Wake-Up Call
October 2007
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Welcome to Wake-up Call, Awake’s monthly newsletter for research and news about behaviour change for sustainability.

In this edition of Wake-up Call…

Feature Article - Responsibility & Power Pt 2 - Diagnosis

60 seconds with…Gitanjali Bedi

Interesting Finding of the Month - Does one good turn lead to another?

Exercise of the Month - What are you standing for?

Upcoming Workshop - Psychology for Sustainability Champions

Feature Article - Responsibility & Power Pt 2 - Diagnosis

In Part 1 of this article, I discussed the importance of both personal responsibility and personal power being present in order for a person to act in an environmentally friendly way. 

Part 2 looks at how to identify where people are at.

Before attempting to get people into action around sustainability, it helps to know where their levels of responsibility and power lie. 

If somebody feels passionate and engaged to do something about sustainability, but does not have the means to do it (The Willing), then it is no good lecturing them about their obligations.  They need help to empower them to act. 

Conversely, if somebody does not care and is unwilling to accept that acting sustainably is their responsibility (The Shirkers), then throwing education and resources at them will be an uphill battle.  They need something to engage them. 

So it is pretty important to know which camp people sit in on a particular issue in order to know which intervention will work best.

With the responsibility and power framework in mind, it is relatively simple to identify the real barriers to people acting sustainably.  The method by which the "diagnosis  is undertaken varies according to the nature of the audience.  For instance, a simple conversation is a good starting point. Listen for what people are saying about the particular issue. 

Take transport choice for instance.   Imagine you are talking to someone about why they drive their car, on their own, at the same time every day to the CBD to their 9 to 5 job.  "Steve" says he would love to consider an alternative, because he is aware of the impact he is having, and wants to contribute to a more sustainable future, but is not aware of any other way he could do it.  Steve sounds like he is engaged (high responsibility), but not educated, and feels powerless.  Perhaps you could direct him to a carpooling website, or give him a train map and timetable.

"Mike", on the other hand, is not convinced that his little footprint really makes any difference to the worlds problems, especially when "it is the corporations which are doing all the damage".  He says any benefits of taking the train or carpooling are outweighed by the sacrifice in comfort and independence he would have to make.  It sounds like Mike is aware of the alternatives (high power) but feels low responsibility.  It is no good giving him more information about the train service, because he has not developed a personal commitment to acting sustainably.

While conversations are useful for understanding people’s sustainability barriers on an individual basis, obviously they are time-consuming and not always cost-effective for groups.  In this case, focus groups or surveys may be a better option.

With the Responsibility vs Power framework to work with, it is possible to create a set of questions which help you identify the real issues which are stopping people from embracing sustainable behaviours. If you work from the basis of using 2 scales, one for responsibility and one for power, you will be able to plot the number of people who fall within each quadrant (Action, The Willing, The Shirkers and The Disconnected) on a particular issue.  It is then possible to allocate efforts and resources accordingly.  For instance, if the majority of people score highly on Responsibility, but low on Power, then you will need invest resources in making it easier for these already committed people to act.  On the other hand, if scores for the Power scale are high, but low Responsibility exists, then efforts will be best focused on creating engagement in sustainability.

The figure below has been included to demonstrate a possible range of responses, and how they might be classified.
A word of caution about people claiming to be willing, but in fact shirking.   For instance, "I would leave the car at home, if only the train was more convenient" can often be translated as "environmental sustainability is not worth me going 10 minutes out of my way per day".    In this case, the effort needed to minimise this burden to a point where the train option is equal in convenience to the car would be prohibitive (bring the railway track right to the door?).  So, although this person would probably describe themselves as a member of "The Willing" on this issue, a good drill-down  to the real issue would tell you that your efforts are best spent raising their level of engagement and responsibility, rather than providing them with more resources and empowerment.

The 3rd and final instalment of this article on Responsibility and Power will look at tips for increasing levels of personal responsibility and engagement, as well as some of the typical approaches to empowering people to act sustainably.

60 Seconds with… Gitanjali Bedi
Art of Living Meditation Teacher and International Capacity Development Consultant

What first got you focused on sustainability?
I grew up in a family concerned and active around social justice issues then I went travelling in my late teens. Living in India, being exposed to local sustainability movements with their roots in Gandhism really opened my eyes to what sustainability could mean. That experience led me to explore sustainability on a deeper level ... developing coherence between one's actions and the way we are being. Sustainability is not just about our actions and our choices but also about our state of mind. If we are peaceful within, all our actions will be more powerful because of the space they come from.
What is the sustainable choice you have recently made of which you are most proud?
Shifting my bank account, super funds and investments to ethical / sustainable investments.
What is the sustainable choice that you are struggling to make?
Reducing my air travel. Most of my work is in Asia.  Although I offset, I have much guilt about that. It is something I am trying to change by developing more work closer to home.

Interesting Research Finding of the Month
Does one good turn lead to another?

Thogersen, J. and F. Olander. (2003) Spillover of environment-friendly consumer behavior. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 23. pp.225-236
What was measured? 
This Danish study looked at whether people who regularly perform one pro-environment behaviour are more likely to perform others i.e. is there crossover between behaviours?  Additionally, the researchers looked at whether this degree of crossover was influenced by one’s values and personal norms. 
What did they find?
In general, limited evidence of behavioural crossover was found.  Crossover was, however, higher for those who hold strong personal norms about the environment, and for those who hold strong pro-social values.
What can we take from this?
Given the urgency and importance of environmental action, it is desirable to encourage a "green mentality  in the community.  This has far more potential than hoping to change one behaviour at a time, through incentives, regulations and social pressure, with no accompanying shift in overall mindset.  The findings of this study suggest that we cannot rely on a shift in one domain of environmental behaviour catching on and causing a shift in other areas.  The results do, however, point to the power of addressing sustainability at the level of values and norms.  If we can link sustainable behaviour to people’s personal ethics and make it a values issue, rather than just making it more attractive rational, economic choice, then we stand a better chance of stimulating the green mindset that will result in change across multiple domains of green behaviour.

Exercise of the Month - What are you standing for?
This months exercise looks at the choices we make, and what they represent. 
  1. List 3 actions you have deliberately taken because they were environmentally friendly. Think about some words which describe what you were valuing when you made these decisions. Write these words down, and call this List A.
  2. List 3 actions you have taken which you know were environmentally unfriendly. Think about some words which describe what you were valuing when you made these decisions. Write these words down, and call this List B.
  3. Now, cast your mind forward to the future - the year 2025.  You are hanging out with a group of kids, contemplating the state of the world.   They ask, "what were you doing back at the start of the century?  You reply, "I was standing for….?  
        What are you standing for - List A or List B?

The exercise of the month provides a tool to help you get engaged, inspired, aware and in action around sustainability.  Feel free to use it on your own, with a friend, or in your work.  If you do use it with others, please tell them where you got it!

Upcoming Workshop - Psychology for Sustainability Champions
Development is nearly complete of a workshop which is designed to provide insights into the important psychological factors which impact on sustainable behaviour, and practical tools to trigger them. 
This workshop is for anybody who is trying to encourage sustainable behaviour at work, in the community or in the home, and will cover such things as
  • Identifying current levels of personal responsibility and personal power
  • Modes of decision-making
  • Uncovering underlying beliefs
  • Prioritisation skills
  • Identifying and using values
  • Influencing strategies
To register your interest in being involved in a pilot workshop, or keeping informed about the development of this workshop, email timc@awake.com.au

About Awake
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations.  Visit www.awake.com.au for more info

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