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Archives: 'Brain Science & Research'

March 27, 2014

SCARF for social activists

I am not a huge fan of ‘ACRONYM’ models, but this framework – called SCARF – from neuroscientist David Rock is one of the more useful ones.

As many of us, within the Anglesea and surrounding communities, unite to SHUT DOWN the Anglesea power station, we discover that some people see the world differently to us. It’s easy to take the moral and intellectual high ground and say “We’re right and they’re wrong!” … but that sort of thinking will never unite a diverse community of divergent views. Applying the SCARF framework to our engagement strategy will help.

Here is a summary of this document by David Rock – – I have taken direct quotes and added a little of my own interpretations as well …

The SCARF model is a framework that can activate a reward or threat response in social situations. SCARF can be applied in any situation where people collaborate in groups such as at community lead rallies and information nights. The SCARF model involves 5 domains of human social experience: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. Here’s a brief description of each domain with a footnote … advice for any community leaders who are trying to SHUT DOWN a local coal mine and power station.

Status is about the relative importance to others. If people feel left out, or in a minority group at a social gathering, the associated drop in status generates a strong threat response. When threatened people often defend a position that doesn’t make sense to avoid the perceived pain of a drop in status. If leaders wish to influence other’s behaviour, more attention must given to reducing status threats in social situations.

Certainty concerns being able to predict the future. The human brain craves certainty so that it can predict the future. Without being able to predict, the brain uses far more resources and energy to process our experiences. So, as our community lobbies to SHUT DOWN the local coal mine, it opens up new and uncertain future scenarios. Large uncertainties like this one can be highly debilitating and cause people to stop listening and snap judgements. This is why we must communicate and discuss plausible and relevant future scenarios that don’t include a coal mine.

Autonomy provides a sense of control over events and a sensation of having choices. As soon as a participant at a community event feels a reduction in autonomy (with no sense of control), the experience can be threatening. When inviting people to take action, statement like “this is what you have to do now!” should be avoided at all costs. Providing people with a choice between different options can shift the perception. The set up of the room and types of processes used also plays a significant role in the experience people have.

Relatedness is a sense of safety with others, of friend rather than foe. In the absence of safe social interactions, the body generates a threat response. People naturally like to form ‘tribes’ where they experience a sense of belonging. So, as Anglesea attempts find a community voice, we should be tapping into this tribal sense of belonging. For those opposed to the SHUT-DOWN campaign … no matter what ‘we’ do or say they won’t change! Neurologically, we are wired to adopt messages from those who are ‘like’ us … from the same tribe.

Fairness is a perception of fair exchanges between people. The need for fairness may be the driver behind the formation and energy of the Surf Coast Air Action group and the SHUT IT DOWN campaign. Members of our tribe experience internal rewards for doing this volunteer work to improve our community – born out of a decreasing sense of fairness in the world. For our upcoming event in Anglesea, we need to be completely transparent about our purpose and our mission to rally support Shut the Mine down.

I’ll finish with a couple of quotes from philosopher Theodore Zeldin about the deeply social nature of the way our brains are wired together and connected in social networks …

“When will we make the same breakthroughs in the way we treat each other as we have made in technology?”

“The kind of conversation I’m interested in, is one in which we are willing to emerge a slightly different person.”



GeoffBrown | Brain Science & Research, Community & Belonging, Facilitation, Leadership | Comments Off on SCARF for social activists

May 8, 2012

Graphic Harvest with Narration

I am currently facilitating a series of conversations between a group of people who have joined the 3 Pillars Network Active Learning program. The core purpose of this program is to connect people from all over Australia who work in the field (if you can call it  field?) of behaviour change for sustainability. The idea is to promote learning between practitioners, researchers and those in policy.

Last week I drew a map of the key things I remembered from the conversations. I love creating these maps after reading books and listening to TED talks. It helps to make links between ideas and create a story. Yesterday I shared my map with a participant who couldn’t make it to the session. I took her through the map, piece by piece, and wished I had recorded it.

Today, I did record it … it a first take and I have no idea why the video is compressed into half the screen?

Here’s the map …

And here’s the video – a 10 minute watch …

GeoffBrown | Brain Science & Research, Creative Stuff, How Stuff Spreads & Changes, Sustainability, Vizual Thinking | Comments Off on Graphic Harvest with Narration

July 29, 2011

What are you a student of right now?

Here are some words that came to me when doodling on my iPad – playing with the Adobe Ideas App. Some fields and practices that I am a student of … What words would add to this image?


GeoffBrown | Brain Science & Research, Vizual Thinking | Comments (1)

May 14, 2011

Divergent ideas form a Convergent whole

My last post described a game called Werewolf that I hosted for a group of people who, collectively, comprise an organisation. I worked with this team of people for 2 days. Day 1 was playful and Day 2 allowed the group to reflect on it’s own purpose and principles of working together.

Here are a set of resources that informed my processes and some of the thinking skills I brought to the group.

On Day 1 we played applied Improv games and learnt through a process of immersion in direct experience

Direct References – these ideas were shared directly with the group

1. Mindsight ideas from the work of Dr Daniel Siegel

2 rules that help to underpin Mindsight

Rule #1
Being open to sensations in our bodies – gut, heart, head is a powerful source of knowledge
These sensations shape the way we make rational decisions
Being open to sub cortical sources is needed for clear mindsight
Rule #2
Relationships are woven into the fabric of our interior world
We come to know our our minds through our interactions with others and act quickly often without awareness
Mindsight allows us to gain clarity about thes rapid sensations and information and gain new clarity about who we are

A podcast with Dr Daniel Siegel describing the Wheel of Awareness

An interview with Dr Daniel Siegel describing Mindfulness and Mindsight

2. Inner Game ideas from the work of Timothy Gallwey

On the tennis court, we practiced the art of ‘noticing’ the ball when throwing and catching in pairs. One group played the famous ‘bounce-hit’ game and another group played the ‘trajectory’ game.

I introduced the Inner Game concept of Self 1 and Self 2 (described further below). These quotes and summaries from Timothy Gallwey’s book The Inner Game of Work provide more insights into this approach to learning …

“There is always an inner game being played in your mind no matter what outer game you are playing. How aware you are of this game can make the difference between success and failure.” -Tim Gallwey

“Learning and performance are the same thing. People who win are those who learn faster. We learn fast when we pay attention to what is happening now – the present moment and for what the world really is and not what it could be. Learning becomes a function of attention and noticing more than instruction. It’s about noticing what is going on around you without judgement, fear. Or the need to control.” Peter Block from the Forward

“Self 1 the voice of making judgements and giving commonds – these are merely activities of the mind and not the true self. Self 1 doesn’t trust Self 2. This self doubt creates a poor learning environment. Self 2 is being spoken to by Self 1 and is the human being itself. It embodies all the human potential and possibly we are born with. It is our innate ability to learn from experiences and it is the self we enjoyed as children.” Chapter 1
“The goal of the inner game is to reduce the interference to ones own potential. The goal of the outer game is to overcome external obstacles to reach our goals (eg. winning a tennis match). Inner and outer games are being played all the time, individually and as organizations and cultures. The outer game gets way more attention and our inner game (individually, culturally) is neglected.” Chapter 1.

My recent post also describes some of what we discussed and practiced here.

3. Complexity and the Cynefin Framework by Dave Snowden

This blog post I did a while back provides many short videos that described the framework and thinking here.

Another post here by Chris Corrigan points to the need for a ‘Safe-Fail’ mindset when working in the complex domain.

4. Marshmallow Challenge

We played the Marshmallow Challenge and it’s lessons link back to the Safe-Fail approach when working in complexity. Here’s the TED Video that describes it in some detail …

5. Features of High Reliability Organisations

Here were the features I shared on Day 2 (Source: Training materials from Bob Dick)

These key features come from the research and (this) book by Weik & Sutcliffe – Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity.

They also have an article on Managing the Unexpected through Mindfulness which explores similar concepts and well worth a read.

Indirect References – these ideas informed my thinking when designing the 2 days

1. Michelle Holliday’s work on the Pattern of Living Systems

2. Gideon Rosenblatt’s take on the Systems Biology of Organisations

Day 2

Processes used to structure Day 2 conversations – there were other sub processes used too … too many to cover here 🙂

1. Chaordic Stepping Stones by Chris Corrigan over at the Art of Hosting

We used a handful of questions from the first 3 stepping stones of NEED, PURPOSE and PRINCIPLES

2. Visual Explorer Cards

This is my favourite set of cards to elicit new ways of thinking and promote conversation between people.

GeoffBrown | Brain Science & Research, Facilitation, Living Systems & Complexity, Yes!And Improv | Comments (1)