March 15, 2012No Comments

Applying Common Cause To EU Climate Jargon

This is a post from Eivind Hoff, who has been bringing together Common Cause conversations in Brussels.

What values do typical texts on EU climate change-motivated policy activate and how can we change them? That was the focus of the second Common Cause Brussels meeting on 7 March.

Most of us working with EU affairs in Brussels draft and edit texts trying to convince policy-makers to do this or that. At our meeting, we took one such draft text I had received that called for ambitious EU policies for decarbonising the power sector. What had struck me was how such texts – even with the most climate-friendly intentions - are permeated by appeals to “competitiveness”, “economic growth” and “energy security”. Read more

February 16, 20121 Comment

Do we have time to shift values?

"Do we have time to shift values?" This is a question that is often asked when people respond to Common Cause. This blog, itself an expansion of the FAQ question of the same title, offers a response.

Clearly, we don’t have long to bring down greenhouse carbon dioxide emissions very markedly before we hit devastating levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – with profound, effectively irreversible, effects upon our climate. Often, when people ask "Do we have time to shift values?", they are posing the question in the context of the urgency of addressing climate change. In this context, we need to effect major changes in how our economies are run, and we need to effect them very soon.

In formulating a response to the challenge posed by climate change, it is important to hold in mind that these reductions in greenhouse gas emissions need to be (i) sufficiently ambitious; (ii) made sufficiently soon; (iii) sufficiently durable to be maintained for a long time to come.

Implicit in the question "Do we have time to shift values?" is the belief that some alternative strategy could perhaps provide the requisite ambition and durability, and deliver these emissions reductions in a short time-frame. Also implicit is the suspicion that, while the strategy of ‘shifting values’ may be sufficiently ambitious and dependable, it is likely to take a long time. Too long.

This blog, then, provides some responses to this important question. Read more

January 3, 2012No Comments

DECC report on ‘energy behaviour’

A new paper from DECC forms the basis of their Customer Insight Team's capacity-building on behaviour change. Drawing on Common Cause, it reviews evidence from behavioural economics, social psychology and sociology on different ways of  "changing energy behaviour".

The report can be downloaded here.

December 14, 20111 Comment

Talks on carbon emissions not enough: governments must lead a shift in values, says new report

The transition to a sustainable economy will require governments to understand how policy and rhetoric impact public concern about environment and development issues, according to a report from think tank ResPublica published today.

The 56-page report is being launched to coincide with soul-searching in the aftermath of the Durban Climate Change Conference. It addresses the crucial question: how can governments work to create greater political space for proportional responses to environmental problems?

Supported by WWF-UK and Oxfam, the report argues that past and present political objectives have not succeeded in deepening public concern about climate change and poverty. Without such concern, technical policy interventions will never enjoy the public support and momentum that they need.

The report, Different Politics, Same Planet: Values for sustainable development beyond left and right, written by David Boyle, Tom Crompton, Martin Kirk and Guy Shrubsole, is highly critical of current approaches to environmental policy, saying that these often crowded out ordinary people.

It calls for a radically different approach to policy making in the future, one that taps into the cultural values of people and their communities in determining responses to today’s profound social, humanitarian and environmental challenges.

Writing in the Foreword, Phillip Blond argues: “The left has vacated the space that previously valued the inherent beauty and intrinsic value of the natural order, prioritising instead extrinsic values such as material wealth or a utilitarian calculus of leisure and utility.

“The right similarly appealed to extrinsic values through its adoption of market-driven strategies. The natural became a commodity that was to be addressed in a purely instrumentalist manner, with some advocating its protection not in terms of inherent worth or transcendent value, but on purely economic grounds.”

The report dismisses criticisms that such values lack support and are the pursuit of a small minority.  Rather, it points to evidence from psychology that these values are there in all of us – if politicians only found the courage to appeal to them.

Martin Kirk, Head of UK Campaigns at Oxfam, says: “The environment and development movements are energised by a concern for others, which psychologists have shown to be virtually universal. And yet, too often, governments have run scared of speaking to these values, preferring to ‘sell’ concern for the environment and poverty on the grounds of narrow self-interest. This is profoundly counterproductive.”

David Norman, Director of Campaigns at WWF-UK, says: “Public support for government action on the environment is built upon much the same values that underpin public concern for the NHS or universal education. We must begin to situate people’s natural concern for the environment on a bigger political canvas.”

The report seeks to shift the centre of gravity of political debate. It calls for a shift in the way that politicians frame international development and environment policy, advocating that they appeal to – and help strengthen – people’s inherent sense of what is right for future generations and the global poor.

December 12, 2011No Comments

Campaign Case Study: 
The Otesha Project

This second Campaign Case Study is part of a series of stories that will share 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.

“We’re not tied to what it looks like, we’re tied to what works.”

The Otesha Project UK mobilises young people to create social and environmental change through their everyday lives. They run cycle tours every summer – helping young people to live low-impact lives and inspire others using workshops and theatre in schools, youth clubs and communities. They also incubate youth-led Change Projects and anchor the East London Green Jobs Alliance.

Otesha has five permanent staff, and three interns who are paid a London living wage.

I spoke to Founder and Project Director Liz McDowell and Communications and Fundraising Director Gavin McGregor about their transition to a flat, shared-responsibility structure.

What did they set out to do differently?

Otesha staff have used consensus decision-making for a number of years, and there is a strong culture of facilitation and anti-oppression work. On paper, however, the charity had a CEO and a clear hierarchy. Because of this, it wasn’t always easy to work truly alongside each other; the CEO was responsible for staff appraisals, for example.

The team decided they wanted to move to a flat structure to bring consensus decision-making and shared responsibility to the core of how Otesha works. This would also be reflected in team wages, meaning a flat salary for the whole team.

They recognise that this is an experiment. They know that they probably won’t get it right the first time and are not tied to what it looks like, but are instead tied to what works. “This feels like it’s the way it should be run" explained Liz.

Why move to a flat structure?

  • Share the workload, and thus responsibility: Particularly in the early start-up phase, the workload fell disproportionately on Liz. This additional workload then also meant her voice carried more weight in communal decisions. Now, tasks such as HR, office management, and finance are distributed among the permanent staff, and rotate every two years so that everyone understands and can manage each of the administrative tasks.
  • Organisational resilience: As Liz, the founder, is moving back to her native Canada within the next twelve months, there was a clear need for organisational sustainability. From now on, new staff members are explicitly requested to stay for at least four years to ensure deep knowledge transfer.
  • Reflect their values in practice: As a youth-led education organisation, it was important to give interns more responsibility in the team – they are now part of the consensus decision-making process. Moreover, Otesha uses consensus when they lead trainings and on their cycle tours, so using it as a core team reflected how they trained other groups to work.
  • Focus on impact rather than growth: There is enormous pressure for new enterprises to scale up quickly, with a burst of new employees as fast as possible. A flat model would likely not work on a larger scale, though there are some examples. Otesha sees ‘reaching scale’ as having an impact on the wider sector, not as organisational growth. Their work on green jobs, collaborating with businesses, trade unions, educators and other NGOs is a good example of what this looks like in practice.

What did people think about it?

  • Internally: The team was excited and ready for the transition. Trustees have been supportive, though some apprehension remains. What brought a lot of support from the board was the focus on organisational sustainability.
  • Externally: There’s been a lot of interest from academics - a group of MBA students created the initial proposal for their new organisational structure, for example. Other social enterprises have questioned the model.

What surprised the team most?

For Liz, the transition felt like a huge weight off her shoulders, the job itself became much more enjoyable. Before the change, her leadership role could often become a lonely one, but the team feels much more like a community now. “Everyone is in everything together”.

Another surprise has been that this transition seems to be unique. “These are values that so many charities sign up to – to find out that we’re trailblazing is really surprising.”

What have they learned?

  • Involve everyone from the beginning – especially the trustees. People care about what they help to create.
  • This process doesn’t work well with freelancers joining for short amounts of time. A stable core team is fundamental.
  • Have patience. This is a slow process, and if it is sped up unnaturally, it will fail.

Otesha has embedded its organisational values into the every-day decision making processes, meaning that a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility will endure beyond any individual staff members. By weaving together ways of working that encourage equality and friendship, Otesha is building a network where intrinsic values are prioritised.

What does this mean for us as change-makers?

If we want to work with values, it is clear that Common Cause has implications not just for what we do in the 'outside world', but also how we run our organisations internally. Organisational structures in the third sector - including management structures, decision-making processes, pay-structures and incentive schemes - will all have an impact on the values that third sector employees come to hold as important.

When we start to incorporate an awareness of cultural values into our activities, we will need to also begin to examine the values embedded in our own internal processes.

Contact

Gavin McGregor

info@otesha.org.uk

©2018 - 2019 Common Cause Foundation

©2018 - 2019 Common Cause Foundation

©2018 - 2019 Common Cause Foundation

©2018 - 2019 Common Cause Foundation

©2018 - 2019 Common Cause Foundation

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