The challenges our society faces are global and systemic, and our current change strategies are not tackling these deeper, systemic issues.
Case study discussion
The idea of changing our economic system and the underlying culture that supports it may seem like an impossible or overwhelming task. But the current system was not given by the laws of nature. Instead it was created and continues to be shaped by human beings. And as such we as human beings can change it again. In fact, only if we take on this task collectively, will we have a chance to create a fairer and much more equal society where current and future generations thrive in harmony with nature.
Yet often, when we campaign, we are scared of being too ambitious. We want to have measurable targets so that we can say “we won”. We think if we try something too ambitious, it will never work, and so we focus on SMART objectives (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-based). And so, often, we limit ourselves to goals that keep us within our current modes of thinking and acting. And yet, as Einstein said:
|"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
To start off we will look at a recent campaign by a leading environmental NGO. The purpose is not to criticise this organisation per se, but to use this example, which is similar to many other campaigns run by civil society organisations, to look more deeply at the way problems and solutions are being presented. Many leaders within this organisation themselves recognise some of these limitations.
Introduce case study by showing the campaign slide, and, if possible, show the campaign video. (Facilitators may wish to replace this campaign case study with other examples which they may find more relevant, such as a campaign from their own organisation or local area.)
Note for trainer: The Detox campaign by Greenpeace is an evolving campaign which focuses on preventing pollution from the fashion industry. It has included direct action to raise awareness about business’ environmental impacts, as well as lobbying to work with companies to incite them to improve their standards. One of the central tactics of the campaign was a ‘comparison meter’ (branded as Detox Catwalk) which labelled companies as detox winners, greenwashers and losers.
Detailed account of campaign, if required, if you intend to host a very detailed discussion
Invite participants to reflect on the questions below, either by speaking with their neighbour for 5 minutes (buzz groups) or, if they're already sitting in small groups, to discuss these questions in their groups.
Then invite some participants to share their reflections with the larger group (in the interests of time, you may want to take feedback from just a few people).
What is your intuitive response to this campaign – how does it make you think and feel?
What does it make you want to do?
What do you think this campaign’s main goals are? What specific practices, policies and actors is it trying to change?
To what extent is this campaign a good way to achieve these goals?
How could the campaign have tackled broader ecological, social and economic issues?
De-briefing from case study discussion
When we look deeper, as we have just done in our discussion, we see that this kind of campaign can be good at achieving short-term change, such as improving clothing companies’ environmental footprint, but it is not tackling wider issues such as the labour market structure that allows the production and distribution of cheaply-made clothes, the culture of shopping and replacing clothes frequently, etc.
When we take a step back from our campaigns and those we notice around us, we can become aware of underlying narratives and values which they might be helping to reinforce.
De-briefing from discussion:
Summarise some of the intuitive reactions to the campaign. For example, did it make people want to go out and buy more clothes from the ‘right’ brands? If so, what does this say about the potential psychological effects of the campaign (driving more consumerism, sending the message that detoxing the supply chain 'solves' the environmental and ethical problems, etc…).
Summarise key themes from discussion.
Refer to any other campaigns in media/local area which may share similar characteristics.
Link these points to the explanation in the guide Re.imagining Activism about why and how activism campaigns may not be addressing systemic change (see Key Concepts, pp. 1–20).
The Challenge (guide, pp. 1-20):