Introduction

“We are social creatures, our behaviours are shaped and constrained by social norms and expectations. Negotiating change is best pursued at the level of groups and communities. Social support is particularly vital in breaking habits, and in devising new social norms and more sustainable patterns of consumption. Government can play a vital role in nurturing and supporting community based social change.”  

Motivating Sustainable Consumption, Professor Tim Jackson, University of Surrey

‘Civil participation, even for fun, is socially valuable in its own right. It contributes to wider goals of social inclusion and solidarity, whether or not it leads to political engagement. It is through voluntary associations in civil society that social capital is generated and mobilised, strengthening relationships between citizens, developing a sense of connectedness and fostering norms of trust and reciprocity.’

National Council for Voluntary Organisations Civil renewal and active citizenship

‘One of the messages of the research is that sustainable development often works best when driven by people working together. We can learn and change our behaviour more effectively in groups: Community groups can help tackle climate change, develop community energy and transport projects, help minimise waste, improve the quality of the local environment, and promote fair trade and sustainable consumption and production.’ 

Declaration of The World Summit on Sustainable Development

‘The Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and … the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl… Yet [it] does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play… the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages… it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.’

Robert Kennedy, 1968

“Modern society is organised around a particular model of how to pursue human well-being. Baldly stated, this model contends that increasing economic output leads straightforwardly to improved well-being: a higher standard of living and a better quality of life across society. Economies are organised explicitly around the need to increase GDP, with relatively little regard for how it is distributed; business models are predicated on maximising profits to shareholders; and people are led to believe that the more disposable income they have – and thus the more they consume – the happier they will be. But economic indicators tell us nothing about whether people are in fact experiencing their lives as going well.”

New Economics Foundation, National Accounts of Well-Being