The approaches that civil society organisations and networks take while campaigning on their areas of concern will also impact wider prospects for durable cultural change. Most civil society organisations and networks focus on a specific cause – mitigating climate change, eradicating structural racism, or promoting the rights of people with disability, for example. This is crucial work. But, alongside these cause-specific activities, organisations and networks can simultaneously help to create durable and systemic change. This is because, regardless of the success of their specific campaigns or communications, they also contribute to shaping cultural values – foregrounding some, avoiding others.
One way that organisations or networks can support systemic change is by building common cause with other networks and organisations, even those working on seemingly unrelated issues. We love the example of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) lending its voice to a campaign in Australia to legalise same-sex marriage. It’s not an obvious area for collaboration, as the two causes do not share a direct policy link, but ACF envisioned a society in which, as they put it, “compassion and respect are at the heart of our decisions”. This is the kind of society which would care passionately for Australian biodiversity: it is also, as ACF saw it, the kind of society that would support same sex marriage. Though in policy terms biodiversity conservation and same-sex marraige seem very far removed from one another, support for both agendas is premised on an appeal to closely related values.
We are embarking on a strand of work to try and test what it might take to build this type of solidarity into the activities of a range of different organisations.
We have run a two day retreat to explore and refine this approach with a group of 30 participants drawn from the biodiversity conservation and refugee action communities.
We are working to mock up a range of examples of ways in which an organisation or network working on one issue could lend its support to work on another issue, both through its external communications and by considering its internal practice.
If you’re interested in learning more about the thinking behind this project, check out this blog written by Tom Crompton. If you would like to find out more about the Australian Conservation Foundation example mentioned above we would recommend reading this blog by ACF’s then Director of Communications, Angela Rutter.
Thank you to all those who have participated in our workshops and furthered this thinking, as well as to Angela Rutter and her team for the brilliant ‘Love is Love’ example.