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