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Press release: Common Cause comes to South Africa

Press release issued 15 August 2016

Common Cause comes to South Africa

Global movement that seeks to strengthen active citizenship by promoting pro-social and pro-environmental values opens South African office.

As South Africa reels from the combined onslaught of corruption, slow economic growth, high unemployment and an environment under threat, a new approach that brings fresh energy to tackling these issues by putting values like equality, social justice and solidarity back at the heart of society, is being launched in South Africa.

The Common Cause approach, which draws on a large body of social psychology research, illustrates that working with values and frames, which shape people’s attitudes and behaviours, is of central importance in tackling societal issues. The movement’s core objective is to place values that prioritise community, environment and equality at the heart of society.

Dr Tom Crompton, the founder of the Common Cause Foundation, the umbrella NGO based in the UK that coordinates the global Common Cause Network, says that: “Working with leading social psychologists, drawing on a large body of research and conducting our own studies has led us to recognise the importance of working with values. Out of this research we have developed an approach for supporting pro-social and pro-environmental values. These are the values that most people report as holding to be particularly important, but that most people feel aren’t properly reflected in our societies.”

The Common Cause approach is, in part, based on the work done by the esteemed social scientist Shalom Schwartz. His research identified and codified 58 core human values back in the 1990s and these have since been validated across some 50 languages and 80 countries, including South Africa. Among these values, there are two value groups that are of particular interest for addressing major societal problems: these are intrinsic and extrinsic values, which exist in opposition or tension within all human beings. Intrinsic (also called self-transcendence or compassionate) values are “values that are inherently rewarding to pursue” such as connection with nature, concern for others, self-acceptance, social justice and creativity. Extrinsic (also called self-enhancement or materialistic) values, on the other hand, are “values that are centred on external approval or rewards” such as material success, concern about image, social status, and prestige.

“There is a growing recognition in South Africa, that a different type of thinking is required to stimulate deeper collaboration across colours, cultures, income groups and political divides to more effectively address our major societal problems,” says Robert Zipplies, co-founder of Common Cause South Africa. “The Common Cause values approach offers such tools to help people, businesses, not-for-profit and government organisations to think and act differently, and thus increase the effectiveness of their social, economic and environmental transformation initiatives.”

“It helps people to recognise the impact of values on society and to learn to strengthen intrinsic values, personally, in their community and at work. Intuitively people know that intrinsic values – such as social cohesion, caring, wisdom, collaboration, equality and helpfulness – are the bedrock of a healthy society. And it is no surprise that the South African Constitution and National Development Plan place values such as equality, social justice, solidarity, social and environmental responsibility, human wellbeing and integrity at their core.”

“In life we may not always prioritise intrinsic values, for many reasons,” adds Rachel Adatia, also a Common Cause South Africa co-founder. “However, reflecting on these values and what is most important in our lives, both amongst friends and through wider public discourse, can be part of a process to rebalance value priorities. It can help to shape a more equal and less materialistic society. After all, intrinsic values, which we all share, inspire us to connect with, care for and support each other.”

Common Cause South Africa offers public workshops for participants to learn more about how to work with values and frames to accelerate positive social and environmental change within their communities and organisations.

WWF, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, Amnesty International, Action Aid and Action for Children are among the NGOs that have supported the Common Cause approach, or used it in their own work.

Interested parties are encouraged to visit the Common Cause website to read more (numerous published reports are available) or sign up for a public workshop. More information available at



Issued by: Common Cause South Africa,

Robert Zipplies (please see email in footer of webpage)

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