Keynote: Polarization – is NGO campaigning part of the problem? And what can we do to make things better?
It’s hard to escape the sense that our societies are deeply divided, with people struggling to connect across differences of political and social values – and that it’s getting worse. But what role has the rise, and success, of single-issue NGO campaigning had on how people see the world, the positions they take, and how they view people who disagree? When we optimise our campaigns in terms of ‘bad guys’ and urgent ‘now or never’ opportunities, do we risk leading people to take stronger positions than they might otherwise, or encouraging them to demonise people who think differently? Could we be part of the problem? And if we are, what can we do about it?
Ali and Alex drew on the principles of behavioural science and their work with the Depolarization Project, based at Stanford University in the USA to examine these questions, looking at ways that we could research and understand whether (and how) campaign actions might influence people beyond the ‘single issue’, and what a different approach might look like.
Ali is founder and CEO of The Depolarization Project and the Senior Advisor to Stanford University’s Conflict Resolution and Polarization Initiative. A former Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrat party in the UK she led the ground and record breaking mobilisation team at consumer organisation Which?, building a supporter base of millions of consumers. A frequent media pundit, Ali has written for the Telegraph, Independent, New Statesman and Financial Times. She has won numerous awards for her work including NGO Campaign of the Year, Integrated Campaign of the Year and sits on the board’s of the Jospeh Rowntree Reform Trust and Open Democracy. She is the host and convenor of campaigners meetup, the improbably successful Wine and Wotsits.
Alex is a Behavioural Scientist. She has always been fascinated by what makes people tick – how do people form particular beliefs? Why is it so hard to change (and admit to changing) our minds? Alex works in public policy, using behavioural science to help individuals and organisations make better decisions. Prior to that, Alex established and led the world’s first behavioural insight team at a Consumer Association (Which?) and was an elected Councillor. Alex has a Masters with distinction in Cognitive & Decision Science from UCL.