Crises are defining moments in people’s lives. They have the capacity to shift worldviews and lifestyles. How could Greenpeace Germany ensure that changes prompted by the Covid crisis were sustained once lockdowns were lifted?

Tags: Narratives, Defining Moments, COVID, Crisis | Country: Germany

The challenge

We know crises can profoundly change human minds but these memories can quickly fade once the disruption is over. As life returned to normal after COVID-19 in Germany, changes in mindsets and lifestyle that had arisen from coping with the pandemic, but could also help deal with the climate crisis, were in danger of fading away.

The aims

Instilling conscious memories of the lockdown to strengthen the idea that it was a defining moment, helping to encourage sustained change and a willingness to change

To understand people’s needs, fears and desires to guide our future campaign work

The Solution

Mindworks’ insights

The stories people tell themselves and each other about a crisis determine their actions in the future. If Greenpeace could shape and reiterate a few defining moments that people adopt as their memories and emotions of the crisis, then it would be possible to shape support for desired actions in the future. Messaging also needed to be aligned with how people really feel to be effective.

Mindset shifts could be supported through Positive Deep Adaptation. This is a framework that can help people prepare for crises; it’s based on the four R’s: resilience (what do you most value), relinquishment (what can you let go of), restoration (what do you want to bring back), and reconciliation/reconnection (how can you love and support others).

In 2020, Greenpeace Germany invited supporters and the public to write letters to their future selves and submit them via a website, selecting a return date when their letters would be emailed back to them.

They were encouraged to consider what they have missed the most, what they have not missed, and what changes have they made and would like to continue after the lockdown.

The letters encouraged reflection about this defining moment and the changes it had brought about in their lives. The letters were returned to them at a later date to remind them of these thoughts as those shifts were beginning to fade.

“I would like to thank you very much for the letter from the past. It was very good for me to hear from myself. For me, such actions enrich my life. As I am writing to you now, I can see that this [engagement] has also strengthened my solidarity with Greenpeace.”

The impacts

Over 450 letters were received and sent back. Analysis of the letters revealed that people were resilient, they were focused on their personal lives (most NGO campaigns ask people to focus on issues outside themselves), they appreciated the importance of collective action and solidarity shown in the Covid crisis, and there was an acknowledgement that change is difficult. From the hundreds of letters received, one of the participants, a musician, penned a song, Out of Here, inspired by the letter, another sent a thank you letter.

The future

The Greenpeace Germany engagement team found that encouraging self-reflection was a valuable tool during times of disorientation, allowing them to listen to their supporters and start a deeper conversation. They planned actions that could help reinforce this approach with their audiences beyond the crisis itself.