Why and how it works
This strategy draws primarily on research on the field of social psychology and in particular on the work of Shalom Schwartz during the early 90’s, explained further in the introduction of this handbook. Schwartz and several other researchers have shown that engaging a specific value has a spillover effect on related values and weakens those that are in opposition. Reminding people of values such as money, status and power has shown to have a negative impact on people’s willingness to donate money to charity, recycling behavior etc. The example from People United described on the following page illustrates how celebrating acts of kindness can influence long-term attitudes and behaviour of children.
Working with people’s values challenges many of the other strategies put forward in this handbook. Rather than focusing primarily on the outcome, the behaviour, it takes in to account what motivates people in the first place. Common critic towards this strategy is that it is too time-consuming and that trying to change people’s values is an unethical practice. Another strong limitation is that the value approach requires a strong cooperation between many actors in order to have an effect.
Recommendations for implementation
The case for working with values is strongly promoted by The Common Cause network initially launched with the support of WWF in the UK, now involving enthusiasts and organizations all over the world. The network has launched a handbook describing why and how to work with values and organizes events and courses. Learning more and teaming up with others is a good starting point.
Example: Increasing pro-social attitudes by promoting acts of kindness
People United is a UK based charity founded in 2006, that aims to make the world a better place by getting people involved in the arts. One of their key projects is called We all do good things and aims to celebrate, share and encourage the good things people do, highlight the potential of good in all of us and to demonstrate the power of arts to make a difference. The first phase of the project involved 1 800 pupils at three primary schools as well as 100 staff, 19 artists and 2 000 parents and members of the community in Kent and Halifax.
People United teamed up with psychologists at the University of Kent to develop the methodology of the project and design a way of evaluation. To put theory into practice professional arts practitioners were brought in to work with all pupil and member of staff over the course of a year. Key in the project was to celebrate acts of kindness, courage, dedication, humour and love in creative ways. For instance the children were involved in making kindness badges and get-well-soon cards, got to interview residents from a local care home and made smoothies for the local emergency service. To evaluate the result the research team at the University of Kent compared children in the three schools taking part with children from two other similar schools that were not part of the projects. This was done through interviews with the children before, during and at the end of the project. The questions asked were related to their willingness to care for, share with and help other individuals and to their feelings about members of other groups.
The research showed a significant increase in pro-social attitudes among children participating in the project, compared to the control group. During the time of the project children in the participating schools also developed more positive feelings towards children from other schools. Interviews conducted five months after the project finished also showed that children from the project schools remained significantly more likely to hold these positive attitudes than those from similar schools that hadn’t taken part. Other positive effects of the projects were that it helped children develop self-confidence, enhanced the learning environment and helped the schools to build links with the community. Following the positive results People United have developed a programme targeting a whole town with 35 000 inhabitants in east Kent. People United has also produced a guidebook with kindness-activities that can be practiced in schools.