January 5, 2012No Comments

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.


Tim Burns


020 7549 0300

December 12, 2011Comments are off for this post.

The High Price of Materialism

Tim Kasser is professor of psychology at Knox College, Illinois, and author of The High Price of Materialism. He has been of great help in developing the Common Cause work.

In this animation, produced for The Center for a New American Dream, 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. The animation both lays out the problems of excess materialism and points toward solutions that promise a healthier, more just, and more sustainable life.


October 25, 20112 Comments

Opening the ethical debates in advertising

We’ve suggested elsewhere that there are two broad categories of response to Common Cause.

The first is to focus on the implications for the campaigns and communications that we are already producing: how might we campaign on biodiversity conservation, or disability rights, or cancer research, while simultaneously helping to strengthen those values upon which systemic concern about these issues must come to be built?

The second is to ask: what might we begin to do collectively, across the third sector, to strengthen the cultural importance of intrinsic values and reduce the pervasiveness of extrinsic values? Here there are many opportunities for new joint campaigns. One of the most obvious – but it is only one – is on advertising.

There is persuasive evidence that advertising serves to reinforce the cultural importance of extrinsic values – and to undermine the importance that we place on intrinsic values. As such, it will operate to reduce public concern about a wide range of social and environmental issues. This is an effect which is likely to be further strengthened by the fact that advertising is so pervasive – we literally can’t avoid it; and by the fact that much of it is targeted at children – people who are likely to be more vulnerable to its influence on values.

PIRC and WWF-UK have today launched a report highlighting the evidence for the cultural impacts of advertising. George Monbiot has written about it here. And you can download the report below.

We’ll now be hosting a conversation – with people from the third sector and business alike – on the cultural impacts of advertising and possible responses. Do get in touch if you would like to be involved in this!

[wpfilebase tag=file path='reports/Think Of Me As Evil - PIRC-WWF Oct 2011.pdf']

September 7, 20111 Comment

Value Modes and Common Cause: 
Response to Rose

In our recent Common Cause Briefing Limitations of Environmental Campaigning Based on Money, Image and Status, we highlighted some important claims that both Pat Dade and Chris Rose have made about how values change: claims based in the Value Modes approach that were contrary to our understanding of psychological research and theory.

To help clarify our understanding, we asked several psychologists with expertise in these topics to respond to two questions designed to test the claims Dade and Rose have made about value change.

None of the psychologists who responded to our questions supported the perspective that Dade and Rose have advanced. At the end of our briefing, we therefore challenged Dade or Rose to make available the data or theoretical statements by other psychologists that would support their viewpoint.

Rose has recently responded to our briefing. Nowhere in his reply did he address the comments made by the psychologists who we surveyed, comments that explicitly rejected the implications about value change that were derived specifically from statements that he and Dade have recently made.

Conspicuously, Rose also failed to produce any data supporting the viewpoint that he and Dade advance. Nor did he offer any explanation as to why he is still not making these data public.

In addition, during his response to our briefing:

1. Rose stated that we misrepresented his views but did not explain exactly what we said that was a misrepresentation. We had been careful in our briefing to draw directly and extensively from Dade and Rose’s recent writings on this issue. For example, we cited Rose:

“…once the underlying dominant unmet need is met, a new one takes its place… So, if Prospectors meet that need by getting enough stuff and following sufficient fashion etc, they do not stay Prospectors but develop other needs – i.e., they become Pioneers”

And Dade:

“[S]atisfying people’s needs, in Maslow terms, acts as a means of fulfilling a needs set and thereby saps or lessens the strength of that value set to influence behaviour”

What they have written here seems very clear. Having quoted extensively from their writing, we summarised their position in our briefing in these terms:

“Rose and Dade claim that adopting a pro-environmental behaviour in pursuit of values for image, money, and status is likely to help meet an “unmet need” and therefore lead individuals to develop other needs, such that they will eventually come to place greater importance on the kinds of values that the research shows do indeed promote positive social and environmental behaviours and attitudes.”

We would like to hear from Rose in what way our briefing misrepresented the viewpoint that he and Dade have advanced, so long as such a response includes references to what we have each previously written.

2. Rose claimed points of difference between his approach and the Common Cause approach that are simply not points of real difference. There are many instances of this, but one example will suffice:

Rose wrote, for example that:

“trying to change people’s values or attitudes and beliefs by arguing with them or telling them they are wrong, does not work”


“You need to start from where people are, not where you are.”

We have never advocated telling people that they are wrong, and in his response Rose does not offer any evidence to support his suggestion that we have. On the contrary, we have argued repeatedly and explicitly for meeting people where they are. To give one example, a section of the Common Cause Handbook entitled “Meeting people where they are” includes the following passages:

“Continuing to reinforce extrinsic values in people’s motivations is therefore likely to have unintended consequences. At the same time, though, a person’s dominant values—which will sometimes be extrinsically-oriented—may well cause them to react negatively to anything seen as directly oppositional to their dominant value-set. …
“Meeting people where they are will therefore be important in engaging them, with a view to ultimately creating spaces for change and facilitating the flourishing of more intrinsic values. This means making the most of the shared knowledge and experience we already have on how to initiate and maintain engagement with those around us; thinking about the language and media we use, and the places we work.” (p.41)

We hope that Rose will recognize that we do not disagree with him on this point.

3. Rose offered a series of reflections that have no apparent bearing on the key point of difference that we highlight in our briefing. For example, he highlighted the extensive survey evidence for the possibility of segmenting audiences according to their values. We have never disputed this evidence – and, indeed, we have drawn on the results of such surveys ourselves.

4. Rose wrote:

“Instead of trying to use theories based on these studies to criticise our work, WWF could use CDSM’s model in a realistic campaign test to see if it can persuade real outer-directed Prospectors, or security-driven Settlers, to change behaviours for inner-directed Pioneers reasons.”

As we mentioned at the end of our briefing, within the last year we sought CDSM’s help for a study that we were designing, the aim of which was to explore how best to meet extrinsically-oriented people “where they are” in discussions of issues such as climate change. Unfortunately, CDSM declined to collaborate, citing commercial sensitivities.


In our Common Cause Briefing Limitations of Environmental Campaigning Based on Money, Image and Status, we set out a very clear challenge to Dade and Rose to provide evidence in support of claims that they have made very clearly in past writings of theirs. Rose offered no such evidence, despite the fact that all of the psychologists who responded to our survey stated that they believed Dade and Rose’s viewpoint was mistaken, and despite our earlier reviews of the empirical evidence on the point in question. Instead of offering relevant evidence, Rose made a series of points tangential to the issue that we raised and attributed to us perspectives that we have never – and would never – seek to defend.

At this point, it seems, there is little that we can do other than to restate our hope that Rose or Dade will at some point provide evidence in support of the statements that they have made. Until they do so, we hope that organizations and individuals interested in promoting environmental sustainability and social justice outcomes will recognize that there appears to be no evidence supporting the contention of Rose and Dade that selling people green behaviours and products on the basis of appeals to status, image, and money values will help move those individuals towards a greater concern for the environment and for social justice. Instead, it appears that the weight of the empirical evidence supports our claim that such appeals run the risk of further entrenching these extrinsic values deeper in people’s minds, and thus potentially making it more difficult to meet the challenges of environmental sustainability and social justice.

Tim Kasser and Tom Crompton

November 12, 20101 Comment

Reflections on Campaign Strategy Newsletter 66, November 2010

A response to Chris Rose's critique of Common Cause. Chris's views are outlined in his Campaign Strategies Newsletter 66, November 2010. Here are some reflections on this critique (download pdf here):

Let me start by underscoring the high regard in which I, and other members of the Working Group, hold many aspects of Chris Rose’s work. Over the years, this has contributed importantly to shaping the strategies of many third sector campaigns. Indeed, Common Cause underscores the importance of many of his insights. It’s unfortunate that the Newsletter is not more accurate in reflecting, and positive in responding to the arguments that are actually advanced in Common Cause. If it were,we could now be having good and lively debate about our common agenda.

To help us move to such a fruitful place, I set out by trying to highlight some of theseareas of common understanding. I then move to examine those areas where there arereal differences between our respective approaches. These differences can be, and should be, examined in the light of the substantial evidence base from psychology. But Newsletter 66 advances no empirical evidence in support of the position that Chris takes on these points of substantive difference.

Areas of agreement

Time and again, the Newsletter simply misrepresents the approach outlined in Common Cause, and in which there is actually considerable agreement. In particular:

The Newsletter suggests that Common Cause advocates, “that if only we explained the problem more carefully, fully and holistically, and got people to think ethically, they would change their minds and change their wrong behaviours.” But this is completely contrary to the position outlined in Common Cause: the report is clear that explaining a problem is very unlikely to motivate a change in behaviour – because behaviour is rooted in values and worldviews. Indeed, the failure of explanation is one of the report’s keystarting points (Section 1.3).

The Newsletter states that: “Forcing your values upon an audience which doesn’t share them, will only enable them to find more satisfying reasons why you are wrong, and whatever you proposed as an action will then be more deeply framed as ‘wrong’.” Again, I’d completely agree. There is nothing in Common Cause that advocates ‘forcing values on people’. Clearly, such an approach would be doomed to failure.

The Newsletter is right to highlight the dangers of inner-directed people adopting ‘holier than thou’ approaches. The Newsletter suggests that Concerned Ethicals tend to lecture “Prospectors about ‘over consumption’, and the need to lead better, more ethical lives.” I agree that would be deeply counterproductive. The Newsletter’s characterization of the viewpoint outlined in Common Cause is inaccurate. The Newsletter suggests that: “the Common Cause approach would say… instead of getting Settlers from Kansas to cut carbon for their own reasons, we should be trying to convert them to universalist, ethical, holistic thinkers of the sort that you might meet at a Schumacher College seminar or in a Deep Ecology retreat.” Yet any dispassionate reader of Common Cause will see that this is far from what it suggests.

The Newsletter argues that: “even if it were possible, trying to ‘change the values’ of someone who might at some point buy a car, as a way to change the outcomes of car buying… would come way down the list of strategic options for campaign design.” I would totally agree. Clearly, one of the most effective ways to encourage outer directed people to adopt some specific behaviours is likely to be through appeal to social status. Common Cause doesn’t advocate‘changing values’, not least because this would clearly present a silly approach to delivering on a specific campaign objective like selling more electric cars. This is made quite clear in Common Cause (Section 4.6). (Where we differ is on whether or not such approaches are likely to create collateral damage, and whether they are up to the task in hand when it comes to creating the profound systemic changes that are needed – more on this below).

The Newsletter implies that Common Cause argues it will be straightforward for a person to attach importance to intrinsic self-transcendent values, even when his or her basic security needs have still to be met. But the evidence is that to move towards the dispositional expression of the more helpful self-transcendent and intrinsic values is likely to require security needs to be met. Strengthening the dispositional expression of self-transcendent and intrinsic values will be far easier for a person who feels loved and secure?

The Newsletter suggests that “it is infeasible for any campaign group to exert enough influence over existential conditions for any conceivable campaign plan could affect the unmet needs of large audiences (sic).” Common Cause makes an almost identical point (Section 4.4). This is why it calls for new and wide coalitions of organisations. Other work upon which Common Cause draws has explicitly critiqued such approaches – for example the campaign against Urban 4x4s.

The Newsletter highlights the importance of political space, in terms of widespread public support for policy intervention on issues like climatechange. This is right: this is another of the key starting points for Common Cause (see Section 1.2). But most importantly, the Newsletter repeatedly insists that we should ‘start from where other people are’. Common Cause makes clear that this is essential. Indeed, a whole section of the report is devoted to this (Section 4.7). So there are so many important instances where the Newsletter misrepresents the position taken in Common Cause, and then takes issue with this. One unfortunate consequence of this is that the Newsletter tends to obscure the actual areas of difference, and the lack of evidence that the Newsletter advances on these key points.

Areas of disagreement

There are, of course, essential differences between the approach that Chris advocates and the approach outlined in Common Cause. Although sometimes subtle, these differences – which are critically important in terms of their implications for campaign strategy – turn on a large body of empirical evidence from social psychology. It is regrettable that the Newsletter manifestly fails to engage with this large body of evidence.

Most strikingly, there is almost no discussion of the social psychology upon which Common Cause builds its case. This is a shame because the evidence from social psychology will be critically important in settling these areas of dispute. The key area of disagreement is this: The Newsletter advances the case that appealing to social status and consumerist values is the best hope we have of engaging many people in pro-environmental behaviours. The argument advanced in Common Causeis that such appeals risk strengthening a set of values which work absolutely counterto the emergence of humanitarian and environmental concern.

The Newsletter responds to this argument by making two claims: Firstly, it advances the case that appealing to social status and consumerist values helps to ‘satisfy’ particular needs, such that people can then progress to attach importance to other values ‘higher up’ the ‘Maslowian hierarchy’. Secondly, the Newsletter claims that, even if it were the case that appealing to these values risks such counterproductive effects, it wouldn’t matter significantly, because the contribution that third sector campaigns make to people’s values will be miniscule. I will consider each of these claims in turn, but first want to turn to one other key point of difference between the perspective that the Newsletter attempts to defend, and the approach advanced in Common Cause. This is not a difference that the Newsletter highlights.

The Newsletter is right to draw attention to the possibility of roughly grouping people according to which values they hold to be most important. The values modes segmentation is closely aligned to studies of the ways in which a person’s values are structured. Common Cause builds on a related body of evidence from social psychology. But the evidence from a very extensive body of social psychology research makes clear that most people – perhaps everyone – holds all of these values at different levels of importance. It is misleading to imply that people are monolithically ‘outerdirected’or ‘inner-directed’. Indeed, Maslow himself was quite clear on this, arguing that even though a particular person might be mostly oriented towards a particular need, that didn’t mean that other needs (whether higher or lower in the hierarchy) were irrelevant – they simply weren’t as strongly expressed. This is a very important point, and one that it will not be easy to refute on the basis of the current body of social psychology evidence. There is also an impressive body of evidence demonstrating that it is perfectly possible to activate inner-directed values in outer-directed people, and vice-versa. It is this that Common Cause argues communications and campaigns should strive to do. I will now turn to discuss each of the two claims highlighted above.

Claim 1: Appealing to particular needs helps to ‘satisfy’ these needs.

One of the key arguments in Common Cause is that (even though such approaches may work for motivating some small-scale behaviours) there is likely to be collateral damage in promoting helpful behaviours through appeal to extrinsic and self-enhancing values. So, for example, while appeal to social status may work for some specific campaigns (e.g. urging people that jumpers are fashionable, and that they should turn down the heating) it is argued that there are likely to be costs associated with this approach. These costs arise because, as a very extensive body of academic research, reviewed in Common Cause, has found, concerns about social status are likely to serve to undermine systemic concern about social and environmental issues.

The Newsletter advances the response that “once the underlying dominant unmet need is met, a new one takes its place”. It continues: “if prospectors meet that need [theneed for esteem] by getting enough stuff and following sufficient fashion etc. they do not stay Prospectors but develop other needs – ie they become Pioneers.” Here, the Newsletter is advancing the case that the best way to encourage expressionsof values ‘higher’ up the Maslowian hierarchy is to satisfy those values ‘lower’ down the hierarchy. Thus, it suggests, appealing to Now People on the basis of the social status that they may achieve through the acquisition of a socially desirable green product does not risk reinforcing unhelpful extrinsic values. Far from it: it serves to help ‘satisfy’ these values, and therefore leaves people more likely to express more helpful intrinsic values in future. There is a good basis for arguing that basic security needs must be met before ‘higher’ needs are pursued. There is evidence, for example, that children with cold and uncaring parents tend to attach greater importance to more extrinsic values. And it is certainly likely to be the case that people who have not had their basic needs met are unlikely to express self-transcendent values. This would explain the ‘drop back’ of some Pioneers to Settlers in circumstances of recession – something that the Newsletter highlights.

But what is the evidence that, in order for intrinsic and self-transcendent values to be held to be important, people must first become ‘replete’ with consumerism and the pursuit of social status? The Newsletter makes appeal to Maslowian viewpoints here. Yet I am unaware – as is the social psychologist Professor Tim Kasser, who consulted on Common Cause – of any point in Maslow’s writing where he suggested that a satisfactory way of achieving love and esteem needs is through high-status consumption. Indeed the evidence accumulated in the seventy years since Maslow advanced his theory of the hierarchy of needs strongly suggests that this will not be the case. There will, of course, be exceptions, but the evidence is that most people get caught on a hedonic treadmill, in which they find the things that they consume unsatisfying, and consume other things in perpetual pursuit of fulfilment. This evidence is further corroborated by studies which find that achievement at extrinsic goals does not lead,over time, to greater well-being (increases in well-being would be predicted if success at extrinsic goals led to people ‘graduating’ up to ‘higher’ goals that are associatedwith greater well-being).

In short, persuading people to buy more stuff (albeit ‘green’ stuff – jumpers and electric cars, for example) seems very unlikely to provide a route that will encourage many people to place greater value on ‘higher’ Maslowian needs: the intrinsic and self-transcendent values that are known to underpin systemic expressions of concern about environmental and social issues, and that provide the motivation for people to act in line with such concerns. The evidence amassed in Common Cause points to the opposite: the strategies advanced in the Newsletter are likely to diminish the importance people attach to these values, and undermine commitment to addressing social and environmental problems. Unfortunately, the Newsletter largely ignores the extensive body of contemporary social psychology research which directly informs this debate. The Newsletter does draw attention to data suggesting that people can be roughly grouped into three values modes (inner-directed, outer-directed, and sustenance-driven). But such evidence says nothing about the dynamics that lead to changes in the importance that people attach to different values. The one concrete strand of social psychology research that is presented, purportedly in support of the perspective that the Newsletter advances on the role of consumption in encouraging ‘graduation’ to ‘higher’ values, is the evidence from Ron Inglehart and others that there is a growth in ‘post-materialist’ values, at a cultural level, associated with increased economic security.

Ingleharts’ work focuses on a trend from materialism to post-materialism at a cultural level, in many countries. This work points to the apparent importance of economic deprivation during childhood in strengthening materialistic values that persist into adulthood. Inglehart calls this the ‘scarcity hypothesis’. It implies that “prolonged periods of high prosperity will tend to encourage the spread of post-materialistvalues”.

This work has been disputed, with some studies strongly suggesting that the “the zeitgeist of an era rather than the individual's pre-adult economic circumstances” has greater impact on whether or not a person holds post-materialist values to be important.  But let’s give the benefit of the doubt to the perspective advanced by the Newsletter, and assume that the ‘scarcity hypothesis’ is correct. As the approaches advanced by Common Cause and the Newsletter both agree, it is likely that if you are worried about how you are going to feed your kids, you are unlikely to be preoccupied by climate change. But the Newsletter argues that the acquisition of things that are considered high-status (like jumpers and electric cars) could contribute to a person holding post-materialist values to be more important. So far as I (or Tim Kasser) are aware, this is not something that Inglehart investigates. We are not aware that Inglehart presents any evidence that acquisition of high-status things serves to increase a person’s sense of ‘existential security’, and that this is therefore likely to lead them to place greater emphasis on post-materialist values. Indeed, for the reasons outlined above, it seems highly unlikely that this would be the case. So the Newsletter manifestly fails to refute several strands of evidence that are detailed in Common Cause, and which lead to the conclusion that appeals to social status are very unlikely to help people ‘graduate’ to ‘higher’ concerns.

But enigmatically, and at more than one point, it seems that the Newsletter may bevery close to acknowledging the thrust of the argument advanced in Common Cause. The Newsletter states: “Might for example it be that advertising and product development makes it harder for people to satisfy the need for stuff? Possibly so – and that might be one of a number of reasons why the US is a Prospector dominated society than those in NW Europe (sic).” It also states:“Every time you filled up your car with petrol or diesel you were reinforcing the notion that we need to keep on using this stuff.”

So the Newsletter concedes that consumption of petrol or diesel is likely to reinforce demand for petrol and diesel. This is, of course, to be expected, on the grounds of the evidence presented in Common Cause. Yet the Newsletter argues that consumption of fashionable products – far from reinforcing the notion that fashion is important – will encourage people to ‘graduate’ to more sustainable appetites. Why? What is the important difference here between consumption of fashionable products and consumption of petrol? This is far from clear.

Claim 2: The third sector can have no significant influence on cultural values

The Newsletter claims that, even if the arguments advanced in Common Cause (about the dangers of activating and strengthening unhelpful extrinsic and self-enhancing values – for example, through campaigns such as those of Global Cool) are right, the third sector can simply have no significant influence on cultural values: to imagine that it can is just “wishful thinking”.

I’m happy to accept that Chris and I probably have different levels of ambition, and that we will therefore arrive at different conclusions of what is necessary and possible. But leaving that aside let me look at the precise argument presented. Chris asks whether readers of his Newsletter have been persuaded by the Tea Party movement in the US. “They have been vocal in promoting their values,” he writes.“Did it make you agree with them?” The implication is that because your exposure tothe ideas of the Tea Party movement has probably not led you to embrace their values, then even well-resourced values-based campaigns are futile. This seems a bizarre argument, given the facts that (i) the Tea Party campaign was not, presumably, targeted at the audience for Chris’s Newsletter, and (ii) that the campaign has actually been highly successful in the US. Chris would do well to study George Lakoff’s work on the effectiveness with which the American right has worked to strengthen their core values, such that when something like the Tea Party arrives (and possibly areason for its conception in the first place), it resonates deeply – at a values level -with certain audiences. Lakoff argues that they achieved this by consistently usingframes in their communications and campaigns, and through adopting public policy –when in power – that served to further reinforce a particular set of values.

The Newsletter also is, I feel, both dismissive about the potential of the third sector and insensitive to the current reality. The third sector plays a large role in public discourse and debate. Most of the time, that is at the level of individual organisations, focussing quite naturally on their own campaigns and business needs. In this fractured reality, the Newsletter is quite right – there’s little chance of deliberate and substantial positive impact social values. Which is why Common Cause is called Common Cause, and why we advocate a fundamental coming-together across the third sector, on an agenda potentially beneficial to all. Now if it’s a question of whether a united Third Sector can impact social values, then perhaps Chris and I genuinely disagree – I absolutely think we can. We have within our ranks a host of vibrant, active, nationally and internationally important institutions. Our individual and collective levels of brand recognition and, critically, trust with the public are such that most commercial and political actors would give their eye teeth for. Amazing things have been achieved with far less than we have to work with, so I, for one, am more than willing to put my money on their potential.

Further, as Common Cause spells out, we are already activating and strengthening values, all the time. There’s no such thing as a values-neutral communication, campaign, or policy, and there is good evidence from work we are about to publish on public attitudes to global poverty (Finding New Frames for Development, Darnton &Kirk, 2011), to suggest that the values we currently activate and strengthen with much of our public engagement activity is having an impact; we’re just not conscious of the whys and wherefores which means we can, albeit unconsciously, push in the wrong direction and make the emergence of positive values less likely. So to suggest that weare not already contributing to national values norms is to misunderstand the evidence.

The approaches that the Newsletter outlines are based on marketing techniques. Such techniques undoubtedly work for selling stuff – whether SUVs or electric cars. Because it works to sell things, the values modes approach is deployed commercially to help many of the world’s largest multinationals. If only it were foreseeable that we would be able to address the profound global challenges that we face by sexing-up a range of consumer choices (those jumpers and electric cars) on a case-by-case basis. Alas, this will not be possible. Any proportional response to the profound global challenges that we face (climate change, global poverty, biodiversity loss, and so on) will have to be very ambitious. Any ambitious approach will also, inevitably, be open to the charge of ‘wishful thinking’. I imagine that all great movements for change have been criticised by their erstwhile detractors on precisely this basis.

It seems clear to me that the only pragmatic response to these challenges is one thatoffers the opportunity for systemic and fundamental changes to behavioural choices, public policy, social institutions and business practice across a range of domains. Any approach that fails to offer the prospect of such engagement is just, I fear, wishful thinking. The approach that is outlined in Common Cause begins to offer a response to these challenges that could become proportional to their scale. It seems certain that the emergence of such an approach would need to be led by the third sector, and it is difficult to underestimate what the third sector could achieve, were it to establish common cause on the values that underpin public concern about the issues upon which it works. But, though it may start with the third sector, such a movement for change must include organisations from many other sectors – business, religions, the media, and so on. Our publication of Common Cause is already generating widespread debate within these other sectors – and a great many offers of help.


It is clear that much of Campaign Strategy Newsletter 66 is focussed on critiquing a straw man: attacking arguments that Common Cause does not make. In doing so it distracts from what could be an exciting coming together of learning and ideas. Further, those parts of the Newsletter that do focus on addressing the key areas of divergence between the ‘values modes’ and the Common Cause approaches fail to marshal empirical evidence in their support. In fact, the weight of evidence lies very clearly with Common Cause on these areas of substantive difference.

I am grateful to Tim Kasser, Professor of Psychology at Knox College, Illinois, for his comments on an earlier draft of this response.

This blog was originally posted on Identity Campaigning.

©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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