As a climate champion, do you know how to use this one tip… a values sandwich, to get action on your climate projects?

What’s a values sandwich, and how can it help our climate causes? This communication tip works just as well for Uncle Ralph at Thanksgiving as stopping the pipeline in your back yard. But let’s talk about the why we need this simple technique first.

If getting people to act on the climate were easy, we’d have already done it. Maybe. Unless we’re not doing it the most effective way.

We all want climate success, but let me ask you a question. Which is more important, our values or our issues?

No, you can’t say both. You suspect it’s not issues, but you can’t cheat by saying values because you think this is the right answer.

We’ve got hundreds of issues and little time or resources. So mostly, we just pump out information. A few facts and some well-reasoned arguments. Let people decide for themselves whether the pipeline is a good idea or not.

The problem with this approach is that it’s not working. We win a few campaigns, even get a nod acknowledging our brilliant arguments from Uncle Ralph after he’s had a few. But it’s like playing Whack-a-Mole* with climate problems. We may connect with one or two, but then another pops its head up. What if we had a way to deal many of them at the same time?

Enter the Value’s Sandwich. The most effective way to communicate short of telling a story. Developed by Anat Shenker-Osorio of Berkeley and used in the Race-Class Narrative Action project, it’s been the spark for many other successful campaigns. (Though she doesn’t call it a sandwich and her process has a few more layers.)

To make a sandwich, you need a couple of pieces of bread. People are connected by their shared values. The bread represents this shared value. The next piece needed for a good sandwich is the spread or accompaniment. Mustard, mayo, or salsa; lettuce, tomato or cheese. This is a statement of how our core values are being violated, by who, and especially why. Finally comes the meat, or eggplant if you prefer. This is our solution to the issue or our vision. It’s held in place by the second piece of bread which represents a return to our core values and a good call to action.

This is what it looks and sounds like:

Facing a dirty tar sands pipelines crossing our land, the risk of oil spills and poisoned air is scary. No matter where we come from, the color of our skin, or what we do for a living, we all want to drink clean water, breath clear air, and have a safe future for our families and loved ones.

But for too long, we’ve let a few rich pipeline executives and the corrupt politicians in their pockets, divide us against each other. They do this to pad their profits by knowingly selling dirty jobs and a toxic pipeline that will warm our climate and damage the health of our most vulnerable citizens.

We have the solutions to assure a clean healthy future. We can protect our air, water and land by switching to clean renewable energy. We must stop dirty pipelines, and end the toxic pollution they carry.

This is a moment that we must stand with and for each other across our differences to ensure climate justice and a clean healthy future for all of our families. Call the PUC today and tell them, no corporate invasive species in our state.

Of course this is not sufficient by itself. It is an example only. There are hundreds of issues but a half a dozen core values. These include empathy, fairness, compassion, inclusion, strength, family and a few others. An issue without a value is just a problem. By adding our values to the message we provide the reason why and attract others who share those values. But we also then build support for those values in other issues. For example, if you share the value of protection, then perhaps you’ll also be against the mining project in your back yard. We’re whacking more than one mole at a time then.

Each issue has also has a specific villain, but often one main motivation… greed and profits over the core value. Note that this motivation is often guised in jobs and progress.

A specific call to action is justified by returning to values that unite us. By linking values, issues, solutions and action we create a more powerful message than just saying… this is bad.

Next time you need to craft a message, ditch the facts sheets and try a values sandwich. Call if you need help and thanks for what you do.

PS: *Bad metaphor. No moles were harmed in the writing of this post.


‘We are all connected. Savor the Earth!’™

Hobart Stocking
Facebook: @SkyWaterEarthConnected
Twitter: @SkyWaterEarth