Breaking the deadlock on climate change: Oxford's UKERC event

I recently had the opportunity to participate in the recent event convened by the UK Energy Research Centre at Oxford University — virtually. You can view my video here, in which I review and contextualize what is unique about a psychosocial approach. This event was the second in which I was involved in addressing the critical contributions a psychosocial approach has for climate change engagement, communications and research.

The event, attended by people representing public and private sectors, was an intensive dive into what psychosocial work offers. Professor Paul Hoggett nicely summarized this as the end.

A psychosocial approach emphasizes:

  • Feelings and defenses against feelings
  • Framings/ narratives/discourses
  • Internal conflicts, inconsistencies, dilemmas and dissonances
  • Powerful group identities which often assume the form of ‘we groups’ (people like us) and ‘they groups’

Much can be said, and needs to be, as to how this all informs climate change work–much of what I do is actively applying these insights into campaign development, messaging, research and thought leadership on climate engagement. It stands in stark contrast to purely behavioral approaches, that focus on discrete behavior change; and to social approaches that are fixated only on how to target and frame according to values, beliefs. This work offers the ability to go so much deeper, into what actually informs our attachments to specific practices, identities and social groups. (And how these are often used for managing anxieties, about an uncertain future among other things.)

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