Adeela Warley: Only talking to those who share our values leaves us preaching to the converted

Charities are founded on deeply-held principles. We should use them to connect people and create movements for lasting change

Adeela Warley
Adeela Warley

Stop arguing on fundamental values and focus instead on communicating grounded, specific demands. That’s the call to politicians from Alan Finlay, professor of political and social theory at the University of East Anglia. 

Why this call now? Because he wants our leaders to show how power could be used to unite people of widely differing values.

That’s an important challenge for charities too, founded as they are on deeply held principles. Charitable values help explain who we are and differentiate us, as well as building trust and credibility. 

But if we only ever talk to those who share our values, we can be left preaching to the converted and unable to galvanise the wider support we need to achieve our aims.

Surely our charitable role is not to convert value sets but to connect people who need our help and create movements for lasting change? 

Climate change is not a new issue but its potential to be a global disruptor has become all too real, with many lives devastated by droughts, floods and fires.

For too long the language of climate change focused on the frames of environmentalism – global carbon emissions, temperature ranges, melting ice caps and emergencies – all true, but stubbornly the concern of a minority. 

Narratives rooted in the places people live, which hold the promise of healthy lives, stronger communities and better jobs, will increase saliency and create positive associations.

They can bridge political and social divides and forge alliances not reliant on shared values, but a shared will to get something positive done. 

Changing frames can dramatically shift expectations, social norms and behaviours, and help make climate change action something everyone has a stake in. 

Adeela Warley is chief executive of CharityComms

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