Levelling up action

As you can see from earlier posts such as this, this and this, I’ve been thinking a lot about systemic approaches to environmental and social action. I’m digging into how we can understand and communicate systemic relationships between culture, social learning and environmental change.

I’m realising that awareness shifts from:

  • No awareness, to
  • Fragmentary awareness (just getting small bits, based on experience or interest) to
  • Ideological awareness (forming strong ideas, often influenced by social groups or based on existing mental frames), to
  • Narrative awareness (being able to link rationale to emotion, and to explain reasons to others compellingly), to
  • Specialised awareness (deep knowledge of a dimension based on practice and/or theory)
  • Systemic awareness (the intellectual tools to grasp whole and dynamic systems)

If we work in any way to raise awareness or learning, we should always be aiming to level this up to systemic awareness, by modelling what this looks like.

Here’s another resource that proposes how actions can be grouped into three levels, so that when we’re designing change programmes we can be clear about how we can help draw people in and then progress into more strategic local and then global action.

The levels are BRONZE, SILVER and GOLD.

  • BRONZE is Basic, Realistic, One-try, Now, Zippy, for Everyone.
  • SILVER is Systemic, Intelligent, Local, Visible, Empathetic and Repeated.
  • GOLD is Global, Overarching, Legal and Democratic (i.e. political).

These correspond to the Three Lenses tool that we use in our change work in Flow Associates:

Internal Character: A focus on psychological levers for change, aiming to help people manage their impulses and convert them into positive habits and values. At this level of action, people feel that they can control the means of change and see immediate results.

Relational Capacities: A focus on cognitive knowledge and intelligent skills that arise from relationships, or interactions with other people and situations. Change efforts focus on raising knowledge and empowering people to lead others. At this level of action, people feel that change happens when they can influence and work with others.

External Context: A focus on awareness of the complex drivers of change in our environment and culture. Change efforts focus on systems, through multi-dimensional, political and hegemonic interventions. At this level of action, people struggle to feel or see the change that happens, but when it does happen it is emergent.

This chart gives some examples of how this might play out across different themes.

Big Green Game


3 responses to “Levelling up action

  1. I am impressed by the thought and work that has gone into the awareness shift and behaviours chart within this levelling up action piece. Very brave. Very well thought out. The chart is very helpful in translating the complex ideas into a tool for practical behaviour and actions analysis and guide.

  2. Further reflection: I used the word brave. Interesting. Many of us have the awareness of environmental issues and the petrochemical economic and cultural systems, politics and processes that support them but taking the steps that are required to implement personal and social change are daunting and necessitate quite drastic changes in our lifestyle. Am I courageous enough to make the changes I need to make to reduce my carbon footprint. I take little and easy steps but feel guilty and afraid to take those that lead to fundamental change. I need to be brave.

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