Erfan Daliri On Redesigning Society To Create True Social Change — Impact Boom | Social Impact Blog & Podcast | Global Changemaker Community | Social Innovation, Enterprise, Design

I’m really keen to hear about one of the biggest lessons that you learned from completing your Masters in Communication for Social Change…

There were a lot of lessons that I gained through that Masters. There was a bit of coursework to begin with obviously, so there was development and conflict management and conflict resolution coursework. But in the actual thesis writing, there were a couple of big things that stuck out for me and one was how long climate change science has been on the money for, and how long this has been an issue. And the second thing was the extent of research that exists out there about climate change communications, and how it’s failing. And it’s not something new. We’ve had the United Nations convene the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that was convened in 1988. And that blows a lot of people’s minds. It’s hard to imagine just how long it’s been an issue for.

31 years.

Yeah. And that’s how long ago that was convened. So it was an issue before then. And there’s a massive extent of research, not just on climate science, that’s unshakable, but there’s an extent of research on climate science communication and why it’s been failing and what’s been the downfall of it.

And what I found quite fascinating was that raising awareness is not the answer. Not only is it not the answer, it in fact often is counter productive if you simply raise awareness without nuanced, targeted messaging that takes into account receivers, preexisting frameworks, and schematic interpretation. Raising awareness around something like climate change, just expecting people to respond to fear, has been the downfall of the climate change movement.

In that we think that if you give someone a sense of fear about the looming destruction, that they might actually want to do something about it. Whereas the research quite clearly shows that it’s the opposite. Using fear-based messaging triggers people into complex emotional management systems whereby they shut down and they’re more likely to deny climate science because of the trauma instigated by the fear inducing messaging. It’s quite fascinating-

It really is and I feel like we could talk just on that topic alone all afternoon.

Absolutely. I wrote 12,000 words on it and I could talk all day on just that.

Tell us about some of the different organisations or social enterprises that you’re aware of (you have lots of social entrepreneurs coming down to the Newkind Conference). Which of those do you think are doing a great job at tackling these social, cultural or environmental problems?

I think I touched on this earlier, with regards to the rigidity and the agility. And that’s rigidity referring to some of the organisations, and the agility referring to the youth movement. So it is in fact the school strikes and the youth climate movement that is the most effective in truly recognising and acknowledging the underlying factors that are leading to climate change. And then as far as organisations, I feel because organisations take so long to find their own identity, and over decades they establish these really strong identities and personalities within organisations, they struggle at times to keep pace with the rate at which the world is changing. And that’s something that I touch on in the book as well, this rate of exponential change is… We throw this word exponential around, but if you actually look at a graph and study it, what the next financial graph looks like, we understand that every moment the world is changing faster than it was a moment ago.

I feel organisations, at times, struggle to keep pace with what’s required and what the youth are really aware of, which is seeing and recognising that gender inequality is leading to climate change. That Indigenous non-representation or dispossession of land and culture is leading to further economic injustice and climate change.

I think the youth have done a really good job of recognising these underlying symptoms and acknowledging that you can’t address climate change through policy changes and through some green energy solutions. It’s really about addressing the fundamental core issues. And I truly believe that the youth these days get that intrinsically, they understand it.

Some organisations are connecting with youth quite well. I’m working on a project with the Red Cross at the moment, which is looking at empowering youth from diverse backgrounds who may not usually be singled out as leaders, and actually empowering leaders. And there are organisations out there that are doing really good work connecting with youth, but it is, again, it’s the kid these days. They’re on it. They know what needs to happen. So I don’t want to single out any particular organisation as far as they’re doing an incredible job.

I feel like it’s about getting to those underlying principles and redesigning society, rather than designing projects to address a single symptom. It’s a matter of redesigning society to address the underlying causes.

I 100% agree. It’s that system change that is all so important, isn’t it? To finish off then, what books or resources would you recommend to our listeners?

Depending on where their strengths are, so my whole idea is that in order to address social change effectively, we need to see it as an interconnected network of ideas and different fields of knowledge.

If a person’s already well versed in eco-psychology, then I would say go and study economics, and find out a bit more about how we got here from an economic perspective. If someone comes from an economics kind of background, or an activism background, I would say look into the work of eco-psychology, look into the work that reconnects. If you’re lacking in understandings of Indigenous perspectives then perhaps go there, because I truly believe that it’s not a particular field or way of thinking or school of thought that’s going to lead us there, it’s about rounding out and understanding how we need to find holistic solutions by having holistic perspective.

It’s a bit about eco-psychology and understanding that the human consciousness is inextricably interconnected with the nature from which it is sprung. It’s about understanding economics in order to have intelligent conversations about economics. It’s about understanding childhood education and psychology, and knowing how to frame messaging in order to affect behavioural change. It’s about understanding what toxic masculinity actually is, rather than getting triggered by the words toxic masculinity and not really understanding what toxic masculinity, and/or toxic femininity means. So it’s about rounding out our knowledge.

That’s what I would just suggest to any listeners out there, if you’re strong on a particular area, find your blind spots and try and connect more dots. Because the picture really is a ‘connect the dots’ kind of picture. And that’s the only way we’re going to get holistic solutions is if we connect all of the dots.