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PIRC has been independently funded by individuals and foundations since 1972.
To build a more sustainable, equitable and democratic world, we need an empowered, connected and durable movement of citizens. We cannot build this kind of movement through appeals to people’s fear, greed or ego. Such motivations tend to produce a shallow, short-lived types of engagement. Rather, we need to foster intrinsic values – those values centred on concern for others and the natural world, connectedness, and self-acceptance.
Common Cause is a network of people working on this premise – aiming to help rebalance cultural values to create and maintain a fairer world. Between 2010 and 2015 PIRC helped facilitate the network and coordinated a number of Common Cause projects. Find out more about Common Cause.
A residential training course in the applied psychology of human motivation for communicators, organisers and leaders of social change
This summer, we’re offering three days of practical and inspiring participatory learning in the beautiful mid-Wales hills. Together, we’ll be using the Common Cause approach to explore the psychology of values and develop tools for applying it to our work. Read more
Last week, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation released a report that calls for more kindness in communities, and outlines some ways that helpfulness and support can be encouraged.
It shows that kindness takes different forms, not all of them equal in their impact, and it looks at a real British community (Hebden Bridge) to make recommendations that can be applied elsewhere.
The report reveals a perverse truth: most people think that giving help is good, but that receiving or soliciting help is bad.
Vulnerability (exposing a need for help) is seen as the counterweight to dignity (maintaining self-reliance and independence). If we want an antidote to lonely, alienated Britain, it is this psychology we ultimately have to challenge.
Four of a Kind
When talking about kindness, its seems that people tend towards four different orientations.
Values: 58 Ideas We Live By is a beautiful deck of cards for exploring who we are, designed by Genis Carreras in collaboration with PIRC.
“Love. Creativity. Enjoyment. Curiosity. Friendship. Purpose. Psychological research shows that we are all driven by the same things – but differ in how we prioritise them. Fifty-eight values guide our lives, shaping who we are, what we do, and ultimately the kind of society we live in.”
Whether you’re just mildly interested in values or a fully fledged Common Cause geek looking for workshop material, this little deck deserves a place in your life…
If you ask anybody this question, there’s surprising similarity in what people say. You can generally put people’s values into four broad groups:
Change & autonomy values, such as creativity and freedom,are linked to tolerance and comfort with difference. (Openness-to-change values)
Care & empathy values are all about concern for others and the environment, equality and tolerance. (Self-transcendence, or intrinsic values)
Stability & security values, such as social order and respect for tradition, are associated with maintenance of the status quo and discomfort with other groups. (Conservation values)
Power & competition values are linked to prejudice, discrimination, materialism and concern about status, self and money. (Self-enhancement, or extrinsic values)
We all hold all of these values, but to different degrees. These four groups work in opposition to each other as in the diagram below. Care/empathy values are opposite power/competition, and change/autonomy values oppose stability/security values. This means we’re unlikely to value one set highly if we value the other set highly. (Read more about how this works here!)
The desire to understand and classify different types of human relationships isn’t new; we’ve been pondering it for thousands of years. What rules govern our interactions? And how do relationships shape us into the people we become?
The answers aren’t immediately straight forward, because the way we interact with each other is influenced by many things: how well we know and trust people, who’s got more power, the agreed understanding of reciprocation or exchange, and whether we converge around a common interest or selfish need. These things can be very fluid, too. Think about how you’d interact with a friend, a colleague, your grandmother, in a range of different situations. While you might see these people as being in different ‘categories’ of relationship, you probably have a rich variety of ways you interact with every one of them. Moment to moment, mood to mood, you’ll be laughing, arguing, teaching, ignoring or sharing with each other, although perhaps not in equal measure.
As social creatures, our experience of relationships is a huge part of how we develop. Our values, personalities and tastes are strongly influenced by our interactions with our parents growing up, with our colleagues at work, with the natural world. And this influence goes both ways. Not only do our values inform the types of relationships we seek, but our values also change over time as a result of our relationships. By understanding this feedback loop a little better, we gain useful insights into social and environmental problems.
Relationship theory is a tool to guide better ways of talking to each other, organising our workplace, and supporting campaigns or causes. Read more
The life of a mouse is entrusted to your care. You can either save this mouse, and receive no money. Or play the market to bargain for its life, and accept that it will be killed.
This is the Mouse Paradigm, and it’s the subject of a recent study into how economic markets affect our moral values. The way we produce and trade goods, particularly in complex global markets, tends to produce what are rather clinically termed ‘negative externalities’, or in plain English, social and environmental harm. This can mean the air and water pollution affecting villages near Chilean copper mines, or the street children in Kolkata whose livelihoods are directly affected by the price of gold on the international market. Often, these impacts are both difficult to grasp and easy to ignore. We all participate to some extent in these ‘externalities’ by our consumption of goods and services. But what role does the market itself play in our ability to turn a blind eye? And how do we react when these harms are directly and consciously connected with our own participation in the market?
The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
– Ludwig Wittgenstein
What we learn and how we are taught are key to shaping the people we become. The heated debates around the UK’s National Curriculum in recent months attest to a general recognition of this: with the fight-back against the proposal to remove climate change from the syllabus; discussion around what is taught in history classes; and a current trend for questioning how to teach ‘character’. What is not always considered is what values are being taught through our education system. New ‘action research’, carried out by Lifeworlds Learning in collaboration with Oxfam, Practical Action, the British Red Cross, Think Global and the National Children’s Bureau, aims to address this. Their recently launched report, Leading Through Values, outlines the findings of a pilot study in which primary school teachers took to teaching children about values in nine UK primary schools. Read more
Ralph Underhill worked on planning casework and water policy at the RSPB for seven years, before joining PIRC to work on the Common Cause for Nature project. He would like to hear your thoughts on this piece and would like anyone interested in the project to get in touch.
Conservation is a dam. It tries to hold back a tide of potentially damaging impacts, that, if unleashed, would overrun the natural world and destroy the wildlife we care about.
With the increasing challenges brought on by economic development this dam is reaching its limits. Numerous biological indicators (such as this) are showing that the cracks in it are widening and water is spilling out at a rate not previously seen.
To date, the role of those working in the conservation sector has to been to try to maintain the integrity of the dam. Whenever a new threat emerges (be it a new infrastructure proposal, breeding failure on a particular reserve or a damaging government policy) it creates a fresh crack and we rush to stem the flow. Although some water gets through, it is never as much as would have done if we weren’t there.
We are making a difference, yet somehow things continue to get worse. Read more
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 new report released yesterday, Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs): a policy framework for peak oil and climate change, makes a valuable contribution to the debate about how policies affect public values. Read more