. It was therefore decided that to save on costs – both financial and environmental – that our 2 presenters running the workshop from the UK would join us by video conference. Read more
We’ve drawn attention to the strong synergies between Common Cause and the work of Michael Sandel before. He’s in the UK (speaking at LSE) tomorrow, and I’ve just read his latest book – “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets”.
The arguments that Sandel develops in the book revolve importantly around the way in which charging for a good or service changes its nature. He writes:
“Standard economic reasoning assumes that commodifying a good – putting it up for sale – does not alter its character” (p.113).
And he then argues that this is far from the case – that, in many instances, creating a market for a good or service profoundly effects its character. For example, paying people to give blood changes the nature of blood-donation.
“As markets reach into spheres of life traditionally governed by nonmarket norms, the notion that markets don’t touch or taint the goods they exchange becomes increasingly implausible” (p.114).
In another example (one also mentioned in the Common Cause Handbook), Sandel cites a study of community attitudes to nuclear waste dumps in Switzerland, finding that offering citizens financial incentives for supporting the local siting of a dump erodes their support.
In discussing this further, he presents some insights which Common Cause has itself worked to highlight: Read more
There are two exciting internship opportunities within the Common Cause network this month, both hosted by the Public Interest Research Centre. The first is a Common Cause Internship working on core Common Cause activities, from liaising with academics and summarising new research to helping develop participatory workshops. The second is a Common Cause for Nature Internship working with PIRC on a major new project investigating ways to better engage the UK public in conservation.
For more information, visit: www.pirc.info/jobs. Read more
This blog is written by Eivind Hoff in Brussels.
How to use the Common Cause perspective in the design of dialogue processes? That was what we discussed through a case study at Common Cause Brussels on 19 April.
The case was a real example of an EU-funded research project that is to start soon with the aim of fostering better dialogue between R&D communities and civil society on low-carbon energy technologies that sometimes are controversial, such as wind turbines, CCS or power transmission lines. One of the first big tasks in the project will be to conduct a large number of interviews in 10 European countries with different types of stakeholders on their opinions on these technologies and the low-carbon energy transition in general. Read more