Friday, October 20, 2006

Sustainable Development and Motivation

I'm planning a session on SD currently for an AIESEC Conference in Beijing.
It was an interesting process. Firstly I started off identifying with objectives. Then I slightly changed my mind on the approach and I began to identify what, why and how factors and elements. On the precept that why is the most important I only spent a few minutes on what and how - they are quite obvious really. I then began to think about what motivates people to act sustainably and more generally 'make a difference'.

My theory is vaguely as follows. There are two sides to peoples' motivations. The positive and negative. Positive means that the motivation is created by a personally derived desire for action. Negative means that the motivation is created through force or imperative from an external source.

Some positive motivations can be:
Potential Impact
New knowledge that inspires
Personal gain
Personal experiences – all
New experiences and connections

Some negative motivations can be:
Personal Responsibility
New understanding and connections
New knowledge that shocks
Personal experiences – all
Social Drive

Take an example of someone who is 'making a difference' - Bill Gates (I will assume he is making a difference). Without speaking to the man it is impossible to say. I can visualise his motivation deriving from a variety of my identified sources though. Perhaps, for example, on the negative side he feels guilt - he has an extraordinarily privaleged life - even though he's worked hard, he has been rewarded over the odds and on some level may feel a requirement to pay society back. Connections may also force some action - he may feel that Microsoft has taken from society and that some positive contribution must be made to balance that. This last one would seem unlikely given the field his foundation concentrates in. Unless there is some 'reverse psychology' going on - this seems a little too contrived though.

Taking an alternative perspective, Bill may be positively motivated, and personally I feel it is more likely (his committment suggests desired rather than forced action). He may realise his opportunity in being the richest (or as good as) man alive to make a truely positive impact on society. He may realise that he has the potential to make an impact like no person before him and this may be making him try to make a difference.

Well anyway! The session will attempt to identify what motivates the young Chinese students which will be of great interest. It will then try to give them some positive motivation - asking them to build new connections in their knowledge which will generate some desire for action. Later in the day they get specific knowledge and understanding of key issues and they can use the desire for making an impact to combine with this and generate action after the conference. Great in theory - we'll see what the outcome is.

This is my theory of motivation to make a difference though. What do other people say?

First search for "theory of motivation to make a difference" showed no results.

Second search for "what motivates people" gave this CLICK HERE (google link). - mostly sales articles, same-old-leadership stuff and nothing interesting.

Next search for "what motivates people make an impact" (click here) yielded mostly random sites and a non-functioning site on youth aids work - getting closer?

There was one broken link to a paper which asks similar questions. Maybe I should be an academic and do research into it across the world. Or maybe not!

Enough rambling!

Hasta luego.


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