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Valuesquest programme 2014-2015
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Valuesquest programme 2014-2015 | Culture, Creativity and Values | Club of Rome: ValuesQuest

Club of Rome: ValuesQuest

The discussion document that heralded the start of the ValuesQuest programme.

In March 2013 a partnership between ARC and the Club of Rome launched ValuesQuest, a radical programme of social, cultural and philosophical enquiry aimed at uncovering and challenging the values underpinning contemporary European society. The aim of ValuesQuest is to identify those values that would be needed for ensuring a safe, just and sustainable world for the future, drawing together contributions from (and discussions between) the worlds of the creative arts, psychotherapy and spirituality as well as politics and social theory.

Rather than amassing scientific data and numerical, rationalist evidence it is crucial to the ValuesQuest project to look at and develop stories to express such values, reflecting the way in which stories have always been used to convey any society's most profound truths, insights, beliefs and values. Throughout ARC's experience of facilitating conservation action within religious organisations it has been the scriptural and traditional stories within each faith that have driven the motivation for change, rather than the presentation of scientific evidence alone.

The first manifestations of ValuesQuest were a discussion paper jointly written by Karl Wagner (Director of External Communications, Club of Rome) and Martin Palmer (Secretary General, Alliance of Religions and Conservation) followed by a number of public debates at a 'festival of ideas' in the UK. The debates took place at the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival in Hay on Wye in May 2013 and involved a lively mix of writers, thinkers and academics from a range of backgrounds discussing topics such as the role of religion in society, the value of Utopian ideas for political thinking, how to incorporate non-rational experiences in establishing our values and whether humanity is the custodian over, rather than a part of, nature.

The Club of Rome

It is now 40 years since this prescient Club of Rome report introduced the notion of sustainability to environmentalism
Founded in 1968, the Club of Rome is an informal network that includes significant individuals from the worlds of politics, business and science with the aim of identifying and addressing the most crucial problems facing humanity's future. This is done by commissioning iconoclastic reports that reframe conventional wisdom and provoke fresh thinking, as with the 1972 publication of The Limits To Growth, an analysis of the longer term environmental impacts of trends in global resource consumption and population growth. Produced at a time when economic growth was unquestioned as a social good in the Western industrial world the report introduced the notion of sustainability that now underpins the contemporary environmental movement world-wide.

Internationally recognised as an influential global think tank, the Club of Rome has continued to pursue these big questions, with reports like The First Global Revolution (1991) and ongoing programmes including A New Path for World Development.

Origins of ValuesQuest

Since its inception in 1986 ARC has always worked in partnership with both religious and secular organisations, often bringing the two worlds together over a common concern to address environmental issues. In 2011 ARC Secretary General Martin Palmer was approached by the Club of Rome and asked to present a stimulating paper to mark the 40th anniversary of the original 'Limits to Growth' publication. Martin's response took the form of a blog entry entitled How beliefs, values, ethos and inspiration are essential for saving the world.

Published in January 2012 this piece challenged the Club of Rome to look forward another 40 years and to follow a fresh path looking towards values rather than data because, as Martin puts it: "values are the basis from which data and information are assessed, either consciously or, more often than not, sub-consciously."

As a response to this challenge Karl Wagner, the Club of Rome's Director of External Communications, joined with Martin to work on a longer paper exploring the ideas raised in the original blog. Their joint work produced ValuesQuest - a deeper discussion paper published in March 2013 for wider distribution that sets out the ideas and intentions of an ongoing programme. By using the widest possible range of contributors to identify the values underpinning contemporary European society and the stories that express them, Valuesquest aims to look to the future in the hope of imagining our way out of the crises that confront us.

Why values?

Despite their fundamental importance there is almost never any discussion about the values that shape our attitudes and actions and it is precisely this exclusion that makes it vital to look more closely at them. In introducing the ValuesQuest programme the Club of Rome's Karl Wagner makes this point very clearly:

Karl Wagner, Director of External Communications, Club of Rome and joint author of the ValuesQuest discussion document
"Discussions about today’s problems and challenges facing humankind or an individual, be they climate change, unemployment, the financial crisis, destruction of nature, poverty, crime or the way people interrelate and live together turn rather quickly into a debate about values. Values evidently are fundamental for humans, but at the same time it seems nearly impossible to address them in any other than in a philosophical way.

Values are a topic, which many find awkward if not downright intimidating. Possibly this is because it often leads to people preaching about their own values or the lack of values in those they disagree with. Yet values are actually how we guide our way through the possibilities and problems of life. Values are the main drivers behind our societal instruments, which shape the world we live in. Our theory and practice of economy do not rest on natural laws but on the underlying values.

Values are also often so subliminal, we never realised we had them until they fell away or some crisis made us question what values we had lived by. Values are so important and fundamental that we have to find a way of addressing them, whether we consider the subject fuzzy or not. There is no way around it.

It is because of the centrality of values to the future of huma­nity and to an understanding of why we are where we are ­today that the Club of Rome has initiated a programme called ValuesQuest to explore these issues and to map out a path forward."

Useful links

Club of Rome ValuesQuest page

ValuesQuest discussion paper

The full text of Martin Palmer's original blog to the Club of Rome: How beliefs, values, ethos and inspiration are essential for saving the world

Press release about the launch events in May 2013

You can hear two participants from the HowTheLightGetsIn debates explaining their different positions on secularism in politics on the BBC Radio 4 'Sunday' programme. The item begins after 11 minutes and 15 seconds.

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