Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Wednesday 23 April 2008

Linking sustainability with intrinsic goals

In offering a new paradigm for communication for change, George Lakoff describes the values of our intrinsic goals: Nurturing family life, Caring about others, Freedom, Opportunity and prosperity, Fairness, Honest open two way communication, Community building. Is this new or did I read this before? Listen to the Chinese sage Lao Tsu in Verse 44 of the Tao Te Ching:
What is firmly established cannot be uprooted.
What is firmly grasped cannot slip away.
It will be honored from generation to generation.
Cultivate Virtue in yourself, and Virtue will be real.
Cultivate it in the family, and Virtue will abound.
Cultivate it in the village, and Virtue will grow.
Cultivate it in the nation, and Virtue will be abundant.
Cultivate it in the universe, and Virtue will be everywhere.
Therefore look at the body as body;
Look at the family as family;
Look at the village as village;
Look at the nation as nation;
Look at the universe as universe.
How do I know the universe is like this? By Looking!

Communicating Sustainability: link to intrinsic goals

Today we recognize that we should not expect public awareness campaigns to create behavioral change. Moreover we focus on the chemistry of change: trying to understand the gap between what people say and what they do. Analyzing the 2004 US Presidential campaigns George Lakoff wrote: “People do not necessarily vote in their self-interest. They vote their identity. They vote their values. They vote for who they identify with. It is important to understand this point. It is a serious mistake to assume that people are simply always voting in their self-interest.” Marketing communication – even for sustainability – mostly focuses on extrinsic goals of people: acquisition of material goods, financial benefits, social recognition. Research now seems to recognize that we have to go beyond the business case for sustainable development: “most of our consumer research points to the need for pro-environmental behaviors to fit within people’s current lifestyle, even if one might aim for more fundamental shifts over the longer term”. This means environmental marketing communication should appeal to our intrinsic goals of personal growth, emotional intimacy, community involvement. The WWF study 'Wheathercocks & Signposts' recommends to link nature with emotion, happiness, well being, personal growth, community building. If we communicate our environmental values clearly, most people will recognize them as their own, personally more authentic and more deeply human than those put forth by green marketing. At the very least they will see environmentalists as having deeply held, traditional human principles. This would be a huge step forward from the present state, in which environmentalists are seen as being against progress, economic growth and material wellbeing, with nature and self-interest as their only higher principles.

Monday 21 April 2008

Stones that tell of a society shaped by its environment

Nature experiences mostly are linked with silence. Silence that touches the soul. A mind without the chatter of endless thoughts popping up becomes peaceful. A feeling of being part of a vast system of grasses, trees, bees, clouds etc. strengthens our soul. Recently I walked along the beach. The ebb tide was really low and I thought I saw on a sand bank the rests of the submerged Roman Nehalennia temple. Not so much a soul experience. But recognizing the meaning of environment. Learning how society is shaped by it. How we are part of it. Eloquence in Stone is a story in stone, that of Sri Lanka's rich heritage through the ages. It is a story of the art and craft, architecture, sculpture and painting of our people, a pictorial narration of a world shaped by its environment. CEC member Jinie Dela draw my attention to this book. You can order it by writing to:

Sunday 20 April 2008

Biodiversity and city branding

Cities have always been brands. Famous cities are usually associated in people’s minds with a single quality, promise or story. Guess to which cities the following qualities apply: romance, style, energy. People think about cities in termes of climate, pollution, transport and traffic, the cost of living, leisure and sport facilities, law and order, and the cultural life of the city. In the world list of the top 40 city brands, Beijing has recently slipped two places down to the 34th place. It still hopes - like Barcelona - to benefit from the Olympics. And the Chinese government is making a real effort to uplift the image of Beijing of a polluted and unfriendly city to a happy nature friendly city. Environmentalists in China and abroad have warned about the danger of importing invasive species and parasites. If you want to include biodiversity into your city brand you really have to walk the talk and be sensitive to the dangers of importing plants to the indegenous species. For environmentalists this also means that it is often more effective to focus on city brands than on producing more scientific reports.

Saturday 19 April 2008

The message of the oldest living tree

Referring to values is a good way to frame a conservation message. Age is something we respect. This immediately struck me when a Swedish colleague sent me a picture of the world's oldest living tree discovered in her country. Reading about the 9,550 year old spruce in the Dalarna province of Sweden, I got this vision of a biodiversity campaign focused on historic values. At the same time the latest WWF study Weathercocks and Signposts arrived in my in-box. This is a critical assessment of the campaign and communication approaches of the environmental movement. Current behaviour-change strategies are increasingly built upon analogy with product marketing campaigns. They often take as given the 'sovereignty' of consumer choice, and the perceived need to preserve current lifestyles intact. This report constructs a case for a radically different approach. It presents evidence that any adequate strategy for tackling environmental challenges will demand engagement with the values that underlie the decisions we make - and, indeed, with our sense of who we are. Reading the report I realized that focusing on the oldest tree or on historic values may not always be the right way of framing a campaign message.

Wednesday 9 April 2008

Direct democracy and internet

From behind the computer screen GetUp members have become a potent force in Australian politics. Wendy Goldstein from Macquarie University brought this to my attention. Get Up, Action for Australia is a new independent political movement to build a progressive Australia. It brings together like-minded people who want to bring participation back into the Australian democracy. The website provides updates to the more than 280.390 members online and opportunities for bottom-up participation e.g. on Climate Change, Iraq or Tibet. For instance today the Australian Prime Minister has arrived in China, amid continuing international protests over China's crackdown in Tibet. Through GetUp almost 55,000 Australians signed the petition to Stand Up for Tibet. Rudd has since hardened his stance and said that he plans to raise the issue of Tibet during his visit. A member of the Australian Tibet Council is in China to represent citizens concerns. A daily blog from Beijing informs citizens what's going on. GetUp also has launched Chip in for Tibet! to raise money for continued work on the issue of Tibet.

Tuesday 8 April 2008

The risks of not ‘walking the talk’

In communication we learn that not practicing what you preach, gives an important message. The communication residue of this message is arrogance and is mostly counter-productive. For all the Chinese who wonder what is happening to their Olympics of ‘One world, One dream’, I have ten thoughts to reflect on:
1. The Olympic idea is not just sports, it is based on the concept of peace, and peace is based on human rights
2. Granting the games to China implied the world trusted the China of the 21st century would understand the Olympic idea and would live up to it
3. The recent events proved China is not living up to its promises of improving the human rights situation and freedom for the press
4. The events around the Olympic Torch communicate: the world sees that China does not understand the Olympic idea, does not live up to it and misuses it
5. The issue of Tibet did not arise yesterday but more than fifty years ago: it is China that does not honor the autonomy granted to Tibet after ‘liberating’ it in 1951
6. Demonstrations are not just in the 'Autonomous Region of Tibet', but especially in adjacent provinces with Tibetan minorities, who also feel less than second rate citizens
7. By demanding the 'Dalai clique' should give up their claim of independence China seems blind for the fact that the Dalai Lama only asks for genuine autonomy
8. Tibetans do not misuse the Olympics, after all these years they just cannot bear any longer the charades China is putting up and trying to get away with it
9. The protests do not ask to boycott the games or the opening, they just ask China to enter into a dialogue with the Dalai Lama about meaningful autonomy
10. When China enters into a dialogue with the Dalai Lama all the problems it has now will be over and the Games can become the most brotherly in history.

Saturday 5 April 2008

New media and the protests in Tibet

Internet and cell phones played an important role in the recent demonstrations in Tibet to coordinate and to reach out to the world community.In 1959 a Tibetan uprising took place in Lhasa. We heard about it only weeks later. And there were almost no images. In 1987- 89, more protests occurred in Lhasa and some surrounding monasteries and villages. We heard about them almost immediately from tourists who were made to return to Nepal, by the Chinese government. And after days images of what had happened were available. Last month the protests occurred on an unprecedented scale . There were demonstrations in many places in Central Tibet.

But most Tibetan protests were in the Chinese provinces of Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai. Even in Beijing and Lanzhou, Tibetan university students organized protests. How these demonstrations were not isolated events but wide spread, focused and seemingly coordinated ones? How Tibetans in India were so well-informed about incidents of violence by the Chinese police and army? The answers to them are simple: cell phones and internet. Because of technology, we do not have to rely only on the Chinese government controlled media. The monks' cell phones register for us. It is no surprise that the Chinese police is now searching and ransacking monasteries looking for internet connections and cell phones. For some recent video images and photos sent electrtonically from Tibet see Phayul.

Friday 4 April 2008

100 Million Mantras and a Poisoned Arrow

On his blog Haroldo Castro shares his impressions of activities of the Tibetan community in Nepal in support of their kinsmen in Tibet. He attends a session of monks and nuns reciting mantras. He meets with the reincarnation of the former tutor of the previous Panchen Lama and hears the story, how the tutor prevented the murder of the second most respected Lama in Tibet by declaring that he, and not the Panchen Lama, wrote the 70.000 character petition. In this 1962 petition - framed in the purest of Communist jargon - the Panchen Lama appeals to the Chinese Leadership to change the policy of sinization in Tibet. There were only three hand written copies in Chinese and Tibetan. One was smuggled out of China and is published in the late nineties. Even today this lengthy document is worth reading if one wants to understand the difference between how the Tibetans and the Chinese leadership perceive the issue of Tibet. When Mao framed the report as 'A poisoned arrow shot at the Party by reactionary feudal overlords', the Panchen Lama was arrested, imprisoned for twenty years and subjected to 'thamzing' or class struggle. His current reincarnation and is the world's youngest political prisoner , has been held incommunicado, under house arrest by the Chinese authority, at a secret location. For more blogs on Tibet click here.