The Values Gap

By February 8, 2011Uncategorized

I write a lot about the need to understand values because often there is a mismatch between the values of the people in public bodies and the values of the public as a whole. This “Values Gap” can lead to misunderstanding and even worse a loss of trust between those delivering services and those receiving them. In this posting I will give some examples from recent research that TCC have conducted.

The British Values Survey measures the values of around 8,000 people every two years by asking them up to 1,000 questions.  The broad distribution of the UK population across the three primary values groups is represented in the diagram below: 40% Pioneer (inner directed), 30% Prospector (outer directed) and 30% Settler (security and sustenance driven):

The short Values Modes questionnaire on our website has been used by in a number of test surveys of audiences made up primarily of public and voluntary sector professionals.  Below, we can see that the vast majority of these are Pioneers.

This split emphasises a trend that we have found in a lot of our work across the country – that a large proportion of senior staff, particularly within the public sector, share the same values. Below is another example from a survey we conducted at a recent conference of public service practitioners.

This preponderance of inner directed people within the higher reaches of the public sector is in many ways a positive thing in that Pioneers tend to be optimistic about the possibility for change and share a motivation to improve society as a whole.  However, if 60% of the population do not share these values, and are not motivated by the same things, this can often lead to a “Values Clash”.  If we don’t share, or at least understand other peoples’ values, how can we successfully communicate with them or influence their behaviour? It should also be added this is not just an external issue for organisations and who they engage with, but also presents challenges within very large public sector bodies, when staff in various roles might hold different values.
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Below are common examples of a Values Clash that may arise from this Values Gap:
  • Big issue vs little issue. Pioneers want to communicate about issues such as economic regeneration, whilst Settlers might want to talk about graffiti or broken glass.
  • Big community vs little community. Pioneers want to talk about City/region-wide improvements.  Settlers, with a more localised sense of community, just feel this demonstrates ‘other areas get everything’.
  • Optimism vs pessimism. Pioneers tend to believe things can improve in an area while Settlers just think that this optimism demonstrates just how little they ‘get them’ and their reality.
  • Modernisation vs ‘staying the same. Whereas Pioneers may see change as a positive, many people see the past, and everything that came with it, as a ‘better’ time.

As can be seen from the above, these clashes are likely to lead to challenges for public bodies in achieving effective outcomes in key areas such as:

  • Public Health behaviour change
  • Other forms of Behaviour Change – eg environmental, transport, educational etc
  • Big/Civil Society involvement
  • Service Transformation
  • Cohesive Communities

In order to both understand the Values Gap and respond to a Values Clash it is thus important to be able to gather insight into the values of target communities as well as develop a range of values informed communications that engage with people in the right way.

Charlie Mansell is the Research and Development Officer at The Campaign Company. I am grateful to TCC colleague Matthew Upton and former TCC colleague Majeed Neky for their survey work and helpful suggestions that contributed to this posting. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

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