I can't, we can.

Five Motivations to Act

When asking people good life questions, we are in pursuit of what motivates the person to:

  • take action
  • make a contribution
  • to show up.

This enterprise is fundamentally different from canvassing someone for opinions about what others should or might do for them, the overriding question instead is, “what would you like to do to contribute to the wellbeing of your community?” The philosophy that underlies this approach operates to the principle that happiness does not come from within, it comes from between, hence the significance of not stopping short with questions like, “what matters to you?”, but expanding it to include: “…that you would like to join with others in doing?”. Of course, there will be occasions when we also need to add: “how could we support you in making those connections?”

In discovering people’s motivation to act it is helpful recognize that there are five prime drivers:

  1. Dreams: what people care enough about to move towards.
  2. Concerns: what people care enough about to move away from.
  3. Gift giving opportunities: when people care enough to share a gift, skill or passion, and/or know that others care enough to receive them. “You have an amazing singing voice, you know we have an amateur theatrical group in this community, we would really welcome your help, would you join?”
  4. Relationships: opportunities to be in reciprocal/interdependent endeavours with others. To find friendship, mutuality, shared fun, conviviality, solidarity, collective agency, debate, co-operate, console, laugh together, feel safe, and sometimes just sit quietly is to discover the ingredients of a satisfying life. These features of a satisfying life require two or more people. One person cannot make up a choir, any more than one sheep can make a flock.
  5. Political change/Social Justice: where people act together in response to an injustice, threat or shared challenge.


Understanding these motivations to act is critical in supporting people to connect with their communities in life giving ways.

Cormac Russell

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