3 Steps to Engaging Others in Your Social Change Mission
Social entrepreneurs and changemakers do what they do because they are passionate about creating positive change, but often encouraging others to change their behaviour is one of the most challenging parts of the process. Behaviour is complex and influenced by a range of conscious and unconscious factors, and we have all seen examples of irrational human behaviour (toilet paper hoarding anyone?). Research and experience show that providing people with factual information to increase their knowledge on an issue does not automatically lead to a change in behaviour.
At Taronga Conservation Society Australia, the theory of change is based on the impact of a profound experience that elicits a strong connection (love), and leads to a facilitated action or change in behaviour. Taronga uses the Connect – Understand – Act model to shape its behaviour change messaging:
- Connect – Guests connect with one or more ambassador species during their visit through observation, insights from keepers or a special encounter experience.
- Understand – This connection with the animal encourages guests to learn more about the species and challenges they face in the wild, and how Taronga is supporting their survival.
- Act – Based on their connection with the animal and understanding of the issues, guests are encouraged to take action to support animals in the wild. This can take many forms including donation, on-site action during their visit, being an advocate and sharing what they have learned with others, and changing a specific behaviour following their visit.
So how can you use this model to engage people in your social mission?
- Connect – Identify ways to connect people with your cause at an emotional level. This may be through stories of individuals and how they benefit from your work, or opportunities for people to see and experience the issue first hand.
- Understand – Provide information to help people understand the key issues in a simple and easy to access way. Be clear on how your work supports the cause.
- Act – Make it easy for people to take action to support the cause, and consider multiple opportunities that cater to different audiences. For example, not everyone can afford a financial contribution but may be able to donate their time or skills, or help spread the message within their community.
Here are some additional tips to consider as you explore behaviour change for your initiative:
Don’t assume your audience is like you
You are passionate and deeply knowledgeable about your area of focus, and most likely your team members and key supporters are too. If you want to increase awareness and support for your cause in the wider population you need to be aware that you are not representative of your target audience. Seek input and feedback from people who are representative of your target audience to see how your proposed approach resonates with them.
Make it simple and easy
We all lead busy lives and, despite wanting to make positive changes, often fall back to less desirable habits. Making it easy for people to adopt a new or different behaviour will increase the likelihood of uptake and ongoing adoption. Consider how you can pair it with an existing behaviour (e.g. put your reusable shopping bags beside your car keys to pick up as you leave the house), or enable people to set themselves up for success (e.g. selecting MSC certified seafood options and saving them in online shopping favourites for easy reordering).
Promote one positive behaviour
Focus on promoting the top priority behaviour you want people to do (e.g. choose Certified Sustainable Palm Oil), rather than confusing communications with multiple behaviours or drawing attention to unwanted behaviours.
Promote behaviour adoption
Share information promoting others adopting the desired behaviour/product/service. Use the power of social influence to encourage more people make the change.
Taronga is committed to securing a shared future for people and wildlife, and we believe that innovation by social entrepreneurs and passionate changemakers is a critical part of achieving this.