Understanding the Role of Values

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This week I attended a fantastic summit organised by the 2050 Scottish Youth Climate Group. One of the workshops I attended was focused on behaviour change models. During the workshop we only had time to concentrate on one of the models – DEFRA’s 4Es. However, I have since done a little reading around some of the other models mentioned by the presenter. One in particular has really caught my attention. It is the Common Cause model which you can read more about at: http://valuesandframes.org/handbook/1-why-values-matter/ 

The Common Cause Handbook available on the Values and Frames website is well worth a read. Its very accessible and informative. It has been developed from the point of view of understanding how to develop a more sustainable society. The Handbook gives a good background into human values – what they are and how they work.

Common Cause

Source: Common Cause Handbook

An important argument is made in the Handbook regarding the role of our intrinsic and extrinsic values and goals. Intrinsic values are those which are inherently rewarding to pursue (e.g. concern for others and self-acceptance), whereas extrinsic values are those related to gaining external reward and approval (e.g. social status and material success). The authors explain that to achieve real and long-lasting change in terms of social sustainability, nurturing and aligning our intrinsic goals is going to be vital.

I am sure this argument follows through into achieving more sustainable transportation and mobility systems, as well as other specific areas of change in society. Considering this, one thing has really struck me. Currently in transport offering people rewards and incentives is a ‘hot topic’ when discussing behaviour change or demand management. This, however, works towards reinforcing extrinsic values – precisely the ones we probably don’t want to be the driving force behind our behaviours. Offering incentives is probably seen as an easy option, but if its not effective then we shouldn’t be relying on it.

As an industry, we need to look at how we can use intrinsic values to promote change. One example given in the Handbook looks at the type of engagement used to promote change. User or community engagement is something that I can see is slowly improving within the transport sector. The Common Cause model has really highlighted to me the need to ensure that, as professionals, we find ways to ensure people are able to engage deeply and have first-hand and creative experiences as these will be most likely to engage intrinsic values and have greater impact.

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