Behavior Change

Behavior change is the adoption of a singular action or repetitive action over time. The field of behavior change is based on principles of behavioral psychology, economics, and social science theory. True behavior change initiatives go well beyond awareness-raising strategies, which are not enough to change behavior. Most people need a little help, an incentive, or a nudge to adopt the desired behavior. This guide will help you design an effective behavior change effort, based on sound social science.

Why is it important?

Environmental problems are often caused by human behavior and are therefore at their root social problems. Natural resources will not be protected or restored unless a critical mass of people are motivated to change their behavior. In order to do this, the environmental community must shift to adopt social science as central to environmental stewardship efforts. Authentic behavior change initiatives are rooted in social science theory, informed by insights into the attitudes and priorities of key audiences, and are focused not on raising awareness, but on measurably increasing the adoption of environmentally responsible behavior.

How do you plan and implement a behavior change campaign?

This guide is designed to give you a step-by-step method for designing an effective behavior change campaign. We have included links, and planning templates, and other resources to help you along the way. As you enter this process, be aware that designing a sound campaign is an investment, both in time and resources. If your intent is to throw up a billboard on a busy highway, then this approach is not for you. This method is built on these best practices:

  • Choosing the right behavior to influence.
  • Identifying the audience segments within the general population that are most prone to respond to your campaign.
  • Gaining an understanding of those priority audience segments, including their barriers to adopting the behavior, and the motivators that will help overcome those barriers.
  • Choosing tools and approaches to use in your campaign that are the best match for the needs of your priority audiences.
  • Implementing the campaign, and evaluating the results, as the basis for retooling and moving forward again.