How to understand people’s different values to create policy solutions
As humans, we’re influenced by the environment around us, our families, our teachers and people we trust the most and often our minds are shaped very early in our childhoods.
As public service practitioners or policy makers, the way we think about public services, strategy or government is shaped very early on, by our intrinsic values but also by what we’re taught at school and university and by the policies and structures of the organisation we work in.
I’ve been brought up to believe in solidarity over individualism, through my family and in campaigns I’ve been involved in, even though I went to schools which were dominated by a belief in hierarchy and individualism & competition.
At university, I was exposed to a variety of thinkers across the political system and methods ranging from the ultra competitive Sciences Po Grand Oral to the participatory involvement of the decentralised and autonomous Barcelona, to a more multicultural but also sometimes neo-colonial perspective of the public affairs department of a famous French energy company.
What was most important from all was in different ways to always question and challenge — who is this person speaking on behalf of, why are they putting forward this view, what if we thought about it a different way?
How can we deconstruct what we define about terms like the state, the market or the police. It is difficult to understand or tackle racism in the justice system if we don’t understand its colonial system.
Cultural theory argues there are four main cultural groups
When people argue over a policy solution, they’re not just exposing a difference of option, but potentially different cultural values.
Hierarchical groups created institutions which can stabilise & regulate and value expertise. However, they also value dominance of one group over another, reinforcing…hierarchies and inequalities.
Egalitarian groups seek to ensure everyone is equal and equalities should be fought against, which are often created by hierarchies. Egalitarian solutions can help, but do also risk levelling down, as much as levelling up.
Individualist groups favour freedom of people to do what they want. If left to their own devices, individualists can look out for themselves, which can be good, but can fail if some individuals don’t have the same assets as others to thrive.
Fatalistic groups are the opinion that we can’t change anything.
What could you do?
Why not have a mix of solutions that combine the different cultural values — solutions that create new institutions (i.e. Young Lambeth Cooperative, Open University), egalitarian approaches (i.e. Human Rights Act, Equalities Act, new rights), individualistic approaches (i.e. programmes for entrepreneurs to support new forms of solidarity).