Public Resource
The Disrupted Mind

This guide explores how disruptive crises (like the COVID-19 pandemic or climate-fueled extreme weather events) have profound impacts on societal mindsets. They can cause us to deconstruct narratives (“working from home does not work”), set new norms (“we don’t let our child play with other children anymore”), shape new identities "I feel like a victim"), establish new values: (“we shall sacrifice to save others” – universalism) or build up emotions (the rise in hedonism, fear, loneliness or gratitude). After a disruption has impacted individual mindsets, societies negotiate renewed collective mindsets, i.e. narratives, norms and values, through collective sense-making processes. This happens through diverse, mostly unstructured communication ranging from political discourse to social media chatter.

Research-based recommendations for organizers and advocates include:

  • Use the "disorientation phase" following an emergency experience to introduce and amplify radically new stories that reestablish meanings. 
  • Use sensing activities, observation, and scenario planning to speed up the "re-orientation phase," including proposing and evaluating possible post-crisis trajectories.
  • Match their messages of change to existing crisis experiences and strategically create experiences that reinforce the mindset change they want to create.