Tuesday, April 30, 2013

James Hoggan on the Polluted Public Square

The federal government has shut down the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), significantly reduced environmental spending and demonized environmental NGO’s, but Canadians don’t seem to care.

How is it that scientific consensus tells us that we are destroying the planet, but we have been unable to galvanize public support to do anything about it?

Because facts don’t change minds.

James Hoggan, one of Canada’s most respected public relations professionals and founder of desmogblog, suggests we need to do a better job of fashioning a deeply moving public narrative, one that will speak to people’s values, and get them believing that they can make a difference.

In an inspiring and educational webinar this afternoon, Hoggan discussed some of the ideas in his upcoming book, The Polluted Public Square. In a world that is increasingly polarized, mistrustful and inattentive, the rules of communication are different. We have to learn how to tell our own story, to construct a narrative, not just a message.

Although peppered with quotes and ideas from notable thinkers as diverse as Thich Naht Hanh
and Dan Kahan , Hoggan focuses on the work of Marshall Ganz , a Harvard educator who teaches, researches, and writes on leadership, organization and strategy in social movements, civic associations, and politics.

The three elements of the Ganzian public narrative are the story of self- a call to leadership, the story of us - shared values and shared experiences, and the story of now- strategy and action. These combine to create purpose, commitment and urgency. The narrative is not about facts, it’s about what our values call us to do.

I cannot do justice to all the concepts presented in this webinar, but following up on these ideas will be thought provoking and rewarding. To think about communication in a movement building context. To design a powerful narrative that will change behaviour. James Hoggan has pointed us in the right direction.

You can watch a replay of the webinar on the Sustainability Network site.

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