Several communication devices have been designed to support ‘Everyday Activists’ and help them communicate the value of their chosen alternative practices in their everyday life. (Read more about this research below…)
– Could customised kits be a useful tool to help convey alternative practices that respond to specific values?1.
– Could they provide a mechanism for “everyday activists”2 to communicate their individual choices in a way that is personal, engaging and playful?
Although activism is generally associated with marches, protests and structured campaigns aimed at bringing awareness to an issue or demand changes, and without attempting to undermine the courage behind and significance of these actions, it is argued that there are constant opportunities to communicate valuable messages in everyday life.
” …[everyday activism] is about embracing every moment… as a moment to make things a little better.”3
As part of the present project several kits are being developed as an alternative approach people could use to bring awareness to issues without needing to disrupt their regular activities, on the contrary, serving to celebrate and recognize the everyday nature of their commitments. The kits allow participants to communicate their life choices in the spaces where these take place showing others that right where they are, there are already possibilities to take agency, choose alternatives or imagine different futures. Ultimately the kits aim to serve as facilitators for dialogues between people with different perspectives through playful interventions that could lead to pleasant and meaningful conversations.
In a world were the current western model of a desirable lifestyle does not seem to be leading towards better societies or more satisfactory existences4 5 6, this project intends to examine whether lives organised around specific bigger than self values in one way or another connected with environmental sensitivity, could be case studies or examples of quests for more meaningful, sustainable lives, promoting their recognition and bring them into our “collective imagination”7.
In this sense, the four “content specific toolkits” are the result of a collaborative design process where four “everyday activists” were invited to document their life using “cultural probes”, arguing that the study of alternative practices could contribute in dialogues for the definition of sustainability by questioning and re-visioning what the “needs of the present” and the “needs of future generations”8 could and/or should be.
The conversations that later resulted from some of the collaborators responses to the specific toolkits designed for them (see appreciation and resourcefulness) led to the creation of one final Personal Toolkit attempting to recognize the value of alternative practices in general as forms of everyday activism, directed not only at individuals already engaging in these practices but also at people who are not familiar with them.
A manual for the “Personal Everyday Activism Toolkits” was designed including along with the instructions about how to build the toolkit, a theoretical framework around effective communications, non-violent language, cultural barriers and behaviour change.
Similar to the interactive process lead by the author and the collaborators, the manual allows people to conduct a self-exploration exercise to reflect on the meaning of their practices asking themselves what is important to them, taking this answer as a staring point, a “direction” for their practices.
Accordingly, with help of instructions and templates each individual can create their own personal toolkit framed by his or her values to assist them in their brave endeavour to commit to their beliefs and help them engage in better conversations with others. In this sense, the “personal toolkit” was designed not only as a device aimed at supporting everyday activists but also as a means to invite the wider public to examine their own lives facilitating wider engagement in important dialogues, reinforcing individuals’ and communities’ role in shaping culture.
1. See “Working from Values”, a discussion paper written by Tim Burns of Waste Watch addressing the need for a society focused in intrinsic rather than extrinsic values, also questioning the relevance of “Nudging” as a tool to address sustainability issues suggesting it would be more appropriate to work on the integration and cultivation of common, altruistic or intrinsic values that would lead to more sustainable lifestyle transformations. (2011: 2-11). For more detailed information see also “Common Cause: The Case for Working with our Cultural Values”, part of the WWF-UK Strategies for Change Project (Crompton 9-39) and “the great revaluing” discussed in “The Great Transition” a publication by the New Economics Foundation (Stephen 5-16).
2. Everyday activists are defined by Mansbridge and Flaster (628-629) as those who take action in their everyday life to address a social injustice in the context or relating to a social movement. Although the authors distinguish between “organized activists” and “everyday activists” stating that the latter “have never taken a public stand supporting that movement”; for the present research the term “everyday activist” is not necessaries used as opposite or different to “organized activist” but is indeed referring to people engaging in everyday alternative practices (not only via language but also behaviour) which respond to concerns of equity and values that may be associated with social and environmental justice movements.
3. Joel Stephens, Practical Ideas for Compassionate living.
4. Serge Latouche, Farewell to Growth.
5. Kate Soper and Lyn Thomas, Alternative Hedonism: a theory and politics of consumption.
6. Stephen et al. The Great Transition
7. Anna Meroni. Creative Communities.
8. Gro Brundtland, Our common future.
Burns, Tim. Discussion Paper 1: Working from values. London, UK: Waste Watch, 2011. eBook.
Brundtland, Gro. Our common future / World Commission on Environment and Development. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1987. 24. eBook.
Crompton, Tom. Common Cause The Case for Working with our Cultural Values. WWF-UK. eBook.
Latouche, Serge. Farewell to Growth. Cambridge, Uk: Polity Press, 2009. 31. Print.
Mansbridge, Jane, and Katherine Flaster. “Cultural Politics of Everyday Discourse: Case of “Male Chauvinist”.” Critical Sociology 33 (2007). Web. 4 Jul 2011
Meroni, Anna. Creative Communities. Milano, It: Edizioni Poli.design, 2007. eBook. Visions for Change.
Soper, Kate, and Lyn Thomas. “Alternative Hedonism: a theory and politics of consumption.” Cultures of Consumption 1. Web. 4 Jul 2011.
Spratt, Stephen, Andrew Simms, Eva Neizert, and Josh Ryan-Collins. The Great Transition. London, UK: New Economics Foundation, 2010. eBook.
Stephens, Joel. “Introduction.” Everyday Activism. Everyday Activism, n.d. Web. 3 Jul 2011.