Freedom, Equality, Tolerance: Core Values for NGO Activities

Scolding people for wanting an iPhone is not the way to motivate people; rather, they should be inspired by core values ranging from freedom to economic and social justice to peace.

“We need to get smarter about how we do our campaign work,” Vanessa Timmer, Harvard academic and executive director of the One Earth Initiative explained. Timmer said she was shocked to realize values were completely lacking from a study trying to analyze patterns related to sustainable consumption and production. “That’s why all of us need to look at who we are and what we value,” she said.

Timmer appealed to the 40 participants at the workshop “Making the invisible visible” to move away from abstract ideals. Instead, she called for making those values transparent in the daily campaign work. Looking at the values that motivate modes of sustainable consumption and production is the way forward according to Timmer, and it is up to individuals to consider their own values in relation to their vision of the future. “It’s about asking: what are the values that need to be sustained, and which ones need to be further developed?” Timmer said.

As a case in point, One Earth Initiative is looking at basic human rights and living conditions, specifically in the context of fair supply chains, and is calling for imagining future realities where social justice is truly protected.

That is how One Earth Initiative inspired Futurewewant.org, a global campaign that portrays a positive and compelling “virtual experience” of what life could realistically be like in a sustainable society. Site users can look at diagrams, pictures and videos which illustrate future societies using examples such as sustainable traffic, green cities, and eco buildings.

Values evoke emotional responses, Timmer said. That’s why Futurewewant.org calls for a move away from negative and doomsday imagery in popular culture which focuses on our own decline, such as in the movie ‘The Day After Tomorrow’.

Timmer appealed to participants to integrate values and positive images in their campaign work to enthuse and inspire others. “Society is currently at a crossroads because we are essentially between stories – the old world view is no longer viable, and the new is still emerging,” she said. “It is for this reason that we must move concepts of sustainability from mere theories into visual realities.”

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