Common Cause for nature report + practitioners guide

January 2013
Public Interest Research Centre

This report offers recommendations for the conservation sector and others on how to ensure their work strengthens the values that motivate people to protect and enjoy nature. Produced in collaboration with thirteen UK conservation organisations, it is based on original analysis of these groups’ communications, workshop discussions, survey responses and in-depth interviews.

Common Cause advocates new ways of conceptualising social and environmental challenges. We argue that diverse challenges, which may seem unconnected, are often deeply intertwined through the cultural values that lurk behind them. There’s something a bit contradictory, therefore, about breaking out a specific set of challenges (here “conservation”) and thinking about this in isolation to other challenges. Although the report is clear about the necessity to respond to these kinds of interdependencies, if we were launching this work now we would probably do more to highlight these cross-sectoral implications of an understanding of values.

The report was written by folk at the Public Interest Research Centre, and commissioned by a consortium of conservation organisations convened by the Common Cause programme at WWF-UK.

this if...

  • You’re interested if thinking more deeply about how values show up in the communications and campaigns of conservation organisations
  • You work for a conservation organisation and are looking for help in thinking about the “values footprint” of your current activities

Key Takeaways

  1. Public support for ambitious conservation action will be built on a foundation of intrinsic values. At the time of this analysis, many conservation organisations were working inadvertently to promote opposing extrinsic values that are likely to undermine conservation success.
  2. About a quarter of communications assessed in the report contained appeals to opposing values groups. The idea that appealing to a range of values will motivate more people is likely mistaken: placing intrinsic and extrinsic messages together can cause mental ‘dissonance’ or discomfort, and reduce people’s motivation.
  3. Communications should vary depending on the audience – civil servants might not be approached in exactly the same way as the general public – but where possible, communication with any audience should foster intrinsic values.
  4. As well as assessing progress towards a particular behaviour or policy change, monitoring and evaluation should also account for the impact on values.
  5. By using an understanding of values to identify new areas for policies and campaigning, and by working together to cultivate intrinsic values, we can create a society that is more compassionate, more connected to nature, and more motivated to protect our environment for generations to come.

Toolkit resources

Why fundraise?

Is there a way to fundraise without being in direct competition with other charities?

Do you feel like a fraud?

Are your communications engaging people as citizens or consumers?

Free gifts and supporter journeys

Exploring some of the challenges posed by the pressures of short-term fundraising

Reasons to volunteer

Reflecting on intrinsic motivations to volunteer

Value surveys and maps

More information on the two values surveys that Common Cause draws on in its work

Material tested in our experiments

Further information on the texts used in the study with WWF and Scope

Summary of published research

A summary of results from research into priming values

Other resources
you might like

The Common Cause Handbook

Meeting environmental challenges: the role of human identity

No cause is an island: How People are Influenced by Values Regardless of the Cause

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