Archives for July 2014

Strategic Reasons Why Values Matching is a Good Idea

square box not fitting in round hole

Image credit

Different framings for action on climate change and nature/environment gain more or less traction across the UK population depending on whether they mainly just appeal to Pioneers, or also to Prospectors and Settlers. This could be described as uplift for propositions, gained by ‘values matching’.

However some pundits, academics and campaigners argue that matching action-propositions to people’s values is not a good idea. For example writer George Monbiot has recently published two blogs (http://bit.ly/1pbFLum and http://bit.ly/1ucn5f3) in The Guardian, both based on the work of group ‘Common Cause’, which takes this position.

They (invariably Pioneers) are concerned that it might reinforce ‘the wrong’ (Prospector or Settler) values. They fear that this, in turn, might affect ‘society’s values’. The ‘wrong values’ they identify are typically about a desire for power, acquiring material wealth, and ‘self-interest’. Better then to try and change people’s values so that they are ‘good’: altruistic, global, benevolent, universalist?  From this mind-set, matching offers or asks to people’s values is a bad idea if it includes the ‘bad’ values. They do not accept that, as Saul Alinsky famously said, ‘with very rare exceptions, the right things are done for the wrong reasons’, and that ‘it is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason – this is a fight with a windmill. It then follows that they do not accept that the right outcomes can sometimes only be obtained by getting support of people who do not share your own values.

I do not agree and have written about why in previous newsletters. This can become a tedious and tangled debate. Common Cause and their supporters like to talk about ‘extrinsic’ and ’intrinsic’ values, whereas CDSM divides any population into three Maslow Groups (Settler – Security Drive; Prospector, Outer Directed; Pioneer, Inner Directed, and within them, 12 Values Modes). It is not always clear whether we are talking about the same thing and certainly not in the same terms. Both sides acknowledge the work of Shalom Schwartz but draw different conclusions from it. CDSM’s approach is mainly empirical; Common Cause is more theoretical. We believe the evidence suggests Maslow was right and that if people meet their unmet needs they change (in improving conditions/ good life experiences, from Settler to Prospector to Pioneer). Common Cause seems to think not. 

In addition, Common Cause seems to advocate talking about values to change them, whereas we have found this will tend to lead to disagreements which entrench values differences rather than change them. We have found that people are largely unaware of their motivational values: they feel like ‘common sense’. Common Cause wants to talk about values to change behaviours. We think that you cannot do that very easily, if at all, and it is more effective to change the behaviours. And so on.

Myself, the people at Common Cause and Mr Monbiot are all environmentalists. We probably have a similar idea of how the world really ought to be in terms of environmental quality and impacts. We just have a different view about how to get there.

All that said, I usually try to avoid this debate for two reasons. First, unlike some of the potential antagonists, nobody is paying me to take part in it and I can’t afford the time. Second, the main proponents of the ‘improve the people’ argument are themselves articulating a set of values most clearly expressed in the Concerned Ethical Values Mode, and no amount of analytical evidence is likely to make any difference. Although they might not accept it, what I have seen of the many research projects we have conducted using the CDSM ‘Values Modes’ system convinces me that they are driven by a largely unconscious need to find ‘ethical clarity’ and so will want to reject any route to change which is not ethically the best possible option.

I’d suggest there are a number of practical strategic reasons why values-matching is a fundamentally sensible strategy in the circumstances faced by most campaign groups today.

1. The Maths

Most campaign groups are dominated by Pioneers (Inner Directed) and are operating in societies where the majority of people do not share their values. In China, for example, over 70% of the population measured by the CDSM values segmentation (which includes use of Shalom Schwartz’s internationally verified question-set) is Outer Directed i.e. in CDSM’s parlance, Prospectors, which groups like Common Cause and advocates like George Monbiot would see as having ‘extrinsic values’.

This ‘Maslow Group’ is the largest in every one of ten societies we have surveyed for Greenpeace, except the US.

The ‘Pioneers’ on the other hand are in a minority in every country and in all cases (except the US) make up less than a third of the population. To take a rudimentary example, if there was a need to gain majority support for an idea, just appealing to ‘Pioneer’ values such as self-direction, universalism, benevolence, ethics and a global view of the importance of nature, would be a recipe for failure. There are of course many instances in which a majority of some sort is a desirable objective.

2. Signals of Feasibility

In democracies, and indeed in societies which are not ‘properly’ democratic but where rulers and decision-makers are aware that they need to have or appear to have ‘popular support’, many important policy decisions depend on showing that an idea is broadly supported, whether actively so, or simply accepted without much opposition. Achieving this typically means going beyond the Pioneers.

In contrast, generating a values-divided public debate generally sends the opposite message: that this is an intractable problem. Instead campaigns need to generate signs that the change they advocate is feasible, achievable and so offer decision-makers some sort of popularity reward.

3. The Decision-makers

Not all decision-makers are Pioneers. In the UK, for example, most people working full time for companies or other organisations are Prospectors. Nor are all politicians or officials Pioneers. For an idea to feel right and work for them, it needs to resonate with their values. Being told they are wrong-people and should adopt your demands based on your conflicting values is not likely to work but it will give them confidence that your proposal is wanting.

4.  The Doers

Contrary to what some Pioneers may assume, some of those most likely to act to support the changes they want are not Pioneers but Prospectors. Of these, the Now People Prospectors are the ‘bridge’ for new ideas or behaviours between the Pioneers and the Prospectors: they pick up these ideas from the ‘Transcender’ Pioneers.

This transfer is the point at which ‘mainstreaming’ takes place (as an idea becomes fashionable before becoming ‘normal’).  A good example in the UK is renewable energy. For decades almost the only people actively advocating or adopting it (eg. solar) were Pioneers. Now it is being mainstreamed by Prospectors, in businesses such as Gentoo Group (whose values we have surveyed – it is a mainly Prospector but very ‘green’ company with 27,000 solar panels on 2,000 properties in Sunderland and plans for 3,000 more solar homes). While Pioneers tend to agree with ‘good things’ but are so interested in debate and ideas that they may not do much to implement them, Prospectors are the principal doers and implementers of change. Once change mainstreams, Settlers too take it up. So, for example, you can now find homes sporting both solar pv and UKIP posters (UKIP’s core voters are Settler), like this one.

5. Outcomes

Campaigns should be planned backwards from analysing situations and identifying a strategic objective, and then working out a critical path of changes that will get you there. It’s along this path that the need to engage particular audiences, in ways that work with them, arises. Campaigns should not be projected forwards with rhetoric and polemic to advocate a desired outcome.

Many of the ‘moral hazard’ outcomes posited by critics of values-matching only arise if there is no strategy for change beyond advocacy and proselytizing. In reality, rather few campaigns can be won that way. An instrumental campaign built around a strategic critical path should have an objective which, once achieved, makes a strategic difference: a political decision between countries in the form of a treaty; an increase in the sales of a ‘good’ technology to the point where market forces make it inevitable that it will become dominant; or a change in infrastructure or a system that then determines which behaviours are possible or likely. In such cases, the motivations behind the actions become, at best, secondary.

6. Time and Resources

Even if it were true that people strongly driven to achieve power and material wealth were permanently locked into that values set, and even if you could ‘change’ these people without them meeting those needs (neither of which we think is true), campaigners dealing with urgent problems often do not have the time or resources to adopt a change-through-changing-the-people strategy. We have actually measured the values of the populations noted above. In China there are 26.4% who are ‘Golden Dreamers’, the people who most espouse the material + power values that some campaigners see as very ‘wrong’. In India 29.3% are Golden Dreamers and in the UK 15%. In all three countries they are the largest single Values Mode. This means that there are about 360m Chinese and a similar number of Indians who some see as having very much the ‘wrong values’.

Even if there was a way to ‘change’ these people (and some advocate 1:1 encounters), it seems somewhat unlikely that campaign organisations have the means to do so. Take for example, getting a car, or a ‘better’ car. For Golden Dreamers this is likely to be a priority. Persuading Indian Golden Dreamers to want their ‘next car to be an electric one’ rather than a fossil-fuel driven one is not difficult: we know from asking them that 68% say ‘yes’ (probably because ‘electric’ is now ‘fashionable’, seen as desirable and a sign of success). Persuading them to forgo a car altogether would be a very different matter but, from a climate-change point of view, electric cars are a change that the world needs to see, and quickly.

Finally, it sometimes seems that those opposed to ‘values-matching’ think that it means advocating that people should consume more or be more ‘materialistic’. The examples given in ‘Broadening the Appeal of Environmental Action through Values-Framing Uplift’ show that this need not be the case in practice. 

For example, the proposition ‘It is vital to introduce young children to nature’ out-scores ‘we should all care for nature’ by attracting more agreement from Settlers and Prospectors (ie. better matches their values). But this is because it is ‘about children’ and being a (good/better) parent rather than just promoting ‘nature’ and implying personal action. It is not gaining power or material wealth which is the promise here but social success and reinforcement of self-identity. For these groups, being-a-parent does this whereas global ethical universalist care for nature does not.

Similarly, ‘There’s still time to address climate change if we all make quite small and easy changes’ better matches Prospector and Settler values than just asking them to be ‘bothered’ and ‘concerned’ about the environment because agreement requires less self-agency. That’s another way to better match Prospector and Settler values but also does not require endorsement of ‘materialism’.

The main implication for Pioneers is one of self-restraint. Values matching requires them not to lecture or harangue Prospectors and Settlers to see things as Pioneers do, for example to embrace ‘huge and difficult’ changes with little evidence that they can be achieved, or to put ‘nature’ before their children.

headshot of Chris Rose

Chris Rose is an ecologist and communications and campaigns consultant based in the UK, a former director at Greenpeace, campaigner with WWF International and Friends of the Earth, author and host of Campaign Strategy, a free campaign planning website. This article was originally published in Campaign Strategy’s June 2014 Newsletter and has been republished with the author’s permission.

If you’d like to get Cruxcatalyst via email, click here to subscribe to this blog.

If you liked this post, please consider sharing it using the buttons below or to the left of this post.

Listen