From Dogmatic Defender to Champion of the Impossible

Dogamtic Defenders to Chapions of the Impossible, illustration by Iris Maertens
Dogamtic Defenders to Chapions of the Impossible, illustration by Iris Maertens

The 7th Shift Greenpeace is trying to make in it’s ongoing effort to become a more open organization is to go from being a Dogmatic Defender to becoming a Champion of the Impossible. The storytellers, engagers and wholehearted activists inside of Greenpeace recently discussed what this shift means in our biweekly community call.

We spent a few minutes deciding that “dogmatic defender” is a term that refers to a person who only thinks about right and wrong or black and white. This is a person who holds so fast to their perspective, reason or logic or proof don’t necessarily matter. JoeW suggested that we should all watch the movie Dogma again.

Interestingly, the public image of Greenpeace varies from country to country. As in all of life, internal perceptions of self can contrast with external perceptions. As JoeG said

“We as an organization haven’t been dogmatic for quite a while. It’s more about how the historical Greenpeace has been too dogmatic and too entrenched in its beliefs.”

How Greenpeace staff view ourselves, our campaigns and the work we do is different from how the public does. That perception also depends on where you are in the world. In Brazil, Greenpeace is considered mainstream. In Northern Europe, Greenpeace is seen as “a bunch of hippies with flowers in their hair”. In the United States, Greenpeace tends to be considered “radical”. In eastern Asia, Greenpeace is seen as a young, hip organization.

We discussed whether or having so many different images was problematic for engaging in a global context. We agreed that operating in slightly different ways in different markets was more honest and truthful than trying to force a single, context-independent “corporate identity” down peoples throats. We did, however, also discuss that in modern, globalized media our words, images and actions proliferate. The values and identity of Greenpeace has to stay unique, but how we share those values or showcase our identity will change based on location, context and issue.

Of course we want to embrace the diversity, but the 7 shifts is also an attempt to define a framework. Alessandro said that this work is the first time Greenpeace had created a cohesive brand strategy. He also said,

“The more we work on global projects, the more we need guidelines like these.”

I found the whole discussion fascinating because if you replace “Greenpeace” with “I”, you garner some interesting insight into your own ego and identity. As I think about courage and how self-awareness manifests itself at “work”, I am more and more interested in the way perception and judgement paint a picture.

This led us to a talk about the challenges of inclusiveness and diversity, albeit very briefly. I’ve written before about cognitive diversity and the fact that all diversity requires intention. This conversation, along with the admission that Greenpeace finds it as challenging to be diverse and inclusive as any other organization, will continue in future calls.

Engagement “KPIs”

The second half of the call, we did some live collaborating in an agenda item around Goals for Campaigns and Engagement that Araceli brought to the call. This was the beginning of a conversation that we want to have with people who are designing campaigns or engagement strategies.

She started by asking,

“How do you feel about KPIs, do you have trouble setting them? What problems do we have in setting KPIs for engagement in campaign planning?”

We talked about how hard it is to measure the “depth” of engagement – Not every volunteer can dedicate the same amount of time, how do we distinguish between the “value” of different actions taken. Further, measuring behavior change is nearly impossible – How do you verify that someone has changed a behavior?

I mentioned my own distain for KPIs – I’ve rarely seen KPIs used with purpose – and JoeG agreed. He said that 90% of the data he’d collected as an IT professional was irrelevant because no one bothered to use it. The group discussed and came to the conclusion that if you aren’t going to change anything based on the KPIs you’re looking at, there’s no reason to set KPIs in the first place. I couldn’t agree more.

We also admitted that some KPIs can make us more effective. For example, if you judge “engagement” by “actions taken” and can adequately count the number of actions people take, you can use the percentage to reduce or increase asks.

In a day and age where endless data collection is the new normal, it was refreshing to have a conversation about arbitrary goal setting. The topic of “campaign goal setting” will be back in our call soon.

Next week, we’ll begin talking about “courage” in depth. We all – not just Greenpeace but activists everywhere – need to develop some “courage muscles” if we’re going to change the world for the better. Join us and let’s talk about how we do that!

From Dogmatic Defender to Champion of the Impossible

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