The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.

Mohandas K. Gandhi

A colleague of mine, who designs waste-reduction strategies for a regional municipality, told me that while he was reading the first edition of this book he grew increasingly uncomfortable. His discomfort, he explained, came from realizing that the tools and strategies set out here are more effective than the ones he was using presently, and that he would have to change how he designed and delivered programs. He went on to explain that he had grown comfortable with the tools that he had used for some time and that using community-based social marketing would involve relearning important aspects of his job. Resistance to using community-based social marketing, he correctly pointed out, has to be overcome even by those who believe in its utility.

Overcoming Resistance in Yourself

Clearly, the tools and strategies detailed in this book will initially require more work. Implementing a community-based social marketing strategy requires careful preliminary research, strategy development, piloting, implementation and evaluation. However, this attention to detail is in large part why community-based social marketing is often so successful. Following the steps described here can greatly increase the likelihood of your program working. For example: the literature review allows your program to build on the work of others; the observations, focus groups and survey allow you to determine what barriers and benefits will need to be addressed in order to design an effective community-based social marketing strategy; piloting the strategy will allow you to test its impact and further refine the strategy to increase its effectiveness; and evaluating the program once it has been implemented across the community will allow you to speak with confidence regarding its impact and provide you with the data you need to ensure continued funding.

Program design and evaluation are critical components of community-based social marketing, but they are not unique to it. Increasingly, program design and evaluation are being mandated for a wide range of social programs. As governments are increasingly held accountable for the wise use of tax dollars, program design and evaluation will become the norm rather than the exception. Further, over time, program design and evaluation reduce the cost and effort that has to be expended to foster sustainable behavior. Programs that are not properly designed and evaluated are frequently less effective. As a consequence, several programs often have to be developed and delivered to bring about the same change in behavior as one well-designed program. In short, properly designing and evaluating a community-based social marketing strategy will initially entail more work on your part, but this effort will be rewarded both through greater impact and lower long-term costs.

Overcoming Resistance Among Colleagues

The approaches detailed in this book may be seen as unproven by your colleagues. How can you overcome their resistance? It will help if you prepare for some of the problems that you might encounter.

You will need to be prepared to deal with concerns your colleagues will have over the length of time that it will take to design and implement a community-based social marketing strategy. You will need to reassure them that the approaches outlined here are more likely to succeed, and as a result, resources and staff will be used more responsibly and effectively. Additionally, be prepared that some of your colleagues may not want to evaluate programs for fear that evaluation might produce negative results. You may also encounter resistance to community-based social marketing since using these approaches may be seen by some colleagues as an implicit admission that past initiatives were not designed as effectively as they might have been.

Here are some suggestions for increasing support for community-based social marketing in your organization: ask colleagues to read this book; bring in a speaker to introduce community-based social marketing to your organization or make a presentation yourself (you’ll find a presentation that you can download for free, along with speaking notes, in the resources section of the website); distribute articles that demonstrate the effectiveness of community-based social marketing strategies; ask someone who has successfully implemented a community-based social marketing strategy to come and speak to your organization about it; ask that current programs be rigorously evaluated and that the evaluation focus on behavior change rather than awareness of marketing messages. It is easy to believe that a program is working if little or no concrete data exists to measure its success.

Be prepared that it may take a considerable length of time to overcome resistance from your colleagues. Indeed, you may put forward several community-based social marketing proposals only to find each of them rejected. Remember, as you advocate with resistant colleagues, you are slowly creating new norms regarding how programs should be carried out. You can be confident that eventually community-based social marketing strategies will replace the more traditional approaches discussed in the first chapter for one simple reason: They are more effective.

meeting the challenge

As we move rapidly toward a world with nine billion inhabitants, and ever dwindling renewable resources, the tools and methods described here will become increasingly important. Community-based social marketing holds great promise in promoting sustainable behavior, but we have failed to date to put in place the structures that would enable many to make most effective use of this process. Below are several recommendations to address these shortcomings.

  1. Tier Behaviors: At present, there is a lack of rigorous information regarding which behaviors are most important to target. There is a clear role for federal/state/provincial (FSP) agencies to collect this information and make it accessible to those who work at the local level to deliver environmental behavioral change programs. Without a coordinated FSP effort to collect this information, local agencies will continue to guess regarding which behavioral changes are the most important to foster. I recommend that for each domain and sector, such as residential energy, behaviors should be tiered. Tier one would include those behaviors that have the best combination of high impact and probability, and low penetration. Tier two would consist of those behaviors, that while less important than tier one, are nevertheless worth pursuing once we have adequately addressed tier one behaviors. Finally, tier three behaviors are those actions that we would only elect to pursue once we had exhausted promoting tier one, and then tier two, behaviors. It is recommended that national online repositories be created that allow local agencies to quickly determine which behaviors in their region are the most worthwhile to foster.
  2. Provide Barrier and Benefit Research: In addition to tiering behaviors, FSP agencies have a role to play in conducting and disseminating barrier and benefit research. Currently, local agencies conduct their own research, if they conduct barrier and benefit research at all. With many local agencies working on the same behavioral changes, such as encouraging bicycling, not only is this a massive duplication of effort, but often this work is conducted with inadequate resources. It is far more sensible to have this research coordinated at the FSP level, provided that it is conducted in such a way that the research speaks to potential differences in barriers and benefits that may exist for different communities or regions.
  3. Initiate Two-stage Funding: If we want local organizations to follow a community-based social marketing process, funding agencies need to explicitly support pilots preceding broad-scale implementations. In addition to supporting pilots, careful attention needs to be given to the development of the strategies to be pilot-tested. Since programs that directly address the barriers to, and benefits of, a behavioral change are more likely to be successful, FSP agencies should require that applications for funding show a clear correspondence between the strategy being recommended and the barrier and benefit research.
  4. Provide Turnkey Programs: Most local agencies are working on very similar behavioral change programs. For example, efforts to increase energy efficiency, reduce waste, alter transportation habits, increase water efficiency and protect watersheds abound. In those cases in which the barriers and benefits to a behavioral change have been found to be common across different communities, FSP agencies should pilot-test promising community-based social marketing strategies in several jurisdictions. When found to be effective, turnkey programs should be created and web-hosted so that local agencies can easily access them. Initiativessuch as Natural Resources Canada’s Turn it Off program, featured in the chapter on commitmentdemonstrate just how effective turnkey programs can be in fostering the rapid deployment of effective strategies.
  5. Hire Community-based Social Marketers: Many local agencies do not have the resources to hire community-based social marketing staff. To assist them with developing more effective programs, FSP agencies should provide access to community-based social marketers who can help local agencies with the development of their strategies. This one recommendation could significantly improve the quality of local behavioral change programs.

Next Chapter » Acknowledgements