Saturday, 14 November 2009

Behaviour change and conversations There are still sceptics about the role of policy in influencing what people do on a day-to-day basis, but I suspect there are far more people who simply don't believe that individuals can be persuaded to modify behaviour pro-socially. Yet policy has surely always sought to change behaviour (like smoking, drinking, driving, oh and thinking of course, there's an example occurs to me). In a post-welfare society under the gathering clouds of climate change, it's kinda priority. So London's Capital Ambition programme developed a guide to options for public agencies, and has a recent article on some of the approaches being taken, 'from nudge theory through behavioural economics to approaches based on values, persuasion and deliberation.' It's written by Gillian Norton and Paul Martin, both Chief Execs of London Boroughs. If you disregard the inevitable unreflective use of the C word for a moment, it's reassuringly positive: 'The way forward isn’t about trickery or manipulation, and it cannot be achieved by frightening or controlling people. We need serious conversations within and with our communities to win support for changes we all agree are necessary.' The bit that will get missed out, as usual, is the 'conversations within,' ie everyday local interactions that take place irrespective of what officers are doing. What the article is up against is the fact that it's still hard to get people in positions of power to think in terms of enabling something to happen that doesn't involve them. Hopefully local online networks will bring this about anyway, but a little support from councils wouldn't go amiss.

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