Democracy starts the day after the election…..Days like today can seem

There’ll be a lot of people in the community activist groups, the campaigning organisations, and the co-operatives that we work with who will be feeling the anger, frustration, disbelief, despondency, resignation, powerlessness and more that an election result like the one we’ve just had here in the UK can bring about. So much time, energy, hope has gone into making change and we’re still left with a government who divide and rule, who pit us against each other – those in work against those on benefits, those from the UK against migrants and refugees, the non-disabled against the disabled and so on.

Here at Rhizome we believe in community and we believe in action. Neither of those things is election dependent. There’s been a lot of talk about promises, pledges and vows this election. Our promise, pledge and vow is to continue to work with you, to the best of our ability, to support you to make change, to build community, and to take action that delivers real democracy.

Support is out there if you want to work by more genuinely democratic processes like consensus decision-making, or to take action despite the political system through nonviolent direct action. Here’s a quick run down – whether it’s for formal advice or an informal chat, mentoring, training, facilitation of meetings, try:

  • Rhizome – that’s us. We can help you with your group and organisational processes to build a culture of cooperative democracy. We can also help you strategise and plan for action, as well as train you in the ethos of nonviolent direct action and its techniques. We have lots of free resources on this website

Then there are our sister organisations who can make a similar offer:

Days like today are hard. But this is where democracy really starts – when we decide to set aside mere formalities such as election results and engage in real democracy – in our workplaces, community groups, families, and neighbourhoods. Relearning and rekindling the values of community, of empowerment and of relentless nonviolent action. Get in touch.

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Sustainable Activism Weekend Workshop

Where? Claverham, near Bristol
Cost? Sliding scale of £15 – £100
When? Fri 19 (pm) – Sunday 21 June 2015

Why?
When we think of mounting inequalities, eco-systemic collapse, runaway climate change, and the rise of the Right – the problems we face can seem insurmountable. No matter what we do, it never seems to be enough. Change seems to require such immense effort that no rest is permitted. The result is paradoxical: an activist culture of burn out, disillusionment and high drop out rates.

If this resonates with you, if you have felt or feel on the edge of burn-out and want to develop skills to avoid it, join us for a nourishing weekend of personal and collective reflection on effective activism and personal sustainability.

What?
This two-day residential training was borne out of ‘Sustaining Resistance: Empowering Renewal’ a 10 day residential training developed and delivered at Ecodharma in the Catalunyan Pyrenees.

The introductory training applies ecological/systems thinking and holistic-participatory learning to the practice of activism and the building of social movements. It offers both a space of reflection and practical methods for engaging in the inner work that underpins effective activism for social and ecological justice. Themes that will be explored include:

  • Building group dynamics that support sustainable activism
  • Avoiding disillusionment/staying inspired
  • What is ‘enough’ and how to manage it
  • Self care and how to integrate it into our daily lives

Facilitators?
Nate Eisenstadt and Claire Milne, both of whom are co-facilitators of Sustaining Resistance at Ecodharma

More info / apply?
Please email claire[at]ecodharma.com to request a (short) application form.

Organise resistance not compliance. Build mutual support

https://i0.wp.com/www.lcap.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/pamphletcover.jpgOccasionally you come across an inspirational resource. Today tweeted the link to London Coalition Against Poverty’sBuilding mutual support and organising in our communities” pamphlet.

If you’ve ever struggled to organise in an effective and inclusive way, there’s something here for you.

Full of stories from independent community groups. Read it! Then share it with others. It’ll be going up on our Resources page.

71% activist burnout rate!

71%.

Let’s say that again: 71% of activists surveyed by Plan To Thrive report having experienced or currently experiencing burnout.

Read the Burnout: Experiences & Advice post for both personal and organisational strategies to stay sustainable.

For grassroots activists, consider going to Sustaining Resistance which we help facilitate – next dates are in October in the Catalan Pyrenees, repeated in 2015 likely in the spring and autumn, and the early summer in the UK. 

And if we can help your community, whether an organisation, network or single group, change it’s culture of activism and implement those strategies, do please get in touch.

Building your cultural capacity for capacity building

A couple of weeks ago we co-facilitated the first of the Co-ops UK ‘Working with Conflict’ workshops in Manchester, part of an innovative and responsive training programme commissioned by Co-ops UK and being provided by experienced training co-ops across the country. Rhizome is leading on the working with conflict workshops and we’d opted to pitch the training at the level of cultural, attitudinal and behavioural change, rather than just skills building. Skills building is important, but to us changing attitudes and behaviour is where the real, solid and effective change happens.

It was heartening to find that many of the coops attending were very aware of the impact of organisational culture on their ability to function effectively. That’s not something you can always assume – historically cooperative development and support was aimed at structural issues such as finance, legal frameworks and marketing. In this training we gave the participants space to share their struggles and their successes in terms of avoiding, controlling or turning round cultures of conflict. And there were lots of examples of coops doing just that. One coop shared that they now prioritised recruiting for the ability and attitudes to co-operate, not for skills to do the tasks of the business.

This awareness and willingness to work on changing organisational culture isn’t always so easy to find. Through other work we’ve done recently we’ve had reason to ponder the nature of capacity building as an act of growing the culture of activism. Our work often focuses specifically on growing and supporting networks of grassroots activists (and not just growing the numbers of activists, levels of skill, amount of activity or any of the other criteria by which capacity building success are often measured).

Discussing one organisation’s plan to build up an activist network was disappointing. What they said they wanted turned out to be very different from what they’ve ended up going with. In Rhizome we’ve seen this same, flawed, approach so many times – so many assumptions that demonstrate an underlying culture of the organisation which conflicts with their stated aims and plans.

Of course many of us don’t always live up to our aims – none of us are perfect. But to thrive we need to recognise that an organisation’s values and impact are not defined just by their mission statements, their stated aims, but by the attitudes and behaviours of the organisation as a whole, as well as those of the individuals in it. And where there is a substantial difference between what we say and what we do, it fundamentally dilutes our message, compromises our abilities, weakens our capacity. Ultimately it hobbles the organisation and risks its future.

If you want to see the gap between your rhetoric and your reality – check out your work against the Ladder of Citizen’s Participation. Sherry Arnstein wrote:

“There is a critical difference between going through the empty ritual of participation and having the real power needed to affect the outcome of the process… participation without redistribution of power is an empty and frustrating process for the powerless. It allows the powerholders to claim that all sides were considered, but makes it possible for only some of those sides to benefit. It maintains the status quo.”

Many of us working for social change might read that and heartily agree that that’s exactly what corporations, politicians and states do. We may be less inclined to notice when NGOs do the same through their own ‘democratic’ processes, or when ‘grassroots’ networks do the same through informal hierarchies and unacknowledged oppressive behaviour.

If you want to have a lasting effect then social change organisations need to be honest about which rung of the ladder they aspire to, and which they currently occupy. Our experience is that unless this is firmly out in the open, and groups are actively working towards integrating the rhetoric and the reality, the level of participation will almost always slip downward as other factors assert themselves at the cost of empowerment.

At Rhizome we feel that relating to or working in an organisation or network is all in the attitude. And that attitude needs to be nurtured and held throughout the organisation – in other words be part of the organisation’s culture. It’s not sufficient for a team of paid or voluntary capacity builders to have the right attitudes, if they don’t have the support of the wider organisation, or the power to make organisation-wide change. The right attitude to engagement needs to be part of your organisational culture from top to bottom. Otherwise you risk being seen as milking the networks for more action, more funds, more weight to your campaign, and ultimately your capacity and support will wither.

So if you’re building or supporting an activist network, some of the ways in which a culture of participation and empowerment might demonstrate themselves in your capacity building programme include:

  • Make involving staff realistic and genuine. There’s often an ideal of all staff taking a part in the life of the network through some kind of support or mentoring role, and that’s a laudable way to ensure that the network becomes central to the whole organisation. However, it’s rarely in every staff member’s job description, it’s unlikely to have been a consideration in their recruitment and in reality, they may not have the interest or relevant skills. If you’re going to do this you need to do it properly – check, assess and train them and integrate it properly into the roles.

  • Whatever you’re planning needs enough lead in time. It doesn’t matter how urgent the campaign, the emphasis is on you to get your act together – strategise and plan appropriately, don’t dump unworkably short project plans on your volunteer networks. There’s your own internal bureaucracy, plus giving your activists a genuine chance to contribute, co design and participate at a pace that works for them – which, if they’re volunteers, may be a lot slower than you’d like. Working with the conflicts will take time. Whatever lead in time you were thinking of, double it, and then double it again.

  • Involve activists and potential activists from the start. Check out even your most basic assumptions (that they want a network / that a network will work for this organisation etc) and keep them involved. And by ‘them’, I don’ t mean just the easy to relate to/ ‘onside’ activists. You need to talk to the ‘hard to reach’ and the ‘awkward squad’ as well as the potential & as yet unreached activists. And whilst you’re talking to them, try to understand them better. You might find that they’re not so hard to reach, or so awkward after all.

  • Consider that the networks might be able to be more self-supporting than you first think. Whilst setting up and running networks can be time-consuming and difficult from a distance, if you’re willing to trust people and cede some/all control, supporting people to do it themselves allows you to focus your resources and empowers the networks.

  • Commit to a proper programme of mentoring and training. Give it time, proper resources, and look for depth as well as breadth. Plan to see how it can be made self-supporting; a mentoring programme that turns out new mentors, a training programme that builds the skills and attitudes needed to train others.

  • Don’t just assume it’s just the network folk that need training. Your staff and organisational culture needs to be supported and developed. Training them is a fast and effective way of doing this.

The bottom line is that there’s a need to build the cultural capacity of your organisation for change, which allows you to accept and celebrate diversity, feel safe devolving some or all power to your activists, and co-produce and co-design projects, materials, strategies, campaigns. That needs to be replicated in (and learnt from) the network itself. Without building this cultural capacity no amount of people, funds, webspace, petitions, hashtags or events will build you a genuinely resilient and effective network.

Our Tottenham – community democracy at work

“Since about 2009 my activism has focused on trying to build towards a better way of running society from the bottom up with full participation and real direct democracy and on a human scale. The first step seemed to be to get everyone who was active in a variety of ways in a local community all working together to resist bad stuff and do good things and to start to make their own power; and then to get the previously inactive people involved and gradually build a new type of democracy – simple !”

 

So opens a post on the Community Democracy blog where James Holland gives examples of genuine people-powered democracy at work in an age of austerity. He’s involved in Our Tottenham and sees the Our XX model as one that can and is spreading. Keep an eye on it.

#OurTottenham

No Right Turn – resources to resist the far right

NoRightTurn

Our community development friends Sostenga have created some free session plans and resources to support community development responses to far right groups mobilising in our communities. They’re asking folk to share and contribute.

Here’s what they say:

“The emergence of the EDL (English Defence League) and various splinter groups in the last few years, and their antagonising marches in communities they perceive as un-British adds new importance to us tackling the far right and their politics of hate. While none of the national voluntary sector organisations seem willing to take on this work we think it is important to share tools and resources that can help community development workers and activists do something proactive. These resources are quite basic, and we see them as a starting point. Building on work started in Yorkshire & Humberside in 2010, they are currently being developed in Brighton as a response to the now annual March for England that will be descending once again on April 27th. The aim is to create talking points and engage people around these issues. We would love to hear about and share through the No Right Turn website other similar projects.”

 

Let us (and them!) know how you use the resources, how effective they are, and what innovations you make.

Solidarity Activism Workshop

Solidarity Activism Workshop, Sunday 1st December 2013, 12-6, Leeds University Union

TidalA space for reflection on our experiences of solidarity activism and working mindfully with communities facing oppression/opposing environmental destruction.

This workshop is not a training. It will not tell you ‘how to do solidarity activism in ten easy steps’ but it will allow experienced and inexperienced people to raise and reflect on some issues around how ‘we’ act in solidarity with communities that may be very different from us culturally and politically, who may have very different ideas about tactics and decision-making. Solidarity activism requires us to reflect on our own attitudes and privilege. And to be mindful that while we can ‘parachute in’ and then return to our lives, others live with any impacts that our actions have. But bearing all of these issues we still must to act – because acting in solidarity is fundamental to our sense of justice and our fight for a better world.

We hope to be able to arrange accommodation for people coming from outside Leeds and there will be a travel pool to help with travel costs. The venue is fully wheelchair accessible. We hope to be able to arrange a crèche if there are parents who need to bring their children. There will be vegan food available for donations. Please let us know if you need accommodation, childcare, or have other dietary requirements by leaving a comment on our facebook event or emailing skills@leedstidal.org

More info and some suggested reading on facebook

Tidal is a global justice campaign group based in Leeds.

A lurch to the dwight

Our journey through the community that is the Rhizome blog wouldn’t be complete without talking to the blogger Dwight Towers. We’ve interacted with his blog, and he with ours for almost as long as we’ve been around. Here’s a brief interview:

It’s obvious from your blog that you’re an avid reader. So…

your favourite dystopian read and why?
So many!!  Brave New World was extremely challenging. Whose side are you on? Mond’s or the “Savage”.  That said, I’ve not read BNW for 20 years…
favourite utopian read and why?
Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed – showed me how and why no utopia is without the egos and status games, no matter how ‘egalitarian’ it is.
single most life-changing read?
Gah!!  Probably World Orders, Old and New by Noam Chomsky.  The pieces of
the puzzle started to be re-arranged into a logical pattern…

Your blog’s full of neologisms. What’s your all time favourite?
Smugosphere!!  Because it is so easily understood, and enrages people who
police the borders of the smugosphere.

It’s also obvious that you attend a lot of meetings, events, workshops etc, and equally obvious you find many of them painful and enraging. What’s the worst of a very bad lot and why?
I’d say the October 2006 Climate Camp meeting that was facipulated to get ‘consensus’ on having another camp in 2007, without any discussion of the dangers in going down that path.  That said, I should be grateful, because it helped me start the necessary process of disengagement and disentanglement, so I ended up being a lot less cooked by the climate camp bonfire than other people

It can’t all be bad (can it?). What’s your most uplifting meeting moment (walking out the door doesn’t count)?
When people decide that it matters to talk to strangers, and they start finding common ground

Here’s one I like to call “Desert island dicks”. Who are the people – real or archetypes – we should strand on a desert island and not save from the waves?
The pseudo-anarchists who proclaim themselves as great critics of power (state and corporate) but fawn over charlatans who know how to stroke their egos, and then start a lynch-mob against anyone who demurs to adore the charlatan. They can FUCK. RIGHT. OFF.

One blog, other than your own and our own, that Rhizome readers should visit?

  • Dave Pollard’s How to Save the World. I don’t always agree of course, but he’s asking a lot of the right questions, and coming up with some damn good answers.
  • Glasgow Sex Worker (now defunct?), on feminism, patriarchy, puritans etc.

The motto you live you life by in 140 characters….
Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.  It’s later than you think, and remember that the last laugh is on you…

Training activists with Labour Behind the Label

A few weeks ago I spent a weekend with Labour Behind the Label a Bristol based co-operative who campaign to support garment workers. They focus on efforts worldwide to improve working conditions and campaign on a range of issues, from getting compensation for the survivors of the Rana Plaza disaster to fighting for a living wage.

They have recently recruited a group of Regional Co-ordinators across England to raise awareness in their local communities of the issues garment workers face and to encourage people to take action. They invited Rhizome to help facilitate a two day training workshop for the volunteers to develop their confidence and skills in speaking to people, running awareness raising workshops for local groups and putting on public actions to generate interest.

The workshop was a mix of information giving about garment worker’s rights and the changes Labour Behind the Label are campaigning for and skills building and practice activities. We practiced giving out leaflets to members of the public, adapting information for different audiences, and designing and delivering a mini-workshop. By the end of the weekend the group has also generated a number of ideas for public actions and shared experience of putting on successful fundraising events. The group took well to this “learning by doing” approach and feedback was generally pretty positive, though the task of delivering a workshop was quite challenging for some. One piece of feedback was that more modelling or examples of good practice would have been helpful, which did make me reflect on how I set up the task and think about how I could incorporate this next time I run a similar activity.

Hannah

Mainstreams, privileges and exclusion in radical groups

The folk over at German based trainingskollektiv have written a detailed reflection on the week-long ‘Facilitating Change’ event which took place earlier this year. They’ve called it Mainstreams, privileges and exclusion in radical groups and just translated it into English. It’s worth a read and you don’t need to have been there to find some value in their words. As one of the event’s facilitation team it’s a relief to see learning continuing and being shared.

For those of you who prefer reading off-screen, or with a few illustrations to complement the text, they’ve even taken the time to publish it as a pdf.

Let us know your thoughts,

Matthew

Sustaining Resistance 2014 – deadline 31st August; fully funded places

flamec bodySustaining Resistance, Empowering Renewal

26 April – 4 May 2014

This training offers personal and collective tools to make our activism more effective by supporting us to:

–     stay in activist work for the ‘long haul’ by avoiding burn out through creating personal and group sustainability and adding continuity to our movement building,

–     ensure that the collective dimensions of our activism exemplify the values we struggle for.

–     stay inspired, nourished, empowered, & strategically creative

 The training applies ecological/systems thinking, radical analysis and holistic-participatory learning to the practice of activism and the building of social movements. It offers practical methods for engaging in the inner work that underpins effective social engagement. It will also bring together activists from across Europe to share practice and strengthen networks.

These residential trainings in a wild and remote part of the Catalan Pyrenees in Spain will also give you the opportunity to experience life in a land-based community based on simplicity, low-impact living and being close to the land.

 For more information visit:

www.ecodharma.com/courses-events/2011/09/06/sustaining-resistance-&-empowering-renewal

To apply for full funding please email:

lou@ecodharma.com for Sustaining Resistance
We will email you an initial application form – to assess your eligibility, and which
you need to return to us by 31 August 2013. See below for details on the full application process.

Costs of training

Fully funded places: Full funding is available (including travel) for those eligible for Grundtvig In Service Training Funding.

Dana economy:  Needs based Economy – for those ineligible for grant funding or who are unsuccessful we can explore reduced and bursary funded – for more info please visit www.ecodharma.com/booking-information/the-dana-economy

 Full price: For those who can support the full costs of the event from their own resources the full cost of Effective Collaboration is 500 Euros and 717 Euros for Sustaining Resistance – plus a contribution towards food, accommodation and a local pick up by car (this amount represents full cost recovery, which means, how much it actually costs to deliver the course). This price is for those eligible for funding or with means to meet these costs.

 If applying for a dana / bursary place or at full price please indicate your respective situation and ability to contribute.

Funding Application Process

For those interested in applying for funding, once you have requested and returned our own internal application form by 31 August, we will assess whether it meets both the course and the grant profile/criteria. If you seem eligible for grant funding we will support you through the Grundtvig In Service Training Process step by step and send you all the supporting materials and information you need to complete the process. This will involve filling in Grundtvig’s on-line application form by 17th September 2013.

Dana / bursary application process

For those who wish to be considered for a reduced price or bursary/dana funded place please request and return our internal application form by 31 August. Then, once it is clear how many reduced price places we can offer in April we will be in touch with selected applicants by October 2013 to let them know if they have a place. For most Dana funded places participants will need to fund their own travel.

 Full price application process

For those who have the means to meet the full costs of the course, please fill in the internal application form by August 31st 2013. If you are selected for a course place we will be in touch to arrange payment by October 2013.

Time: the currency of social change

“What links the Spanish 15-M protest movement with a Time Bank in West Yorkshire?”

An intriguing question answered in the post The edge between protest and prototyping solutions over on the REconomy Project blog. Faced with high unemployment in Spain, ridiculously high in young people, time banks have come into their own. To quote the post:

“[In Spain], people started to work in different social initiatives, initiating groups of research in different fields, charity organizations, urban gardens and communities of collaboration that later became time banking groups. One of the most relevant and successful initiatives, at least for me, was the time banking network, because it allows social and personal development even if there’s no money or employment.

“I believe that evolution must not just depend on money. It has to depend on social evolution to be a real development. It is great to share and exchange your knowledge and skills to develop a community. In an economic crisis it allows people to continue to feel useful to society and confident in themselves even without a job.”

Visit the post to read the rest. Hat tip to Nick,

Matthew

Sustaining Resistance, 2013

Tools for Effective-Sustainable Activism,12-20 October 2013, Catalan Pyrenees

!! Deadline to apply for fully funded places, including travel: 20 April 2013 !!

This residential training, hosted in a wild part of the Catalan Pyrenees, offers personal and collective tools to make our activism more effective.

Sustaining Resistance helps us:

  • stay in it for the long haul, creating personal and group sustainability and adding continuity to our movement building.
  • ensure the collective dimensions of our activism exemplify the values we are struggling for.
  • stay inspired, nourished, empowered, & strategically creative.

The training applies ecological/systems thinking, radical analysis and holistic-participatory learning to the practice of activism and the building of social movements. It offers practical methods for engaging in the inner work that underpins effective social engagement. It will also bring together activists from across Europe to share practice and strengthen networks.

This 9 day residential training in a wild and remote part of the Catalan Pyrenees in Spain will also give you the opportunity to experience life in a land-based community based on simplicity, low-impact living and being close to the land.

For more information visit www.ecodharma.com/courses-events

Costs
Fully funded places: You may be eligible for a fully funded place on this course (including travel) –please email claire@ecodharma.com by 20 April to ask for information about this.

Dana economy: Needs based – for those who are unable to receive grant funding we are able to explore reduced and bursaried places based on a dana economy – for more information please visit www.ecodharma.com/booking-information/the-dana-economy

Full price: 717 Euros plus food, accommodation and local pick up (this amount represents full cost recovery, i.e. how much it actually costs to deliver the course and is only for those eligible for funding or with others means to meet these costs).

To apply for a place based on the dana economy or at full price, please email susres@ecodharma.com by end of June for an application form.

Campaign Bootcamp

campaign-bootcamp-logoCampaign Bootcamp is a week-long training programme for young campaigners. They’re looking for young people who care about social change, want skills training, mentoring and are ready to work hard.

The first Campaign Bootcamp will run from 16th-21st June about 30 minutes outside of London.

For more info and full application details -check out the website. The deadline is 26th April.

A voice from the edge (fund)

The Edge Fund has just completed its first round of funding – supporting 28 grassroots groups. Here’s a quick interview with Joe, one of the Edge Fund community:

What’s the vision of The Edge Fund? Our long term goal is to achieve systemic social change. This is not an easy task and will have to be a process which is led by the grassroots as those in power seek to keep things on the whole ‘business as usual’.

We hope we are filling a big gap by offering financial support to these types of grassroots groups who are also working towards this.

We’re particularly interested in supporting groups who are facing discrimination and injustice because of their class, ability, gender, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or other factors — those who are actively working to challenge these injustices and to create just and healthy communities.

What was the catalyst for starting the Edge Fund – why now? We are facing monumental injustice and threats from the current economic, ecological and democratic crises in this country and beyond. All power and resources are held by the privileged few who are putting the worst effects of economic failure onto ordinary people.
What made you get involved? My background is campaigning around climate change, squatting and against the trebling of student fees. I have struggled, as many have in the past, at the near impossibility of securing funding for grassroots work of a radical nature. Inaccessible funding application forms and unhealthy hierarchies make the whole process soul destroying. It was clear the Edge Fund was on a mission to be different.

What have been the biggest challenges so far? For me the hardest part was getting 25 members, all of very different backgrounds, to agree on a shared values statement. This was always going to be tricky, and took many hours of sometimes painful meetings but we did it through good facilitation skills and a shared understanding that we’re all working for the same thing in the long term.

And the most exciting things so far? During the first round of funding, once there was 30 applications left from the 334 we received in total, members were allocated a group/groups to get more information from. I was given Critical Education Project, Britain on Trial, UK Via Campesina and Fuel Poverty Action. I managed to meet up with three of them and had a conversation with one over the phone. It felt like a very empowering process where we were already building a mutually beneficial process both for the funder and grantee. The first thing I told them all was that my background was not in funding which immediately broke down the inherent power inequality.

How hopeful are you having seen the applications for your first round? I was extremely happy with the 28 groups who received some support from Edge Fund during the first round. I was really pleased with all 4 of my groups that I was allocated and my favourite project was Disabled People Against The Cuts who are a really strong campaign standing up for Disabled People’s rights all across the country. All I hope for is that we will be able to give out more cash next time.

CounterAct

cropped-counteract-960-x-250A new resource for activists in Australia is now up and running – CounterAct is

“a new project launched to support communities in taking effective, creative, strategic nonviolent direct action on issues of environmental and social justice.”

We look forward to learning from them and collaborating wherever possible!

Common values, Common Cause

I spent a stimulating day at the Common Cause Assembly in London on Friday discussing the case for working with values and what this might mean in practice. Common Cause is an initiative led by the Public Interest Research Centre that grew out of a report published by a coalition of NGOs in 2010 that makes the case for civil society organisations to find common cause in working to strengthen a set of ‘intrinsic’ values that they suggest underpin the work of the sector, regardless of what particular issues individual organisations focus on.

Common Cause draws on a seam of academic research from psychology around human motivations, values and behaviour. This argues that people are motivated by their values, which influence their attitudes which in turn have an impact on their behaviour. Research shows that there are a set of consistently occurring human values throughout human societies which can be distilled into two broad concepts – ‘intrinsic’ values, which are values that are inherently rewarding to pursue (e.g. connection with nature, concern for others, social justice, creativity) and ‘extrinsic’ values, which are centred on external approval or rewards (e.g. wealth, social status, social power and authority).

This matters to civil society organisations pressing for change because people who prioritise intrinsic values are more likely to be politically engaged, concerned about social justice and demonstrate more environmentally friendly behaviours – generally all the ‘’progressive” or “good” things that we want people to do! We all hold all of the values to different degrees and in different ways during our lives, but the research also suggests that values can be strengthened, like muscles. So the more these intrinsic values are appealed to and engaged, the stronger they will get, and the ripple effect on our attitudes and actions will follow.

I spent much of the day in a workshop looking at how we might strengthen these intrinsic values in how we engage with others, and had some thought provoking conversations around what values mean in terms of facilitating and working with groups. How do we demonstrate intrinsic values such as helpfulness, honesty, equality and universalism when facilitating? Is it just about trying to model these values in our behaviour and interaction with the group? Is it being mindful of the values we want to encourage in creating the activities we run? Should we make a conscious effort to find out about the values of the people in the group and seek to meet them there, but nudge them towards intrinsic values if extrinsic values like authority and ambition are displayed? Is it right to attempt to challenge and change people’s values and attitudes? In terms of groups there was also an interesting open space session on the value of deep, immersive learning experiences vs. short workshops or training sessions in developing values driven action. We didn’t get very far in answering any of these questions, but had a great time thinking and debating. I’d be really interested in others reflections and experiences on this.

One other thing I found inspiring on the Common Cause website is a TED Talk by Dave Meslin, ‘The antidote to apathy’, arguing that people don’t fail to act out of apathy, but because there are significant external barriers to getting involved in our communities. If we break down these barriers we can make it much easier for people to act on their intrinsic values.