NEWS12 March 2019

Everyday revolutions: blending tactics for social transformation

Charities Impact 2019 Innovations News UK

UK – Charities and the commercial sector should both be prepared to take more risks in order to enact significant social change, according to a panel at Impact 2019.

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Sparking meaningful resolutions that make a positive difference to everyday lives means looking at challenges in a different way, according to the panellists at the MRS Impact 2019 session Everyday Revolutions: blending tactics for social transformation.

Case studies from the RNIB, World Animal Protection and One Manchester demonstrated insight strategies designed to help the public see the blind and partially sighted in a different way, reconsider the relationship between animal welfare and the food we put in our mouths and change the way housing association tenants in Manchester viewed the areas they lived in. Each used a variety of tools and techniques designed to overcome social desirability bias in answers.

Introducing, the session chair Peter Dann, director, The Nursery said that although all three case studies come from the third sector their experiences and learnings had implications for all of us.

“We have commercial clients with grand ambitions and a desire to make a step change and then we see the combination of processes and mitigating risk so that capacity to make those bold leaps is diminished.”

The RNIB’s new approach to creating social change

Sarah Lambert, head of social change, RNIB, and Marie-Claude Gervais, research director, Versiti, discussed how the charity wanted to offer more than support to the 350,000 registered blind and partially sighted people in the UK. “We started to recognise that we needed to do something about social attitudes [surrounding blind and partially sighted people]. Increasingly, people are saying that this is the biggest barrier for equality.”

Research covered two phases. The first was an online research community over 10 days, 42 people and 24 different questions from word associations, surveys and the downloading of an app that showed people how poor eyesight affects every day tasks. The second used a sample of 1000 people using implicit association testing.

They found that ignorance was rife: people had no meaningful contact with blind people; prejudices and assumptions were rife; that people associated blindness as a total absence of sight and as a congenital, unpreventable disease.

People typically categorised the blind in four ways: either as innocents who evoke paternalism, victims who evoke pity, heroes who evoke admiration or the everyman who evokes empathy.

They also found it hard to associate blind and partially sighted people with employment and careers highlighting the need for more, and more varied role models than just Stevie Wonder or David Blunkett.

The insights helped the RNIB rebrand and reposition under the “See differently” tagline and create a light-hearted campaign challenging the archetypes urging people to “see the person, not the eye loss.”

Chicken welfare: making it personal

Charity World Animal Protection had a different dilemma. It is most known for its work helping animals in the wild, but it also focuses on working in disaster zones, working towards eradicating rabies globally and farm animals – an area Antony Antoni, global director of marketing and communications said lies at the “bottom of the scale” in terms of awareness.

To highlight the plight of farmed chickens in order to force better welfare standards it needed to reach a different audience. Many of its existing supporters and donors are vegetarian or vegan, whereas to enact change the charity needed to reach meat eaters, too. “This was not our normal target base,” added Antoni.

Matt Allen, managing director, Folk Research, said: “The real challenge was to find a universal insight that had equal relevance across diverse countries with completely different attitudes to farming, food and animal welfare.”

Through workshopping groups they discovered that although there was high awareness of the conditions chickens were raised in, these were easy to ignore when shoppers got to the supermarket or thought about fowl as food – apathy and cognitive dissonance were big barriers to real change. Here, they were more concerned about the taste, health and price aspects, compounded by the sterile, sanitised supermarket presentation of the foods.

The answer was revulsion: to associate human health with chicken welfare by creating a campaign under the banner Change for Chickens. More than half a million signatures were delivered to KFC in October 2018, more than 200,000 over the goal and both KFC and Burger King committed to significant welfare changes as a result. Public engagement exceed targets by 36%, creating new supporters.

Rebuilding identity and connection in deprived communities

Bringing a sense of belonging was key for One Manchester, a northern social landlord and its research agency Tipi Research, in rebuilding identity and connection among its deprived communities.

Key to its strategy for improving neighbourhoods was getting individuals on board and empowering them to help change the perception of their communities.

They conducted 72 ethno-inspired interviews in the homes of participants followed by tours of those homes and the neighbourhoods they lived in. Two trends emerged: that most people thought their communities could be better, that they didn’t want to get involved.

Through interviews they discovered that people felt disenfranchised with where they lived with little or no sense of belonging. It was hard to identify with an area that had negative perceptions. “We can’t get away from the fact that these are deprived areas and they come with baggage,” said Lorna Heslington, founder, Tipi Research.

Part of the solution was for One Manchester to amplify the good messages around the areas through initiatives such as a school photography competition, retweeting and reposting positive social media posts and encouraging runners and cyclists through new running routes and segments. Its staff visiting tenants homes were encouraged to “upsell” community initiatives such as job and lunch clubs in the same way that energy companies sell products and services. 

Added Dann: “To make a big and meaningful change we have to take risks, to do things differently and to find a way of getting the wider public to look at the issues in a completely different way.”