Tips for planning your behaviour change project
What is the aim of your behaviour change project?
Having a clear aim will assist in developing a plan for your project to see if it makes sense.
For example, it is important to distinguish between energy reduction and energy efficiency. An energy reduction means a drop in total energy use. In contrast, energy efficiency refers to a reduction in energy per person or other indicator (eg. household size), but the overall energy use total can increase.
It is also important to distinguish between targets such as energy reduction and greenhouse gas emissions. For example, greenhouse gas emissions are cause by both gas and electricity use (which combined make up energy). However, electricity is a generally more greenhouse-intensive energy source.
Are the behaviour(s) you are looking to change matched to your aim, and can they be evaluated?
If you aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or total energy (or either electricity of gas), it is important to make sure that the behaviour(s) that are targeted will lead to the desired reduction. For example, it makes more sense to have a higher reduction target if you target a behaviour that uses a lot of energy, such as switching to solar hot water from electric hot water. However, if you are targeting a mix of smaller behaviours, such as switching a few light bulbs, and reducing standby power, it is better to have a smaller reduction target. Also consider that the more behaviours that are targeted, the harder it is to distinguish which has been the most effective in reaching the target. Also remember that changing one-off behaviours (eg. solar hot water, insulation, low-flow devices) is easier to monitor and evaluate that repetitive behaviours, especially those that cannot be easily observed.
For example, if you are looking to get, say, a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emission from electricity, you could aim to get households to subscribe to 20% accredited GreenPower. Such a project would be easily evaluated in terms of number of households that can show proof of switching to the desired electricity product. A much harder approach would be to target a number of smaller, repetitive behaviours that are hard to observe, monitor, and hence evaluate the success of the project.
The following provides a guide as to issues you may want to consider and go through in planning and implementing your behaviour change project.
• Describe the need/opportunity that you perceive exists to make a positive change in a sustainability issue.
• Define your objectives both in the short and long term. What information/data have you utilised that has confirmed your initial observation? Do all stakeholders believe that these objectives are both realistic and applicable?
• Develop a plan of action as to how these objectives will be realised. What tasks do you require to complete to meet the objectives? Can you identify and overcome the barriers, and identify the drivers and use them to your advantage? What assumptions underpin your theory of change? Are there external factors that can impact on the project’s success? What tools and resources will you use? How do you intend to evaluate the project?
• Develop an evaluation plan based upon the needs of your stakeholders and upon the objectives you have outlined previously. Is the evaluation plan feasible (skills, resources, time) and meaningful (does it answer the important questions, and lead to further action)?