All posts tagged: wellbeing

International Day of Happiness

In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which recognised happiness as a “fundamental human goal.” The following year the International Day of Happiness was born and from 2013 onwards it’s been celebrated every year on the 20th March.

Unsurprisingly it’s got us all talking about how we can be happier, individually and as a society

This year the UK has been ranked 19th with countries such as the US, Germany, Ireland and Israel ranking higher. The author of the World Happiness Report, Jeffrey Sachs commented that “The predominant political discourse in the United States is aimed at raising economic growth, with the goal of restoring the American Dream and the happiness that is supposed to accompany it. But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach.”

The report highlights that much more research is needed to understand the interplay of factors that determine the social foundations of happiness and consider alternative ways of improving those foundations. Here at Common Cause Foundation we know that values are crucial to the well-being of society and influence wellbeing, civic engagement and peoples feelings of social alienation.

Values are the guiding principles we hold in life, most people hold compassionate values to be most important, these are values such as broadmindedness, social justice, helpfulness, forgiveness and love. When these values are ‘engaged,’ brought to mind by certain communications or experiences, this tends to affect our attitudes and behaviours in positive pro-social ways. For instance, we are more likely to respond positively to requests for help or donations.[1]

Unfortunately there is a disparity between the values that people themselves prioritise and the values they believe their fellow citizens hold to be most important. Most people believe that others care most about self-enhancement values such as wealth, social status, dominance and popularity. It’s not difficult in the current climate to think of examples of why people may believe this to be true.

When we’re talking about happiness this perceptions gap becomes more than just interesting – it becomes crucial to our understanding of happiness. The more we underestimate the importance that others place on compassionate values, the less inclined we are to volunteer, the less responsible we feel for our communities, and the more socially alienated we are likely to feel. This suggests that this perceptions gap could be in part responsible for our constant search for happiness.

The report concludes that ‘changing the focus from the material to the social foundations of happiness will improve the rate at which lives can be sustainably improved for all, throughout the world and across generations.’

The work of Tim Kasser, professor of psychology at Knox College (Illinois) and a great help in developing the Common Cause work, agrees with this conclusion.

Tim discusses how America’s culture of consumerism undermines our well-being. When people buy into the ever-present marketing messages that “the good life” is “the goods life,” they not only use up Earth’s limited resources, but they are less happy and less inclined toward helping others.

Our social institutions have a part to play in this. Most people said that schools universities, the media, businesses, government and cultural institutions do little to encourage compassionate values. By working to stimulate and engage compassionate values of the communities and audiences they engage with, these institutions can work together to counteract this misconception. Ultimately helping to create a society that is more aware of what they have in common, come to rely on their fellow citizens and be more civically active, connected to their community, less socially isolated and ultimately… happier.

Check out how Common Cause Foundation are working with Manchester Museum and the work that’s already under-way there.

[1] Maio, G.R., Pakizeh, A., Cheung, W.Y. and Rees, K.J. (2009). Changing, priming, and acting on values: effects via motivational relations in a circular model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97 (4), 699–715; Burgoyne, C.B. and Lea, S.E.G. (2006). Money is material. Science, 314 (5802), 1091–1092; Vohs, K.D., Mead, N.L. and Goode, M.R. (2006). The psychological consequences of money, Science, 314 (5802), 1154–1156.

Shanna LennonInternational Day of Happiness
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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.

Richard HawkinsMore responses to Tony Juniper: 
vision, experience and evidence
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Campaign Case Study: 
Waste Watch

This third Campaign Case Study is part of a series of stories sharing the experience of organisations that grasp the importance of cultural values in third sector campaigning. We hope that these real-life examples of transformation inspire and empower you to push organisational boundaries and improve how we campaign together.

If you’d like to discuss these stories, or find out more about them, come along to the Campaigning with Common Cause get-together every second Wednesday of the month.

“How do we actually know what’s working?”

Waste Watch inspires and helps people to live more whilst wasting less.  Set up 24 years ago, it put recycling on the national agenda and led the country towards today’s improved waste policies. With 40 staff, it recently merged with Keep Britain Tidy. The team at Waste Watch have put values-thinking into the heart of the work they do, moving the idea of sustainability from windmills and recycling to a wider question of collective wellbeing and social justice. The video below gives a good sense of how they work with schools, businesses and communities.

I spoke to Tim Burns, Head of Waste Watch, and Morgan Phillips, who works on the Our Common Place project, about how redefining their work has allowed them to break free from a constraining focus, and how measuring broader impacts has improved the way they work.

What did they set out to do differently?

The team used to spend a lot of time making interventions, delivering a project and then walking away. Short-term funding projects meant that they’d run a campaign to share best practice, monitor the outputs and immediate environmental impacts without getting a good idea of what was really changing at a deeper level within the community.

Now, Waste Watch is measuring outcomes, rather than just outputs. This means monitoring the impact on the beneficiaries engaged in their projects as well as the wider community by looking at the;

  • Confidence and skills of the participants
  • Sense of connection between volunteers and their community
  • What cross-barrier relationships have been built

Practically speaking, by collecting this data, Waste Watch now has an evidence base from which to apply for new sources of funding. They’re connecting the dots between the environment, mental health and community development – and widening their scope to have maximum impact.

What does that look like in practice?

The Our Common Place project is bringing this values-thinking into the heart of Waste Watch’s work. Engaging with residents living in large blocks of flats across 23 communities in London, Morgan and his team are following the enthusiasm of the residents in deciding what projects they work on. In one case, sewing classes have been set up, in another, a ‘help your neighbour recycle’ scheme. One of the most surprising projects is working with a youth club to look at how sustainability flows through everyday life, in one session young people analysed their favourite song lyrics to see what values they espouse. Morgan explains,

“We found that the best way to start talking about what’s important to people, their values, is to start where people’s interests lie. We’re trying to allow for self-direction in how we work with local communities.”

Nobody in the sector has cracked how to create successful recycling schemes in deprived housing estates, so there is a need for innovative approaches. Morgan will be sharing the results in the summer later this year. A key ingredient to the success so far has been working with local authority partners, in some cases leading workshops on the thinking that the Common Cause report puts forward.

What have they learned?

Leadership on this new approach has come from every corner of the organisation. They’ve found that in order to start to articulate values-thinking in their external work, the Waste Watch team had to first start to transform the way they work internally. This started with a much more inclusive approach to leadership where ideas and contributions came from everyone, as Tim explains,

“At Waste Watch now, everyone has been contributing to our new strategic direction, for example through our business plan or our approach towards change – and as a result there’s a much more inclusive culture. Its not just formally but informally too – there’s a lot of sharing lunchtimes, baking cakes for each other – we’re actually building a community within the office as well as within our projects based upon the values we all live and work by.”

What does this mean for us as change-makers?

There is much to be learnt from how Waste Watch are applying an understanding of values in their work. Other case studies have picked up on the important implications for the culture of an organisation, and this is clearly something to which Waste Watch are responding. What is most exciting perhaps, is how values-thinking is infusing their project work, and opening up possibilities for new alliances with different sectors and organisations.

Importantly, the team understands that intrinsic values are already important in the lives of their audience – the question is how to engage with them, not to tell people how to live. Discussions about ‘sustainability’ aren’t likely to be the best starting point.

Contact

Tim Burns

tim.burns@wastewatch.org.uk

020 7549 0300

Casper ter KuileCampaign Case Study: 
Waste Watch
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