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Developing great behaviour change campaigns

By 3p Contributor

by Adam Woodhall - Influencing behaviour positively and successfully is accepted both as fantastic opportunity to make a difference and as often very challenging. So it didn’t come as a surprise that the recent Developing Behavior Change Campaigns conference in the London Docklands was a sell-out. This inspirational and informative events gave a platform to celebrate and learn from many organisations that have had success creating change across many areas of our society. 

After an engaging opening by conference director, Vicky Browningwe were introduced to David Hall and Rob Moore of the specialist consultancy Behaviour Change. They gave us 7 questions to ask ourselves when creating a campaign and then gave us illustrations of campaigns that worked.  The National Trust’s 50 Things to do before you're 11 3/4 was a great example. This campaign assumed that parents knew their kids should be outside more, so focused was on what they could do. We also learnt that part of the reason for the success was the quirky age they chose, which made it stand out. 

They also contrasted the success of household recycling and five-a-day fruit and veg campaigns. The latter did very well at raising awareness, but unfortunately didn't change many behaviours, whereas the former definitely did.  The main difference they identified was that councils made it easy and visible to recycle by putting new bins in front of houses, whereas eating healthier was left up to the consumer.

A particularly inspirational keynote was Josie Stevens of Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign.  It was clear that a key success factor was the investment made in understanding the barriers to women exercising, with the headline finding being fear of judgement. The aim therefore became to inspire with stories of other women like them, reshaping the language, which then creates exercise as a norm.  This was summed up by This Girl Can's rallying call of it being a "sassy celebration of active women everywhere" with a resulting 1.6 million women putting trainers back on.

This was a superb outcome and Josie gave us six tips on how they achieved it: 1. Plan, test, learn; 2. Insight is the foundation; 3. Understand your role models; 4. Language and tone crucial; 5. Create and curate conversations that charm; 6. Be bold, be brave.

A few other highlights were; Stonewall inspiring us with how attitudes regarding LGBT people have transformed over 25 years; Global Action Plan encouraging 8-14 year olds to save water; and how the attitudes of 3.4 million people had been improved regarding mental health by the Time to Change programme.

Closing the conference were Jac Dendle and Megan Inett of the RNLI.  The organisation had realised that pulling people out of the water wasn't enough, they wanted to stop them going overboard in the first place, with an ambition of reducing deaths by 50%.  

One great example was how they had changed the behaviour of commercial fishermen as very few were using life jackets. It was recognised that the best way to get them wearing them was to intimately involve the users, particularly the captains, in the design process and then crucially, get ex-fishermen to work directly with their colleagues to help them understand the new jackets. It was heartening to be given examples of how this had saved lives.  Jac and Megan shared that there is still work to go; whilst the new jackets fit great, by the end of a 10-hour shift, they would be rubbing uncomfortably, so the fishermen would often take them off. Therefore, a new, improved version is being developed.

At the end of their talk, Jac shared with us how he had nudged the conference attendees: he had put a mirror behind one of the platters of pastries, and hardly any were eaten, whereas the one without a mirror was completely cleared.

After a packed event, the consensus from the participants was a day very well spent absorbing how we can create a better society by changing behaviours. We went home a little lighter of spirit, and of body weight!

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