Values or needs?
In advertising, people try and target the average Joe Bloggs or micro-segment their message to specific groups, from comfortable nostalgics to cosmopolitan critics. Increasingly civil society organisations use similar techniques.
But shouldn’t we ask ourselves whether we’re trying to convince people of the need for a particular solution or even change in the system that…we’ve identified or whether we looking to make lives better for them? Of course, they’re not mutually exclusive goals and if you don’t provide a context, people might ask for the moon on a stick.
As well as framing messages then, how about also thinking about what policy solutions or infrastructure can tap into people’s values and intrinsic motivations?
Let’s take a few examples…
The NHS tapped into people’s need for solidarity just after the war, the so-called “spirit of 45”, as well as the need for healthcare at the point of need. The values the majority of people associate with public services has evolved from solidarity to reciprocity, both over time and across generations. People’s definition of what’s fair can range from “it’s not fair people who haven’t paid into the system should get free welfare” to “welfare should be free for everyone at the point of need”. But unlike the benefits system, the NHS has remained relatively immune to this change in attitudes, with NHS still being associated with a sense of solidarity.
Unlike the NHS, congestion charging isn’t a policy solution that provides a direct service to people and isn’t directly relevant to the majority of the population. Not only that, it wasn’t popular when it was introduced as it was perceived to punish people’s freedom to choose what method of transport they used. It’s now been accepted as people use public transport more and less people own cars. So changes in social behaviours can affect the popularity of policy solutions, if they don’t undermine the value/s people feel strongest about and don’t require significant initial behaviour change from actors other than the institution implementing it.
Basic income on the other hand requires significant behaviour change from people to potentially agree to give up established forms of welfare provision (ie. NHS & benefits) in return for a basic income where they would have more power over the money used (because their share is given to them) but less confidence over whether they’d be able to use it to buy equivalent welfare. Pioneers would love it but settlers might not.
So what new policy solutions can have a similar cross-generational impact over time to the NHS?