The World Upshift Movement was launched by award-winning civil rights campaigner Roger Casale and twice Nobel Peace Prize nominated Ervin Laszlo in Rome in November 2022.
Its mission statement speaks about working together for change from our hearts. Hearts filled with life, compassion, and solidarity with humanity instead of with hatred and fear.
Roger Casale has had a career in government, civil society, and business.
He founded the civil rights group New Europeans in 2013 and served as a Labour MP from 1997-2005.
As a government affairs advisor, he worked at board level in the aerospace sector in the UK and has also lived and worked in Germany.
Roger now lives in Rome with his partner Maria Antinori. On 21 February, Roger and Maria will be in London to present World Upshift Forum – the “feel-think-and-do tank” at the heart of the World Upshift Movement. To find out more, visit World Upshift Movement: https://worldupshift.org/
What inspired you to start the World Upshift Movement?
It’s a very kind question, but in fact the idea of starting the Upshift Movement was not mine. I was asked to do so by Ervin Laszlo, the twice Nobel prize nominated Hungarian philosopher and systems theorist.
I was also encouraged to do so by my partner, Maria Antinori, who is a biologist and has always been fascinated by the relationship between spirituality and science and is the Chair of the World Upshift Organisation, the small company we have set up in London to coordinate the movement.
Ervin Laszlo’s life work points to the need to create a much broader movement than the one he has already built up, if we are to focus greater public attention on the future of humanity and what can be done to avert disaster. I think he saw in me someone who could help him create such a movement based on my experience as a former Member of Parliament and civil rights activist.
What inspires me most about the World Upshift Movement, is the realisation that there is really only one very powerful resource which can really change the world for the better and that is the power of love. To paraphrase John Lennon – “All we are saying – is give love a chance.”
We don’t mean sentimental love or some kind or emotion here, but rather that universal regard for humanity which lies deep within us all – we just need to find it. That is why there is such a focus on meditation and mindfulness in the World Upshift Movement.
If we think about change in our own personal lives, we know that this often comes from the heart and not the head. The simple proposition of the World Upshift Movement is that if that is true for the individual, why should it not work for humanity as a whole.
What experiences did you gain from your time as a government affairs advisor?
Having worked as a Member of Parliament for eight years, including three years in government, it was a new experience to be on the other side of the fence so to speak, working from the outside into government rather than the other way around.
My most important experience was the realisation that there is no inside track and that it is not who you know but what you know that really counts. I knew quite a lot about how government and parliament work, and I knew it not from books but from experience. I was able to share this experience with clients to help them understand how to build an appropriate profile and transparent relationships of trust with political stakeholders.
I also learned about the importance of helping companies manage the risk that is generated from political instability such as the Brexit vote or the election of Donald Trump. It is not easy to navigate in a situation of political uncertainty, particularly as political change is driven by emotion not just by reason. I learned much by working through the key issues with board members and CEOs and advising on strategy to mitigate risk.
How has living in Britain, Germany and Italy shaped your approach to social change?
When you live in another country and learn another language you receive the gift of being able to see your own culture and country in perspective. It helped me to understand that wherever we are from, we have much more in common than divides us.
As a result, I now place a much greater value on the need to build consensus and to work across borders and boundaries. It’s easy to forget that we can learn a great deal even from people who we disagree with on certain issues or who are very different from us in other ways.
By chance, I was living in Berlin in 1989 when the Berlin wall came down. That has left a lasting conviction that change from below is possible and that freedom and democracy are precious values which we all have a responsibility to nurture and protect.
Can you tell me a bit about the work you did as a Labour Member of Parliament for Wimbledon?
I won the seat – which had been held for 50 years by the Conservatives – on a record 18% swing in one of the biggest swings of the night when Labour swept to power in 1997. Having won as Labour candidate, I worked hard to show my constituents that I was elected to represent them all.
My predecessor had rarely visited the constituency. On the other hand, I lived in the area and worked hard for all my constituents. People would sometimes say to me “I didn’t vote for you, but you are doing a good job for me.” That taught me something important about my job.
Although I lost the seat in 2005, I felt that I had set the bar higher in terms of how people in Wimbledon expected to be represented. In fact, it’s a kind of upshift! Wimbledon still has an MP who works hard for the community, albeit from another party. That’s what really matters to the people who live there.
In what ways can governments around the world benefit from the World Upshift Movement?
I think the best answer I can give right now is that we will have to wait and see! Much will depend on how fast the movement grows and whether the great work that is already going on is scalable.
I do think, however, that there is very widespread concern in many parts of the world about the quality of our democracy and the capacity of our political systems to govern in a climate of populism and fear.
By bringing people together for change from the heart, the World Upshift Movement can help generate consensus and refocus public debate.
Too often political arguments flare up at the extremes when what we really want the discussion to do is to bubble along in the middle! No one has a monopoly of wisdom and the best policy outcomes often come about through a more inclusive approach, including the use of citizens’ assemblies.
The World Upshift Movement will be working with organisations that promote deliberative democracy, including through citizens panels and citizens juries, which give ordinary citizens the opportunity to take part in decision-making between elections and not just when it’s time to vote.
Such an approach goes hand in hand with other aspects of our work at the World Upshift Movement. Without an awareness of our possibilities and responsibilities as citizens, it will be difficult to achieve the critical number of engaged citizens who can help us renew and strengthen our democracies.