Collaboration, not competition: questioning the culture of giving
WWF-UK and Scope were joint recipients of a Nesta Innovation in Giving grant. So far as we know, our organisations had never before worked together. Scope is about disabled people having the same opportunities as everyone else; WWF-UK is about people living in harmony with nature. The causes upon which we work seem far-removed from one another.
But scratch a bit deeper – as we do in the research that we conducted – and we find that there are strong interconnections between our respective missions. These interconnections don’t arise in terms of the nuts-and-bolts of our activities on the ground, or even the public policies that we advocate. Rather, they arise because of the values which motivate people’s support for our work: the motivations which lead people to help either organisation.
This is because the values which motivate people’s enthusiasm for biodiversity conservation are closely aligned with those that underpin their enthusiasm for disability rights – and vice-versa. If we connect with these values in the course of communicating either of our missions, then it seems that we can help to build people’s support for the other’s work.
This is an insight which stems from recent work in social psychology. But with the help of Nesta and academics at the University of Essex, Cardiff University, the Institute of Development Studies in Brighton, and Knox College in the US, we took these ideas out of the laboratory and tested them in the real world.
We found that the way in which we communicate about disability issues has a significant impact on people’s willingness to support a conservation charity, and vice-versa.
It is easy to see social and environmental campaigning as a zero-sum game: one in which charities can at times find themselves viewing one another as competitors, each vying for people’s support. But public concern about social and environmental issues isn’t a limited resource, over which charities are obliged to compete.
As this research demonstrates, thoughtful messaging of WWF’s work offers the possibility of simultaneously building people’s support for conservation and for disability rights. Conversely, thoughtful messaging of Scope’s work offers the possibility of building people’s support for disability rights and for conservation.
These results point to exciting new opportunities for charities: opportunities for us to communicate in ways that strengthen people’s concern about our ‘own’ causes, but which also strengthen a wider culture of giving.
We are currently writing up the results of these studies for dissemination to practitioners in the charity sector.
If you would like to be sent a copy of this publication when it’s released, or would like to participate in a workshop exploring the implications of this work, please get in touch with Tom (email: [email protected])