Behaviour change frameworks in practice.

May 12, 2020
Photo of a book with a drawing of lightbulb on the page with various sketches and charts around it. In the middle of the bulb is a scrunched up piece of blue paper.

Understanding the way people behave and their motivations to change the way they behave is a complex science. We are complex beings, our behaviours are guided by a myriad of motivations; conscious and unconscious.

How do we support our communities to be healthier and environmentally and economically sustainable through changed behaviour?

There is ongoing debate and research on what approaches are more effective when it comes to achieving sustained behaviour change. A number of frameworks, guidelines, benchmarks, methods and approaches are used around the world to structure our understanding of behaviour and to design behaviour change programs.  

The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all. H. L. Menken wrote:

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong”.

If complex social problems are approached with simplistic frameworks and interventions, resources are easily wasted and the likelihood of sustaining change is low.

At the Social Deck, we have been working with governments, councils and organisations for over 7 years to develop programs and strategies designed to tackle social, health and environmental issues. This includes community behaviour change programs (with community defined as either a place or a 'community of people'). We avoid using frameworks as formulas and instead use them as a guide to inform unique strategies that are relevant to the specific community, problem and change desired.

From our experience, endeavouring to understand a problem, understand associated behaviours and achieve long-lasting change requires using multiple methods.

One of our multi-method approaches is the combination of Community-based Social Marketing and the E.A.S.T techniques, which I have outlined below with some examples for application.

CBSM vs EAST: a brief snapshot

Two frameworks for behavioural changes commonly used are Doug Mckenzie-Mohr’s (CAN) Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM) and the EAST framework from The Behavioural Insights Team (UK).

In Australia, many community organisations and local councils are using the CBSM method. Whereas, behavioural units in larger government departments often apply EAST in many of their projects.

This makes sense because CBSM designs behaviour change within a defined community. There are seven key strategies or segments to impacting behaviour: Convenience, communication, incentives, prompts, social diffusion, social norms and commitment. These are things that can often be more easily influenced at a local level. The strengths of CBSM lie in the sustainment of particularly pro-environmental behaviours, where it has been primarily implemented. This includes influencing behaviours such as recycling, vehicle idling and waterway pollution. However, CBSM is also more recently being applied to other types of health and social behaviours in communities.  

EAST stands for Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely, and offers these four angles to design behaviour change strategy. It emphasises a ‘nudge’ approach and focuses on the point of decision-making. It also focusses on testing upon application as opposed to the CBSM step of piloting interventions.

CBSM + EAST: leveraging mixed methods

We have worked with a number of government agencies, local councils and other organisations to help tackle issues through different behaviour change techniques – this includes reducing smoking and illegal dumping, promoting sustainable transport and the uptake of solar for business.

In these projects, we have made a conscious decision to look at ways of applying a mix of the EAST and CBSM approaches. We believe this provides immediate engagement and community traction or support, while working towards a more sustainable community-based behaviour change program. There is also clear crossover between CBSM and EAST, and there are opportunities for each framework to strengthen the other for the development of an effective program.

Here’s an example of how we applied both CBSM and EAST to increase sustainable transport use.

In the above graphic, the EAST principles are paired with the CBSM tools to show where they cross over and strengthen each other. CBSM's prompt tool suggests introducing reminders of new behaviours at key points of decision-making. For example, a pamphlet for a new shuttle bus in a travel agent. If we apply the EAST principle of timely to this prompt, we might design the pamphlet according to what we know of a particular audience's current attitude toward catching a bus, making sure to introduce the bus and its key benefits clearly and at the right time. In this way, the EAST timely principle strengthens the development of the CBSM prompt and leads to a more considered and targeted tool for change.

We complement this framework with in-depth engagement to inform and test the strategies and interventions a mixed model might present. Check out this blog from our Director of Social Impact, Mel Butcher which explains why we believe this is crucial to provide a foundation for achieving meaningful change in communities.

If your organisation needs to change behaviours or you want to get access to some of our project research, email Lucy or Sam

How can we help?
Sam Hodgkins
Senior Design and Engagement Consultant