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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.

Read more

  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

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