A Good Space: Words Matters Workshop

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Date: 21 May 2019 
Time: 7.00 pm – 9.30 pm 
Address: A Good Space, 6 Eu Tong Sen Street, #04-88, Multipurpose Hall, Singapore 059817

Hours: 2.5 hrs

Values Based Communication

Climate Conversations held a workshop called Words Matters: Language and Advocacy at A Good Space. The workshop is specially designed for people working in communications, advocacy and messaging in the social impact space. I invited Abi and Sze Yunn to attend the workshop together as I find the topic of discussion applicable to them as well.

Some of the topics covered are: 

  1. Findings on language and advocacy in Singapore
  2. How values are invoked by language
  3. Framing the discussion
  4. Applying the Common Cause framework to communications. 

Our trainer for the day was Chris Jensen, who is a co-founder of Climate Conversations. Chris has led environmental outreach and engagement programs in Singapore and Australia over the last 10 years. 


One of the skill taught to us was priming. Priming is a technique in which the exposure to a stimulus would influence how people respond to a subsequent stimulus. As values influence our attitudes and behaviours, we need to learn what matters to our audience, how to evoke emotions, transcend situations, and encourage subconscious actions. We were introduced to various frameworks by Common Cause UK. 

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic

Values Categories

Intrinsic refers to what is internal (i.e the self) and extrinsic refers to what is external (i.e society, the world). Often, we heard these terminologies used when describing how society is shifting from intrinsic to extrinsic — becoming more materialistic, more selfish and more unequal. 

Values and Associated Attitudes and Behaviours

There is always a seesaw effect when one is deciding which set of values matters to them. Engaging in one set of values would suppress and discourage conflicting values, and associated attitudes and behaviours. For example, placing more emphasis on Power would cause Universalism to be less important. 

Interesting Findings

Chris shared some surprising examples on how values could be primed. One example was a research done in 2007 by Karremans. The experiment had 3 groups of participants. Group 1 lists reasons for and against Honesty and Loyalty, Group 2 lists reasons for and against Successful and Power, and Group 3 is a control group which does an unrelated task. During the experiment, the facilitator would pretend to accidentally drop a container of pencils. The result was that participants from Group 1 were the most willing to help pick them up. Another example given was the UCLA Energy Study. 2 groups were sent messages about their energy usage. The first message highlights the money that could be saved by reducing usage, the second message highlights the impacts of energy related pollution on children. More participants from the group receiving the intrinsic message (pollution and children) reduced their consumption than the other group. 

Even though we live in a world where Power and Wealth play huge roles in determining one’s success, results do show that a significant number of people do merit intrinsic values — maybe even more than extrinsic ones. 

Group Activity

We got our hands on trying how to link intrinsic values into a message that is to be advocated to an audience. Below are some examples of the values and the messages, which were generated at random for us. 

Abi, Sze Yunn and I formed a group. Even though we weren’t able to come up with something that is substantial during the workshop as we were given very little time to work on it, it was still a useful exercise (perhaps, we would get better over time). 

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, this workshop provided us with the Common Cause Frameworks, which helps up adopt a structured approach to examine language choices. It taught us that we should always be aware of our audience and we have to understand them and attune the ways and methods we can use to advocate our social causes with greater impact.