The Vision


To successfully deal with today's systemic crises we need a collective societal search process to develop and put into practice alternatives to the current cultural and economic paradigm of growth and marketisation.

time40 mins



Building on these features of campaigning, discuss the idea that our activism often deals with the symptoms of problems but not with the root causes of inequality and environmental destruction.

Note: more information is available on root causes and acceleration in these references:

resourceInterview with Hartmut Rosa about ‘social acceleration’ ↘

resourceDiscussion of patriarchy and how to tackle it (particularly focused on cultural change) ↘

resourceDetailed breakdown of root cause analysis ↘

Suggest that there are different scales of change and influence. Short and long-term change, small-scale and large-scale, and that we can work at different scales simultaneously. This does not mean changing the world all at once but rather having a vision within which small changes can be part of a movement, or transition, towards wider shifts in society.

Explain that in order to work at these different levels, deeper root causes need to be tackled as well as symptoms (see root causes illustration) and discuss how symptoms are a reflection of deeper root causes. Beyond tackling symptoms, such as the river pollution, which ultimately is driven by the fast fashion phenomenon, we must work on building narratives and a vision to address the root causes of inequality and unsustainable living. Fast fashion is a profitable business model and a driver of acceleration, and had the campaign tackled the issue of fast fashion per se, rather than simply the consequences of toxic pollution, it would actually be much closer to working at the root cause level.

Introduce the idea that desynchronization is a central feature of how our society currently functions in an unsustainable way (see Key Concepts, pp22-25)

Show the last two slides about the Detox campaign and explore how the campaign could evolve towards tackling root causes (see slide)

Alternative visions/direction for society and activism. As part of a movement towards a Great Transition, it is up to all of us to reflect deeply and work on more holistic ways of conceptualising and communicating about systems change.  Whilst we may all have a personal vision, we can also share our general aims, direction, and ways of getting there.

Invite participants to reflect on the following question and either a) personal reflection and/or draw their ideas on paper, or b) discuss in buzz groups

Building on what we have just discussed, we can try to avoid the traps of short-term campaigning, and try to tackle root causes more than symptoms.

If we do this, what kind of a vision can we dare to imagine for society?

Invite participants to summarise their thoughts in a few key words or sentences on a sticky note and stick their thoughts, or their pictures, on a flipchart/on the wall.

If you have time, you can ask them to read their responses when they come up.

If you have limited time, you can have a pre-prepared flipchart with themes and people can fit their answers into those themes. You can then just read out a few of their answers.

After hearing the group’s responses, build on their vision by sharing the pillars of a new vision as described in the Re.imagining Activism Guide (see Key Concepts, pp26-31)

You may want to emphasise the similarities between the group’s vision and the Guide.

You may also want to encourage or provoke the group to challenge themselves further – is the vision in the Guide much more radical than what was proposed by the Group? If so, don’t hesitate to use this as a talking point. Maybe the Vision is something which participants can reflect on as a key take-away from the session –

Are they being as courageous and ambitious as they would like in their vision?

How would they really like to imagine a future, better world?

What is holding them back from owning that vision?

It may take time for people to develop their own vision of change and this is just one step of that journey.


This is a good time to pause and summarise the key points from the session so far, highlighting that so far this session has focused on the why and the what of the Great Transition.

The next part of the session will focus on the HOW of thinking systemically to develop deeper activism strategies, organisational strategies, and personal strategies.



The vision: Root causes and desynchronization (p22-25)

A root cause is the deepest cause in a causal chain that can be resolved.

A logic of acceleration in modern societies lies at the root of the multiple crises we are facing. Technological progress accelerates the production of goods, contacts and choices, but the time we have available for these doesn’t change. Even though technological acceleration was intended to create more available time for the individual, we suffer from a constant time shortage by trying to do more things in the same amount of time. (p22)

There is a desynchronisation between different systems within society: 

  • Resources are used at an accelerating pace to feed an economy obsessed with growth, and nature cannot keep up

  • Digital globalisation and the fast paced consumer society lead to an alienation from space, from work and even from oneself. Burnout is a frequent consequence.

  • Ever-faster wealth accumulation by some and the impoverishment of others who can’t keep up.

  • Democratic decision-making processes that can’t keep up with the accelerating global economy and digital era. Politics becomes reactive. It leads to alienation of its citizens. (p23)

Ultimately what drives acceleration and therefore dysynchronisation is capitalism's core element capital accumulation (interest and profit). These are the fundamental root causes underlying our global crises like climate change, poverty and inequality. Capitalism in its current form cannot live without growth and the pace of technological innovation is accelerating further and further. (p24)

The logic of growth can also be found deeply embedded in our mental and cultural conditioning. We are living in a culture of more. (p24)

From a feminist perspective it may also be argued that a fundamental root cause of all this is patriarchy (the capitalist system created by male dominance). (p24)


Pillars of a new vision: Great Transition (pp26-31)

Wellbeing as the ultimate goal. Consumerist culture must be replaced by a culture of sufficiency (p30)

Contradiction between the fact that economic growth increases CO2 emissions and that climate change destroys the very living conditions of the world’s poor that economic growth pretends to improve in the first place. (p26)

The invisible hand only works for the few and wealth is not trickling down. (p26)

The currently dominant role of the market as the underlying principle of our society and the growth obsession of the system should be rejected. (p28)

Our current societal order and neoliberal economic system are not set in stone. There are better alternatives beyond the false dichotomy of capitalism/socialism. (p26)

Nobody knows exactly what a sustainable world will look like and how we’ll get there. There is a need to experiment with a diversity of ideas, approaches and policies. (p26)

A process of profound cultural change: In-depth participation of civil society in the process of social innovation and democratic deliberation to create new social settlements. (p30)

New institutions and economic mechanisms (at all levels) have to be designed to ensure human activities operate within ecological limits. (p30)

An important element of the future system will inevitably be a huge re-localisation of economic value chains. (p31)

Taking care of our global commons: Interdependencies at so many levels will demand the design and creation of effective and democratic governance systems, particularly at the global level. (p31)

We must acknowledge and reverse current and historical inequities. (p31)

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